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Advent 2

Let us pray (in silence) [that our way is prepared for God’s swift coming]

Stir up your power, O Lord,              [or Stir up your power, O God,]
and with your great might
come to our aid,
so that where our sins impede us,
the help of your grace may swiftly deliver us,
through Jesus Christ, our Saviour,
who is alive with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

This is part of my reworking collects with history and commentary.

The Gelasian sacramentary has this, addressed to the Son, in the first propers for Advent (no. 1121). The Gregorian sacramentary alters it to address the Father. In the Gregorian it is a collect after what is provided for a winter ember vigil (no. 805). In the Gallican Bobbio missal it is the second prayer in the first of the three Masses for Advent (no. 38). The Sarum missal has it as the collect for the fourth Sunday in Advent:

Excita, quæsumus, Domine, potentiam tuam, et veni: et magna nobis virtute succurre: ut per auxilium gratiæ tuæ quod nostra peccata præpediunt, indulgentia tuæ propitiationis acceleret. Qui vivis.

In the Sarum missal, collects for four of the five Sundays before Christmas all began “Excita” (Stir up; Raise up). The exception was the Third Sunday, associated with an Ember Week and Gaudete (“Rejoice”).

Thomas Cranmer translated it for the 1549 BCP:

LORDE rayse up (we pray the) thy power, and come among us, and with great might succour us; that whereas, through our synnes and wickednes, we be soore lette and hindred, thy bountifull grace and mercye, through the satisfaccion of thy sonne our Lord, may spedily deliver us; to whom with thee and the holy gost be honor and glory, worlde without ende.

“Lette” here means “obstructed”, and Cranmer added “among us” and “through the satisfaccion of thy sonne our Lord” to the original.

Cranmer retained the Sarum position, The Fourth Sunday in Advent. Common Worship (CofE) moved it to Advent 2; The Episcopal Church’s BCP has it for Advent 4; the Scottish Episcopal Church has it in Collects for Experimental Use for Advent 4; the Roman Rite has it for Thursday in Week 1 of Advent.

Præpediunt – something is placed before (prae) the foot (pes). Hence I like “impede” where the connection with the foot is still visible. The 1662 BCP revisers expanded this idea with

we are sore let and hindered in running the race that is set before us

Praepes also means the opposite concept: flying straight ahead; nimble; fleet; winged.

succuro also has this element of movement – to run to the aid of.

So here we have images of movement tumbling over each other: veni come, succurre run to the aid of, præpediunt impeded in our steps, acceleret hasten.

There are echoes of Psalm 80:2 – “Stir up your might,and come to save us!” and Hebrews 12:1.

In Advent we celebrate God’s coming in humility, and anticipate God’s coming in power. In Advent, one focus is on John the Baptist, the messenger sent ahead to prepare the way, to make straight the paths, the paths on which movement is impeded by our sins.