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read mark learn digest

Let us pray (in silence) [that we may persevere in our growth into God’s life]

pause

God of all inspiration,
you caused all holy scriptures to be written for our instruction
grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,
that by steadfastness, and by the encouragement of your holy Word,
we may embrace and ever hold fast to the blessed hope of everlasting life,
which you have given us in our Saviour Jesus Christ,
who is alive with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God now and for ever.
Amen.

The above is my reworking of a very significant Anglican/Episcopalian collect. It was prayed at the end of October and the following week in the Church of England, last Sunday and this week in Canada, Australia, and other places, and will be prayed this coming Sunday and the week following in The Episcopal Church and elsewhere.

I am very happy to receive comments and also suggestions for improvement.

It is original to Thomas Cranmer in the 1549 Book of Common Prayer:

BLESSED lord, which hast caused all holy Scriptures to bee written for our learnyng; graunte us that we maye in suche wise heare them, read, marke, learne, and inwardly digeste them; that by pacience, and coumfort of thy holy woorde, we may embrace, and ever holde fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which thou hast geven us in our saviour Jesus Christe.

The form of this Collect is peculiar: the address made to the Father as ‘Blessed Lord’ is unique in the Prayer Book…The words ‘patience and comfort’ are used in their archaic meanings of steadfastness and encouragement. [The Oxford American Prayer Book Commentary Massey Hamilton Shepherd p92]

This collect was placed at Advent 2, where it picked up the language of the epistle, Romans 15: 4-13 (this was the Sarum and Roman selection also for that Sunday, and continues to be the second reading in Year A).

I have altered the “pacience, and coumfort” to the NRSV rendition of Romans 15:4 διὰ τῆς ὑπομονῆς καὶ διὰ τῆς παρακλήσεως τῶν γραφῶν (as also suggested by Shepherd, above). I have also followed this approach for translating διδασκαλίαν ἐγράφη. I am interested if you have any better or alternative address to God. Canada has it as “Eternal God”.

There is much that is eccentric about A New Zealand Prayer Book He Karakia Mihinare o Aotearoa, but the intentional removal of this collect from our common life must be one of the strangest! Please let me know if there is any other province which has removed this collect from its revision of the BCP. The phrase “read, marke, learne, and inwardly digeste” is one that is used regularly (even here and here in NZ, as just two examples), and deliberately removing this collect from our common prayer disconnects what the phrase refers back to.

This is not merely a collect for one day; it is a prayer we can use far more regularly than that. In my hope and pressing to see this collect restored in NZ there is the question of which Sunday to assign it to. All things being equal, I would currently follow the TEC sequence and use it this coming Sunday and next week, but you may have a better suggestion.

Lectio Divina as one way to hear the holy scriptures, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them.

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21 Responses to read mark learn digest

  1. just another rewriting:

    Holy God, O Divine One, Almighty and Eternal, who spoke all creation into being:
    You gave us the Holy Spiritures for our learning. Grant, therefore, that we may
    hear, read, note, and digest them in the growing transformation that is life everlasting.
    This we ask through Christ, our Reconciling Redeemer, who lives and reigns with you
    and the Holy Spirit, in glory for ever and ever. Amen.

    • Thanks so much, Gary! I really like what you are doing here. I particularly like the aspects of speaking into being, and of growing transformation. I’m not sure how or whether those images can fit more tightly into a reworking, or are they better used in a service at another point. In any case, thanks again. This is exactly the sort of thinking that I think helps move forward positively. Blessings.

  2. This would be a wonderful collect with which to begin any bible study group meeting, or personal devotion. I can’t understand why a form of this is not found in our NZPB. Kind regards, Gillian.

  3. It’s not clear whose “steadfastness” is requested. You could remove the comma, and then it would be the “steadfastness of the Word” (ie its ongoing reliability), or you could write “our steadfastness” and make it a prayer for us to stick with it.

    • Thanks, Ted. Going back to Paul’s original Greek – how do you see the steadfastness there? I was trying my best to be faithful to Paul’s line (and ambiguity?) which, I was thinking, was Cranmer’s original intention – which I was trying to rework in a slightly later context. Blessings.

      • Bosco, my Greek’s a little rusty, but I think that the ὑπομονῆς is a characteristic of the Scriptures – so the most literal would be to remove the comma – “that, by the steadfastness and encouragement of your holy Scriptures…” I like ambiguity, but I think it might be a little too subtle!

        • Thanks. As I said, Ted, I think the text is unclear. But I hope others might add clarification.

          NRSV has: For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, so that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope.

          I take the addition of “the” in “the encouragement of the scriptures” and its omission at “by steadfastness” to mean that those translators did not take it your way. Even the “evangelical”-favoured ESV (who would, surely, have wanted that clear if they thought that the scriptures were being referred to) has: that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.

          Cranmer’s original has the comma; CofE’s Common Worship has: that, through patience, and the comfort of your holy word,
          we may embrace and for ever hold fast…

          Anyone else comment on the original Greek?

          Thanks & blessings.

  4. It’s perfect. I’m a fan of Collects, and yours is graceful and flows easily into my memory.
    Many I have to read more than once to catch them, but this is smooth.
    Good job, as all the current young parents & nannies say.
    I really do like it very much.

  5. As far as I can see (as I work from the Greek NT handiest to me at a place where I do not have my personal library, an ASV/Gk Interlinear) it is:

    ‘through (the) patience [or synonym] and through (the) comfort [or synonym] of the scriptures’ so that both states apply to the scriptures (as, I note, in 15:5, they also apply to God!).

    • Cramner, as Shakespeare, used commas to help us measure our phrases when speaking–not simply as punctuation for reading clarity. Don’t doubt for a second that some of our love for the traditional BCP language isn’t for the archaic language, but for how well those of us listening to it understand those words because of that phrasing. Cramner was as musical in his phrasing as any composer.

    • Thanks so much, Tim. I really appreciate people are thinking some of this through. I need to find/make time to look at Romans 15:4 more closely. Your translation is that of the New American Standard Bible. But it has no comma. I think our steadfastness/perseverance makes more immediate sense to me than that of the scriptures. And I suspect that is more why it was placed in the lectionary at that point? Do you have more than your statement – more of the reasons for it, please? Blessings.

      • I can’t claim to be an expert in Greek – far from it – but it makes more sense to me that way. ‘Perseverence’ seems to me to have a positive connotation – ‘Keep on keeping on’ or ‘stick-to-it-iveness’ – whereas endurance seems to me to be a little fatalistic – ‘let’s grin and bear it’.

        On the other hand, the New Living Translation gives a helpful paraphrase using ‘patience': ‘Such things were written in the Scriptures long ago to teach us. And the Scriptures give us hope and encouragement as we wait patiently for God’s promises to be fulfilled.’

      • From a child, I always understood this to be the steadfastness of the word and Word. Because of the Word and word was steadfast, I had a sure and certain place to put my hope (to mix my BCP metaphors).

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Rev. Bosco Peters

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