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Ordinary 20

Loving God above all through all

Let us pray (in silence) [that we may love God in all things and above all things]

Pause

God, [or Gracious God or Living and gracious God]
you have prepared for those who love you
good things which no eye can see,
and which surpass our understanding;
pour into our hearts such longing for you,
that we,
loving you in all things and above all things,
may obtain your promises,
which exceed all that we can desire;
through 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 attempt to provide a set of collects with history and commentary. It is a prayer prayed by Roman Catholics, Anglicans/Episcopalians, and others – and on the same day.

There is in Christianity, as in most religious traditions, a tendency towards separation from the world – fuga mundi, of contempt for the world – contemptus mundi. This collect could be read in this way, and the title of a God who mercifully saves us, withdraws us from this evil world, might encourage this tendency. But at its heart this is a denial of the creation and incarnation. The mystery we call “God” is mediated through creation. We live in a sacramental universe. Even silence – that most beloved of the apophatic way* – is a creature.

Healthy, authentic Christian spirituality finds God in creation and loves and serves God in creation. The bidding I have added highlights this reading of the collect and is grounded in the very history of this collect.

In the Gelasian Sacramentary (1178) this was the collect for the first of the Sunday masses. In the Gregorian Sacramentary (1144), the Sarum Missal, and BCP 1549 – 1928 this was the collect for Trinity 6. The Latin was:

Deus, qui diligentibus Te bona invisibilia praeparasti, infussde cordibus nostris tui amoris affectum; ut Te in omnibus et super omnia diligentes, promissiones tuas, quae omne desiderium superant, consquamur. Per Dominum nostrum Jesum Christum, etc.

It is noticeable that this has Te in omnibus et super omnia diligentes, “loving you in all things and above all things.” Also, English is very sloppy in its use of “love” where other languages are more precise. Here, the Latin is more in the vein of “you have prepared for those who choose you… pour into our hearts the affect of emotional love, that, choosing you in and above all things…”

One will note here how Cranmer translated “invisible good things” and his dropping of “above all things”:

GOD, whiche haste prepared to them that love thee suche good thynges as passe all mannes understanding; Powre into our hartes such love toward thee, that we lovyng thee in al thinges, may obteine thy promises, whiche excede all that we canne desyre; Through Jesus Christe our Lorde.

The 1662 reformers changed “in all things” to “above all things”. The Daily Office by the Joint Liturgical Group (1968) and Modern Collects restored it to “loving you in all and above all”. CofE’s Common Worship and BCP(USA) both restored “in all things and above all things”. USA also removed “Merciful” and hence is not only closest to the original, but furthest from the tendencies we were guarding against at the start of this reflection. It has the collect as:

O God,
you have prepared for those who love you
such good things as surpass our understanding:
Pour into our hearts such love towards you,
that we, loving you in all things and above all things,
may obtain your promises,
which exceed all that we can desire;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you
and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.
Amen.

New Zealand’s Anglican Prayer Book has it as:

Merciful God,
you have prepared for those who love you
such good things as pass our understanding;
pour into our hearts such love towards you
that, loving you above all else,
we may obtain your promises,
which exceed all that we can desire;

through Jesus Christ our Lord
who is alive with you
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God now and for ever.
Amen.

NZPB p. 627c

It is used in the Roman Catholic Church as the collect for the 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time.
ICEL’s earlier translation (1973) had:

God our Father,
may we love you in all things and above all things
and reach the joy you have prepared for us
beyond all our imagining.

Current ICEL (2011):

O God, who have prepared for those who love you good things which no eye can see, fill our hearts, we pray, with the warmth of your love, so that, loving you in all things and above all things, we may attain your promises, which surpass every human desire.

See also 1 Cor 2:9 and 1 John 4:19

*kataphatic spirituality, common in the West, sees God is “like this but more” – all loving, all mighty,…

apophatic spirituality, common in the East, sees God is “not like this” – immortal, invisible, in light inaccessible, hid from our eyes.

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Rev. Bosco Peters

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