Faith, Charity, and Hope
This morning, the French Prions en église collection showed, as the collect for today’s Mass, something I recognised. It was a French version of the Collect Anglicans know as Trinity 12, from the Leonine Sacramentary, revised in the Gelasian; of which the original, 1549 Book of Common Prayer version is this:
Almighty and everlasting God, which art always more ready to hear than we to pray, and art wont to give more than either we desire or deserve; Pour down upon us the abundance of thy mercy; forgiving us those things whereof our conscience is afraid, and giving unto us that that our prayer dare not presume to ask, through Jesus Christ our Lord.
It’s one I’ve always loved; and the commentary on it in Frederick Barbee and Paul Zahl’s The Collects of Thomas Cranmer is so good I thought I’d reproduce it here:
This Collect is a treasure chest, truly overflowing, of uplifting insights drawn from our religion:
· God is more ready to hear than we are to pray. We pray too little, too timorously, and too pallidly. We seldom pray for what we really need and while we are unceasingly preoccupied with our perceived needs, we simply pray too seldom! God is a listening ear, waiting for communications which too infrequently arrive. God is the more active dialogue-partner in the “I-Thou” conversation.
· God wills to give us more than we want and certainly more than we deserve. Can we for one second comprehend that? God does not work on the principle of distributive justice, i.e. “we get what we deserve”. On the one hand, He wants to do more for us, in our impoverished frangibility, than we can conceive. On the other hand, He wants to do good to us rather than judge us according to our deservings. If He gave us what we deserve, who could stand? His grace is neither Aristotelian and distributive, nor quixotic and mercurial. He blesses – with abundance – and does not curse.
· We ask Him to forgive us the things that weigh on our conscience and cause us to fear to look Him in the eye. Even what seems to us, humanly speaking, unforgivable, can be forgiven by God. The reach of His mercy is further than our insight at its most layered and Freudian.
· We ask Him to give us what we cannot even imagine asking Him to give us. Again the Collect presents the overwhelming idea that God is able and desires to give us things that we cannot fathom even suggesting: such as change within an unchanging character fault, love when we have long given up hope of it, opportunity which we have stopped even seeking, and open doors when every door has slammed shut.