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Celebrating the Incarnation

Let us pray (in silence) [that through celebrating the Incarnation we will deepen our relationship with Christ]


year by year you make us glad
with the hope of our redemption,
grant that we who joyfully receive your only begotten Son as our Redeemer
may with sure confidence behold him when he comes as our judge;
who is alive with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God now and for ever.

The above is my reworking of the collect shared by Roman Catholics and Episcopalians/Anglicans. I am very happy to receive comments and also suggestions for improvement. The process of producing such a reworking is always a wonderful mulling over and over and over. The process has value – even though I acknowledge the product may be able to be improved.

The original was

Deus, qui nos redemptionis nostrae annua expectatione laetificas: praesta: ut Unigenitum tuum quem redemptorem laeti suscipimus: venientem quoque judicem securi videamus Dominum nostrum Jesum Christum Filium tuum. Qui tecum…

In the 1549 Book of Common Prayer, Thomas Cranmer made this:

GOD, whiche makest us glad with the yerely remembraunce of the birth of thy onely sonne Jesus Christ; graunt that as we joyfully receiue him for our redemer, so we may with sure confidence beholde hym, when he shall come to be our judge, who liveth and reigneth &c.

It is found in the Advent Masses of the Gelasian sacramentary (#1156). In the Gregorian sacramentary (#33) and in the Sarum missal it was the collect for the vigil Mass of Christmas.

Cranmer altered the premise/preamble to “…with the yerely remembraunce of the birth of thy onely sonne Jesus Christ…”. He had propers for two Eucharists on Christmas day, and this was his collect for “At the First Communion”. The 1552 revision reduced the provisions for Christmas day to one proper and in Anglicanism this collect disappeared until its revival in the nineteenth century. I have restored its original images, fitting it back into the larger Western tradition and current Roman Catholic usage. It forms a threshold from Advent into Christmas. Roman Catholics use it at the Vigil Mass for Christmas. If Anglicans are using different collects over the Christmas period, and this collect is one of those to be used, then it is appropriately used first.

These are some current versions of it:

Roman Catholic:

O God,
who gladden us year by year
as we wait in hope for our redemption,
grant that, just as we joyfully welcome
your Only Begotten Son as our Redeemer,
we may also merit to face him confidently
when he comes again as our Judge.
Who lives and reigns with you
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

CofE Common Worship:

Almighty God,
you make us glad with the yearly remembrance
of the birth of your Son Jesus Christ:
grant that, as we joyfully receive him as our redeemer,
so we may with sure confidence behold him
when he shall come to be our judge;
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.


O God,
you make us glad by the yearly festival
of the birth of your only Son Jesus Christ:
Grant that we, who joyfully receive him as our Redeemer,
may with sure confidence behold him when he comes to be our Judge;
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.


Almighty God,
you make us glad with the yearly festival
of the birth of your Son, Jesus Christ,
the light of the world;
grant that we,
who have known the revelation of that light on earth,
may see the radiance of your heavenly glory;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God now and for ever.

Further commentary on this collect.

For some it appears I need to explain the layout I have been using. I am suggesting that we use a collect with four movements: a bidding, silence, proclaiming the collect, and “Amen”. So the gathering community is called to deep prayer, either simply by “Let us pray”, or something like “Let us pray that through celebrating the Incarnation we will deepen our relationship with Christ”, or even “Let us pray in silence that through celebrating the Incarnation we will deepen our relationship with Christ”. If the community is standing, and has a habit that one can only pray kneeling, they may even need assistance, “As we remain standing, let us pray…” After the bidding the gathering community prays in deepening silence, the presider proclaims the collect (which collects the prayers of the community and helps to gather), and then the gathered community affirms the collect that has been proclaimed by saying, “Amen.”

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8 thoughts on “Celebrating the Incarnation”

  1. I never like prayers that bluntly begin ‘God’. In today’s context they sound a little like mild oaths, and they fall short of the warmth and majesty of NT prayers. Even ‘O God’ is an improvement, ‘Almighty God’ is better. But since these prayers are directed to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (‘the birth of your Son’), is it not better to begin in love, intimacy and admiration with ‘Heavenly Father’ or ‘Loving Father’ or ‘Glorious Father’ (Eph 1.17) or such like? There seems to be an embarrassment about the Fatherhood of God in liberal church circles, and a desire to downplay or even deny this central fact of NT spirituality and of Jesus’ own prayer life, and Paul’s teaching. One of the results of this cultural trend has been a loss of intimacy and warmth in worship. Much better to model ourselves on the language of the NT.

    1. Thanks, James. I’ve been thinking about your points a lot – even before your helpful comment arrived. You probably notice that I’m following a set of principles as I do this work – which includes keeping close to the original. “God” directly translates “Deus”. When the full set is completed, I am thinking of looking through the addresses for the year and possibly providing an option for a “fuller” address. I think there was a too-narrow imaging for God in constantly rendering “Deus” as “Almighty God”. I am a great lover and prayer of the psalms. These have a wonderful wealth of (inspired) images for God. So there are several ways forward. I wonder if in the original Latin they feel as bald as they do in English. Christmas Season blessings.

  2. Bosco: Christmas blessings.
    The usage ‘God’ is certainly biblical (although EVV usua;;y render it as ‘O God’), since the vocative ‘el’ is found in Ps 16 MT which LXX renders ‘kurie’. Ps 43 has ‘elohim’ (LXX: ho theos, not the expected vocative ‘thee’ – or maybe I’m missing something here); similarly throughout the so-called Elohistic Psalter in Ps 44; Ps 51; Ps 54; Ps 56; Ps 57; Ps 6o; Ps 61; Ps 63; Ps 64; Ps 65; Ps 69; Ps 70; Ps 72; Ps 74; Ps 75; Ps 79; Ps 83; before YHWH recurs (except Ps 108). Attic Greek usually put an ‘o’ bfore a personal name, but this doesn’t seem to be the case in NT koine. ‘God’ still sounds a bit blunt to my ears in a way that ‘Lord’ doesn’t, but maybe that’s because I’m used to prefixing the word with ‘O’ or something else. I teach Latin nd my hunch is ‘Deus’ would stand by itself but I must check out the Vulgate first.

    1. Thanks, James. I hope you are following this is a longish-term project starting from unhappiness with the direction my own church was moving. So I hope you will be part of the ongoing journey on this. Thanks for all this helpful stuff. Please remind me what the “EVV” is. Christmas blessings.

  3. EVV is English versions. Looking it up, I recall that ‘ho theos’ is articular vocative (article + nominative for vocative) and is common enough in LXX. ‘Deus’ by iself is standard in Vulgate. ‘O’ before vocative names or titles (‘O king, live for ever!’) is archaic in English, but the loss of it may impoverish or harshen prayer language – just as the loss of ‘Thou’ and ‘Thee’ has done!
    I find it interesting that the modern Romance languages (and German) show no signs of ditching their ‘tu’ (Du) equivalents in favor of ‘vos’ (Sie) but have actually extended the social settings where 2nd person singular are used – against the 19th century trend to call everyone ‘vous/Sie’ etc.

    1. Thanks, James. As the understanding of 2nd person singular pronoun in liturgical usage is disputed, and its use has left contemporary English, we might (along with other English grammar losses & lessening) be sad about its passing, but this is IMO the only way to write contemporary liturgical language. If you are saying that “O God” parallels the 2nd person singular in the case of the address then I fear you are weakening your advocating for it. I think, however, your good points mean I will add it as an option (along with a more expanded address) in the final bringing together of the year’s reworked collects. Blessings.

  4. No, I was just mixing apples and oranges with that remark, observing how some styles sound a little more reverential and intimate. ‘Thou’ won’t return to English (unfortunately) so keeping it in prayer language would be forced, but ‘tu’ and ‘du’ are standard in modern French, Spanish and German prayers (and my Spanish Psalter has ‘oh Dios’ or ‘Dios mio’ for elohim – ‘Dios’ by itself is too blunt). The vocative ‘O’ is archaic and isn’t found in contemporary speech, but neither would we say ‘King’ or ‘Queen’ simpliciter – ‘Your Majesty’ would be the expected address.

    I am unsure about the ‘yearly festival’ bit in the Tec/NZPB prayers – ‘festival’ is what humans do (usually denotes a concert season to me!), ‘remembrance’ is what the Holy Spirit does to/for us (‘He will remind you…’).

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