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Palm Sunday – Passion Sunday

Let us pray (in silence) [that through this week we may share in Christ’s dying and rising]

pause

Almighty everliving God,           [or God of transcendence]
as an example of humility for the human race,
you sent our saviour to become incarnate
and to submit to the cross,
grant us the grace to learn from this patient suffering
and so to share in the resurrection;
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 reworking for my Book of Prayers in Common in which I seek to provide a set of collects with history and commentary.

The collect goes back to the Gelasian (#329) and Gregorian sacramentaries (#312) for Palm Sunday as:

Omnipotens sempiterne Deus qui humano generi ad imitandum humilitatis exemplum salvatorem nostrum carnem sumere et crucem subire fecisti concede propitius ut et patientiae ipsius habere documenta et resurrectionis consortia mereamur…

The collect is clearly sourced in the traditional Palm Sunday Epistle, Philippians 2:5-11.

Cranmer, for 1549, added “of thy tender love toward man”:

ALMIGHTIE and everlastynge God, whiche of thy tender love towarde man, haste sente our savior Jesus Christ, to take upon him oure fleshe, and to suffre death upon the crosse, that all mankynde shoulde folowe the example of his greate humilitie; mercifully graunte that we both folowe the example of his pacience, and be made partakers of his resurreccion; thoroughe the same Jesus Christ our lorde.

Alterations for 1662 BCP included adding “thy Son” between “sent” and “our Saviour”.

The RC translation (2011) renders the collect as:

Almighty ever-living God,
who as an example of humility for the human race to follow
caused our Savior to take flesh and submit to the Cross,
graciously grant that we may heed his lesson of patient suffering
and so merit a share in his Resurrection.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

Once again Roman Catholics and Anglicans and others are praying different translations of the same collect on the same day.

Omnipotens sempiterne Deus contrasts with the incarnation and crucifixion. God transcends transcendence.

exemplum is not is not just an “example” that we should follow or imitate, the concept is that of something or someone in the past that is authoritative and transforms us who imitate. This is our pattern: kenosis in incarnation, passion, to resurrection.

patientiae – to bear, support, undergo, suffer, endure

documenta is like exemplum – a pattern, a paradigm that we use to shape our lives.

There are obvious echoes of image and likeness…

consortia – we recognise in the word “consort”; we share the same destiny.

mereamur – to receive one’s share.

There is a particularly strong tendency on Palm Sunday and in Holy Week following to reduce our celebration to a factitious play, complete, if at all possible, with actual donkey. There is drama in liturgy, certainly. But this is not merely a recalling of some past events in the hope of generating some spiritual emotion. We are participating in the celebration of the mystery – a mystery made present in this very celebration. There was an actual, past, historical event – and the effect of it is made present in our lives now. We are not merely pretending that Christ is entering Jerusalem now, Christ is presiding at his last meal now, Christ is dying now, Christ is rising now. Those are past events. Yet this paschal mystery of death and resurrection needs to be present now at every moment, empowering and giving meaning to every moment. As we celebrate the paschal mystery this Holy Week the hope is not merely that we might see Christ die and rise again – the hope is that we will die and rise again. That we will experience Christ’s death and resurrection as a reality in our own lives. And in that of our community.

This is a key given in today’s collect that might unlock the doorway into this week.

It has been noted that this collect very tightly expresses the doctrine of the Atonement – taking in the sweep from Christ’s incarnation to his death. It is not just Christ who dies and rises this week. We pray that we will.

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Rev. Bosco Peters Welcome to this ecumenical website of resources and reflections on liturgy, spirituality, and worship for individuals and communities. It is run by Rev. Bosco Peters.