Let us pray (in silence) [that God direct our lives in the way of peace]
Almighty and everliving God, [or God of revelation]
you govern all things in heaven and earth;
mercifully hear the prayers of your people,
and guide the course of our days in your peace,
through Jesus Christ, our Saviour
who is alive with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.
The original was
Omnipotens sempiterne Deus,
qui caelestia simul et terrena moderaris,
supplicationibus populi tui clementer exaudi,
et pacem tuam nostris concede temporibus….
The collect comes from the Gregorian sacramentary (daily prayers #922 and supplement #1099). It is found in the Hadrianum, the sacramentary given by Pope Hadrian I to Charlemagne in 785-6. The Sarum missal had it as the second Sunday after the Octave of Epiphany. The Books of Common Prayer used it for the second Sunday after Epiphany. Cranmer rendered it as:
ALMIGHTIE and everlasting God, whiche doest governe all thynges in heaven and earthe: mercifully heare the supplicacions of thy people, and graunt us thy peace all the dayes of our life…
The Roman Catholic Church uses it on the Second Sunday in Ordinary Time as:
Almighty ever-living God,
who govern all things,
both in heaven and on earth,
mercifully hear the pleading of your people
and bestow your peace on our times.
Through our Lord…
The Episcopal Church has it as:
Almighty and everlasting God,
you govern all things both in
heaven and on earth:
Mercifully hear the supplications of your people,
and in our time grant us your peace;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
They, however, use it two Sundays later. Having been the only one I know of who has pointed to almost half the year Episcopalians and Roman Catholics praying different translations of the same collect on the same day, I now have no explanation why, in this case, the same collect is prayed but on (slightly) different days! With Roman Catholics praying this prayer on the same day as advocated in the Book of Common Prayer tradition (in its several editions), I have no hesitancy in advocating that this be the collect to pray on the Second Sunday in Ordinary Time (The Sunday between 14 and 20 January).
Ordinary Time is a term deriving from the Latin ordinalis, an order of succession; cf. ordinal numbers – counting numbers. “Ordinary Time” is not “boring time” – it is not the opposite of “extraordinary”. In Latin, this Sunday is dominica II per annum – the second Sunday in the course of the year.
you govern all things in heaven and earth: qui caelestia simul et terrena moderaris
moderaris (from the Latin modus measure, measurement) the deponent verbmoderor: set a measure or bounds to; moderate, mitigate, put restraint upon, restrain, allay, qualify; temper, manage, arrange, regulate, rule, guide, govern, direct, control.
“you regulate/rule/guide/govern heavenly bodies and also earthy realities.”
There are echoes of 1 Corinthians 15:47-49 (primus homo de terra terrenus secundus homo de caelo caelestis – “the first human, being from the earth, was earthly; the second human, from heaven, is heavenly”).
15:48 qualis terrenus tales et terreni et qualis caelestis tales et caelestes
“Such as is the earthly (person), so also are the earthly; and such as is the heavenly (person), so also are they that are heavenly.”
15:49 igitur sicut portavimus imaginem terreni portemus et imaginem caelestis
“Therefore, as we have borne the image of the earthly (person), let us bear also the image of the heavenly (person).”
We also remember John 3:12 – this collect becomes our response to Christ’s question:
si terrena dixi vobis et non creditis quomodo si dixero vobis caelestia credetis
“If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things?”
God, we proclaim, governs all things in heaven and earth; and we are converted into Christ.
Do I, do you, do we believe (ie. live) that God governs a few things, many things, orall things?
mercifully hear the prayers of your people: supplicationibus populi tui clementer exaudi
After the bidding, “Let us pray”, those gathering pray in silence. The time of silence is long enough to form prayer. Then the presider collects those prayers in thecollect to which the gathered community acclaims, “Amen.” Clearly, the gathering collect needs to be general enough that all can understand their prayers to be included. That is the case in this particular collect. The prayers of God’s people that we are asking God to hear are the (silent) prayers of all those individuals who are gathering, as well what is particularly sought in this collect.
guide the course of our days in your peace: pacem tuam nostris concede temporibus
This might be translated in different ways. We are praying for God’s peace in what is temporal (temporibus – in contrast to eternal), in our times, in our circumstances. It is God’s peace – not just “the world’s” peace. Some will see the desire for external peace as deriving from the time of the collect’s origin. Others will see Cranmer’s particular translation as, similarly, a yearning for external peace in the tumultuous times in which he was translating (“Give peace in our time, O Lord”). The prayer for such external peace is still as valid today as in any earlier period. The prayer for inner peace is also as important today as ever.