Apologies that "COLLECT OF THE WEEK - 14" went out without a subject, owing
to an over-keen finger on the mouse button.
COLLECT OF THE WEEK - 15
Collect for the 14th Sunday after Trinity in the Sarum Missal:
Omnipotens sempiterne Deus, da nobis fidei, spei et caritatis augmentum: et
ut mereamur assequi quod promittis, fac nos amare quod praecepis. Per
Dominum . . .
Almighty and everlasting God, give unto us the increase of faith, hope, and
charity; and, that we may obtain that which thou dost promise, make us to
love that which thou dost command; through Jesus Christ our Lord.
The translation is quite literal, with one small exception which we shall
discuss in due course.
I have commented previously (collect for Trinity Sunday) on the opening
phrase, "Omnipotens sempiterne Deus".
The triad, "Faith, hope and charity" derives from 1 Corinthians 13:13, "Nunc
autem manent, fides, spes, charitas: tria haec; maior autem horum est
charitas." These are considered to be the "Theological" or "infused"
virtues, gifts poured in directly by God, as contrasted with the "Cardinal"
or "natural" virtues of Prudence, Justice, Temperance and Fortitude.
The Epistle for the day which accompanies this collect moreover includes
Galatians 5:22-23, "Fructus autem Spiritus est: charitas, gaudium, pax,
patientia, benignitas, longanimitas, mansuetudo, fides, modestia,
continentia, castitas" - a catalogue of virtues including "charitas" and
"fides". They are described as "the fruit of the Spirit". Goulburn
comments, "It should be remarked also that the property - the invariable
property - of fruit is to grow." Hence the request for "augmentum", an
increase, growth, of those virtues.
The Gospel for the day, the story of the cleansing of the ten lepers, does
not seem to have much to do with the collect; but a few verses earlier, at
Luke 17:5, the Apostles had asked Jesus, "Adauge nobis fidem" - "increase
our faith". Jesus replies with the image of the mustard seed (granum
sinapis); if they had faith as big as a mustard seed, they could say to
this tree, "Be uprooted, and be transplanted in the sea", and it would obey
them (Luke 17:6). Elsewhere he used the example of the mustard seed as
something small capable of growing to enormous size (Matthew 13:31-32).
The reformers did not translate "mereamur" - "that we may merit to obtain".
They were suspicious of any suggestion that we might have any merits of our
own, and regularly cut out the slightest suggestion of any. I feel that one
can take this attitude to extremes. The current issue of the "New Yorker"
(Sept 14th) has a cartoon showing a man kneeling by his bedside, and
praying, "I asked You, in the nicest possible way, to make me a better
person, but apparently You couldn't be bothered."
The collect does not ask that God will simply make us OBEY his commandments,
which might seem to be the prerequisite for salvation, but that he will make
us LOVE them. There is a fine tradition in the Old Testament of loving the
commandments, of which the most remarkable expression is psalm 118 (119).
Cf verse 97, "Quomodo dilexi legem tuam, Domine!" - "How I have loved thy
law, O Lord!" Jesus makes a connexion between loving and keeping
commandments: "Si diligitis me, mandata mea servate" - "If you love me,
keep my commandments" (John 14:15).