Collect of the Week - 28
Collect for Advent 3:
Aurem tuam, quaesumus, Domine, precibus nostris accomoda; et mentis nostrae
tenebras gratia tuae visitationis illustra. Qui vivis.
Apply thine ear, we beseech thee, O Lord, to our prayers; and illuminate
the darkness of our mind by the grace of thy visitation. Who livest . . .
The imagery of light and darkness is prominent in the Bible, right from the
first verses of Genesis: "And God said, Let there be light: and there was
light" (Gen. 1:3). Saint John's Gospel also makes much of light as a symbol
of Christ: "In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light
shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it" (John 1:4-5);
"The true light that enlightens every man was coming into the world" (John
1:9); "I am the light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in
darkness, but will have the light of life" (John 8:1). Now Jesus supports
this last claim by restoring sight to a blind man (John 9:1-7). The Gospel
for Advent 3 is Matthew 11:2 ff. John the Baptist sends two of his
disciples to ask if Jesus is "he that should come", i.e. the Messiah. Jesus
replies, "Go and shew John again those things which ye do hear and see: the
blind receive their sight, and the lame walk . . ." John would understand
that these things were a fulfilment of Isaiah 35:5, "Then shall the eyes of
the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped . . ."
The Epistle for the day is 1 Corinthians 4:1 ff., which contains the
exhortation, "Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come,
who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make
manifest the counsels of the
hearts . . ."
The coming of the Lord will then involve bringing light into dark places,
especially into the dark places of our hearts and minds. To this our
collect, in the manner of the Latin collects, briefly alludes.
The Reformers did not translate this collect, but wrote their own, and once
again a comparison shows the great difference between their approach to
Liturgy and that of the Collector. The English collect is much longer and
refers more explicitly and at greater length to the Scriptures. It runs as
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.
Here everything is spelled out. "Thy first coming" is compared with "thy
second coming" - in case anyone did not realise that we are thinking of two
"comings" in Advent. Note the repetitions: "ministers and stewards";
"prepare and make ready".
Actually the first is a more or less direct quotation from the Epistle for
the day: "Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and
stewards of the mysteries of God." The second is a near-quotation from
Matthew 3:3/Mark 1:3, "The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye
the way of the Lord, make his paths straight." There is a direct quotation
from Luke 1:17, "And he will go before him in the spirit and power of
Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the
disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people
prepared." This is the angel's prophecy of the birth of John the Baptist.
The whole prayer is in fact a string of quotations from the Bible, all
perfectly appropriate for the day. The theology is all perfectly sound.
What is missing is the terseness and concentration of the Latin.