Sunday, September 06, 2015

Collect for the fourteenth Sunday after Trinity

Latin Collect
OMNIPOTENS sempiterne Deus, da nobis fidei, spei et caritatis incrementum : et ut mereamur assequi quod promittis, fac nos amare quod præcipis. Per Jesum Christum

[My translation: Almighty and Everlasting God, grant us increase of faith, hope, and charity: and that we may merit to obtain that which Thou dost promise, make us to love that which Thou doest command. Through Jesus Christ.]

Prayer book of 1549
ALMIGHTYE and everlastyng God, geve unto us the increase of faythe, hope, and charitie; and that we may obteine that whiche thou doest promise; make us to love that whiche thou doest commaunde, through Jesus Christe our Lorde.

We notice that Archbishop Cranmer effectively removes the word mereamur from the English Collect. In so doing, he creates a tension. Many folk interpret Cranmer as believing that we deserve nothing from God and can never deserve anything because of our sin. In his own words of confession, we are "miserable sinners" The word "miserable" here is not a statement of emotion, though it has a very emotive nuance. We are miserable sinners in the sense that our sins cause misery. Our sins separate us from God and prevent us from the fullness of His presence in our lives.

Is it true, then, that we deserve nothing from God? After all, we have no legal standing on which to claim entitlement from God. He makes the rules, and this means we cannot go to God and claim a seat in Heaven for any reason of our actions. That belief would be Pelagianism. However, it is not our actions that make us worthy of entrance into Heaven - it is God's actions.

All good works begin with God, and the life that is united with God - that wonderful state of grace - produces work that deserves merit. The collect that we pray here is asking for the God-given ability to be faithful, hopeful, and loving so that we may deserve the promises of God. Indeed, we have no entitlement with God, but God's grace in our lives entitles itself to more grace - grace upon grace. Like a magnet magnetises everything it sticks to, so God's grace makes worthy of grave everthing it touches. For the repentant sinner, merit is freely available from God's love, first through Baptism then through the other sacraments, especially Confirmation and Confession whereby this grace is first strengthened and then renewed.

Our sins may cause our misery, but our love of God and adherence to His Will will allow His grace to cause our joy, and that joy will indeed be everlasting.


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