27 May 2008

Confession in the Collects

Have you ever pondered what the Collects of the Church confess about us?

"because through the weakness of our mortal nature we can do no good thing" - Trinity 1
"without whom nothing is strong and nothing is holy"- Trinity 3
"we, who cannot do anything that is good without You" - Trinity 8
"more ready to hear than we to pray and to give more than we either desire or deserve" - Trinity 11
"by Your gift alone Your people faithful people render true and laudable service" - Trinity 12
"because of our frailty we cannot but fall" - Trinity 14
"because she [the Church] cannot continue in safety without Your aid"- Trinity 15
"because without You we are not able to please You" - Trinity 18
"absolve Your people from the bonds of our sins, which by reason of our frailty we have brought upon ourselves" - Trinity 23
"we, who put no trust in our own merits, may not be dealt with by the severity of Your judgment, but according to Your mercy" - Trinity 25

It is an honest confession of human impotence in the face of sin, frailty in the face of temptation, weakness in spite of our Lord's grace. And so we plead ever for more grace, more mercy, more strength and kindness from Him who alone is our salvation and our eternal help.

Most of these collects are pre-Reformation. It is not just the Reformation that noted the damage original sin had caused to our race. These little prayers that stand at the beginning of the Service of the Word in the Divine Service are testimonies to the simple truth about our human condition which Sacred Scripture testifies to and human beings steadfastly attempt to avoid facing.


Stoleman said...

Rev. Weedon,

Part of the reason we don't want to face these 'issues' is our own 'pride'. No wonder it is one (if not the greatest) of the seven grievous sins that separate us from the pure Love of God that cleanses us from our sin.

Darian L. Hybl

Robin Lee said...

I've often wondered who wrote the Collects of the Day. It's very interesting to learn that some predate the Reformation. Does that mean Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic liturgies use some of the same collects as Lutherans? Is there a source that cites the original authors of various collects?

William Weedon said...


They are a common heritage with Rome (not the East generally, for their liturgy does not have the idea of "propers" other than the assigned readings). Sadly, Rome mutilated and lost most of them in Vatican II's revision of the liturgy. There was a time when Lutherans, Anglicans and Roman Catholics truly shared the collects as a common heritage - though with slight variations in calendar.

The best source for the history of given collects I've found is Luther D. Reed's *The Lutheran Liturgy.* He'll often give you the original of a collect and tell you where it came from. Thus, for example, the collect we use on this coming Sunday is a late Gregorian collect, that was slightly altered in the 1549 Book of Common Prayer.