Sunday, July 26, 2015

Collect for the eighth Sunday after Trinity

Gelasian Collect
DEUS, cujus providentia in sui dispositione non fallitur, te supplices exoramus, ut noxia cuncta submoveas, et omnia nobis profutura concedas. Per Dominum nostrum  Jesum Christum.

[My translation] O God Whose providence faileth never in its disposition, we supplicants beseech Thee that Thou wouldst remove from us all hurtful things, and grant all that would be profitable for us, through Jesus Christ Our Lord.

Prayer book of 1549
GOD, whose providence is never deceived, we humbly beseche thee that thou wilt put away from us al hurtfull thinges, and geve [us] those thinges whiche be profitable for us; through Jesus Christe our Lorde.

Prayer book of 1662
O GOD, whose never-failing providence ordereth all things both in heaven and earth; We humbly beseech thee to put away from us all hurtful things, and to give us those things which be profitable for us; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The trouble is that human language struggles with God and His attributes. We know that we can more often say what God is not and that what ever we can say about God is more about what He is like. Clearly, Archbishop Cranmer had his own ideas about how to translate this collect from the Latin. How might the providence of God be deceived? Not, as Archbishop Cranmer says, that it ever is deceived, but what would it mean?

The 1662 translation is freer, but yet shows that idea of the supreme authority of God in that His Providence is not just unable to be deceived but is actually in control of everything- a view that lends itself to Reformed Protestant ideas. The crucial Latin word here is dispositio a word that can be translated as "disposition" but also as "arrangement" or, more unhelpfully, "providence". The idea is that of how God's great providence has been arranged so as to provide a framework in which humanity can live and move and have our being. God's Providence is arranged so that human beings can be precisely that, human beings with all the concomitant successes and failures of that species.

The fact is that this great framework, this edifice that God has created for us, is not going to be brought down by the sins of men. We may destroy and pollute our environment, and thus destroy our species as well as the other species on this Earth, but on the whole, in the pangalactic point of view that only God possesses, His Creation cannot lose the goodness which He put into it. We recognise this even in our smallness, because we recognise the greatness of Our Creator even if we cannot comprehend how great He is. Thus we pray to rely completely on God's control and providence and to work within its limitations so that we may gain the greatest profit of all - God Himself.

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