COLLECT OF THE WEEK - 13
Collect for 12th Sunday after Trinity in the Sarum Missal:
Omnipotens sempiterne Deus, qui abundantia pietatis tuae et merita supplicum
excedis et vota, effunde super nos misericordiam tuam, ut dimittas quae
conscientia metuit, et adjicias quod oratio non praesumit. Per Dominum . . .
This derives from the Gelasian Sacramentary, which in turn is a reworking of
this version in the Leonine Sacramentary:
Virtutum coelestium Deus, qui plura praestas quam petimus aut meremur;
tribue, quaesumus, ut tua nobis misericordia conferatur, quod nostrorum non
habet fiducia meritorum. Per . . .
The BCP translation is somewhat expanded:
Almighty and everlasting God, who 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 wherof our
conscience is afraid, and giving us those good things which we are not
worthy to ask, but through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ, thy
Son, our Lord. Amen.
Goulburn comments: "This collect passed through several hands before it
reached its present form. The first draught of it is found in the earliest
of the Sacramentaries, that of Leo. Gelasius, without materially altering
the sentiment, recast the language, and expanded it a little at the end.
Cranmer inserted in the earlier part a clause which was not there before.
Cosin finally threw the conclusion into a slightly different form, which,
while it improved on the rhythm, gave rather more prominence to the idea
that it is only through Our Lord's mediation that we can dare to hope for
the outflow of God's goodness towards us."
"Omnipotens sempiterne Deus" - 'Almighty, Eternal God'. The same opening as
on Trinity Sunday. As I mentioned with reference to that collect, the three
titles suggest the three persons of the Trinity.
"qui abundantia pietatis tuae" - 'Who, in the abundance of your piety'.
"Pietas" is a lovely word in this context, often signifying the love and
care due one's father, or fatherland; here, God's tender concern for his
children. Goulburn happily translates "fatherly compassion".
"et merita supplicum excedis et vota" - 'Exceed the merits and prayers of
suppliants' - literally, those asking on bended knee. Goulburn mentions in
'A writer in the "Literary Churchman" for October 15, 1880, suggests that
there may be in these words a reference to "the reluctance of the deaf and
dumb man in the Gospel to come to Christ, who was therefore brought by his
friends, though his physical ailment did not make him stand in need of such
constraint." This is very possible; and the reference calls attention to a
feature in the miracle which is not, I think, often commented upon.'
Goulburn himself adduces the parable of the Prodigal Son: 'The son had not
yet implored his father to restore him to the household; he had only formed
the resolution of doing so. He had not yet returned; a long space still
separated him from his father's house. "But when he was yet a great way
off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck,
and kissed him." The father's readiness to hear the petition he had to make
exceeded his readiness to make it.'
This is exactly the conception of God's "pietas" which lies behind the
collect. Goulburn adduces further the parables of the Unjust Judge (Luke
18:1-9) and the Friend at Midnight (Luke 11:5-9): 'Our Blessed Lord . . .
emphasises this readiness of our Heavenly Father to hear prayer, the
argument of those parables being that, if importunity wrings, even from a
thoroughly unwilling and grudging heart, the boon it sues for, how much more
will it be successful with Him, whose fatherly compassion induces Him to
meet us halfway when He sees us struggling back towards Him . . .'
"effunde super nos misericordiam tuam" - 'Pour out upon us your mercy'. A
frequent image in the collects is God pouring out his grace, or mercy, upon
us, or into us ("infunde").
"ut dimittas quae conscientia metuit" - 'that you may forgive those things
which conscience fears.' The word used in the Lord's Prayer: "et dimitte
nobis debita nostra". The phrase also calls to mind some words of St John:
'By this we shall know that we are of the truth, and reassure our hearts
[i.e. consciences] whenever our hearts condemn us; for God is greater than
our hearts, and he knows everything. Beloved, if our hearts do not condemn
us, we have confidence before God, and we receive from him whatever we ask .
"et adjicias quod oratio non praesumit" - 'and add what prayer does not
presume to ask.' Goulburn adduces the example of Solomon:
'In diffidence of his own powers to fill the throne of David, he asked for
"an understanding heart to judge God's people," . . . God granted him a
measure of wisdom, larger than that which his predecessors had, or his
successors should exhibit, and, not content with this recognition of his
prayer, added, "I have also given thee that which thou hast not asked, both
riches, and honour" . . .'
Goulburn also points out that in the parable of the Prodigal Son,
'we find the prodigal petitioning only for a place among the hired servants,
but receiving a welcome even more than filial, an affectionate embrace,
investiture with the best robe, with the ring, with the shoes, while his
return is made the occasion of a domestic festivity . . .'