Lent 2

Let us pray (in silence) [that we deepen our unity through drawing near to Christ]


O God, whose glory it is always to have mercy:
Be gracious to all who have gone astray from your ways,
and bring them again
with penitent hearts and steadfast faith
to embrace and hold fast the unchangeable truth of your Word, Jesus Christ your Son;
who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.      

The Book of Common Prayer (TEC) p.218

This collect is found in the Missale Gallicanum vetus, the Gelasian sacramentary, and the Gregorian sacramentary for Good Friday in the string of collects each following a bidding and silent prayer. In those Good Friday rites, this collect was for heretics and schismatics that they might be rescued from their erroneous ways and return to the catholic, apostolic church.

In our time, when every opinion appears to create yet a new division within Christ's one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church, "heretics" and "schismatics" may not be helpful language to attempt to bring union. Nevertheless, our prayers and hopes for unity in Christ's body (for which Christ prays) should be no less fervent.

In our post-modern context in which there is sometimes no distinction made between valuing the right of each to express their opinion, and acknowledging that each opinion is equally right, some images may be helpful to move us forward.

Too often the theory of relativity and Quantum theory are brought out as if these argue that there is no reality - merely our differing subjective experiences. On the other hand, the highlighting of subjectivity has brought a helpful balance to modernity and scientism (the belief that science holds all the answers).

The first image is that of the blind persons feeling an elephant - one says the elephant is like a hose (feeling the trunk), no - says the next - it is like a tree (a leg), another: a rope (the tail), a pipe (the tusk), a cloth (an ear). All are in some way correct. All are limited.

The second image is that of people climbing the same mountain, with one experiencing a gradual slope, one climbing up a cliff, another up a river valley, another through a dense forest. All are on the same mountain - each has a unique, limited experience of the mountain.

Too often we can speak of the Mystery and Reality we call "God" as if I alone hold the truth. The elephant is like a rope - end of story - your image is wrong.

As we pray for "all who have gone astray", may it include the sense of "we" (and "I") not merely always "them".
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