Sunday, December 14, 2014

Collects for the Third Sunday in Advent

Prayer book
O LORD Jesu Christ, who at thy first coming didst send thy messenger to prepare thy way before thee; Grant that the ministers and stewards of thy mysteries may likewise so prepare and make ready thy way, by turning the hearts of the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, that at thy second coming to judge the world we may be found an acceptable people in thy sight, who livest and reignest with the Father and the Holy Spirit ever, one God, world without end. Amen.

Breviary (Sarum)
Incline thine ear, we beseech thee, O Lord, to our prayers, and lighten the darkness of our minds by the grace of thy visitation. Who livest etc.

So, whose job is it to enlighten folk to the coming of the Christ-child? Bishop Cosin's 1662 collect suggests that it belongs to the priests as ministers and stewards of the mysteries of God. Indeed, the clergy are responsible for their cure of souls and must answer for them on the dreadful Day of Judgement.

However, St Benedict himself reminds us that the priest is not responsible for everyone's teaching.
On the other hand, if the shepherd has bestowed all his pastoral diligence on a restless, unruly flock and tried every remedy for their unhealthy behaviour, then he will be acquitted at the Lord's Judgment and may say to the Lord with the Prophet: "I have not concealed Your justice within my heart; Your truth and Your salvation I have declared" (Ps. xxxix:11). "But they have despised and rejected me" (Is. i.2; Ezech. xx.27). And then finally let death itself, irresistible, punish those disobedient sheep under his charge. (Chapter 2 of the Rule)
The Laity should indeed take some responsibility for their learning in Christ. Thus the Sarum Collect seems to be a prayer that everyone should pray regularly, not just on the Third Sunday in Advent.

Our prayer is our first duty towards God. We must seek to listen to Him if we stand any chance of doing His Will. We do not chase away the darkness before opening the curtains, so we cannot expect the darkness in our being be removed by chasing it away ourselves. We simply cannot do that: we will remain disobedient and wicked because we fail to see that the light comes from beyond our own tiny little selves, We have to open the curtains and let the light in. Opening the curtains takes a lifetime of doing.

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