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Ordinary 28 (Proper 23)

Prevenient grace

Let us pray (in silence) [that we may know God’s love and grace before, in, and after anything we do]


Lord, [or Life-giving God]
we pray that your grace may always precede and follow us,
that we may continually be given to good works;
through Jesus Christ
who is alive with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

The above is part of my attempt to provide a set of collects with history and commentary.

The original is:

Tua nos, Domine, quaesumus, gratia semper et praeveniat et sequatur, ac bonis operibus jugitur praestet esse intentos.

In earlier Books of Common Prayer (1549-1928), from the Sixth Sunday after Trinity until the Sixteenth Sunday after Trinity there had been a series of collects drawn from the Gelasian Sacramentary. This prayer interrupts that arrangement by using a collect from the Gregorian sacramentary where it is found amongst prayers for morning or evening (966). It is also there in the supplement (1177) as the collect for the seventeenth Sunday after the Pentecost octave. In other words the seventeenth Sunday after Trinity. It stayed at this position, the seventeenth Sunday after Trinity, from the Sarum missal to the 1928 Prayer Book.

Cranmer (1549) had this as:
LORD we praye thee that thy grace maye alwayes prevente and folowe us, and make us continuallye to be geven to all good workes thorough Jesus Christe our Lorde.

“Prevent” was used in the sense of “go before” – a meaning lost on those who think of it in its contemporary sense of “hinder”. At its core this collect highlights that God’s love for us precedes our doing “good works”. God’s love for us is not dependent, not conditional, on our doing “good works”. We pray here not only highlighting God’s anticipating grace but for grace that accompanies us – “co-operating” grace.

Roman Catholics and Episcopalians/Anglicans may not realise they are actually praying the same collect on the same day: 28th Sunday of Ordinary Time – the Sunday closest to October 12. As far as I can see there is no version of this in the New Zealand Prayer Book.

Thomas Aquinas teaches clearly on this topic Summa Theologica – First Part of the Second Part – Question 111 Article 3

As grace is divided into operating and cooperating, with regard to its diverse effects, so also is it divided into prevenient and subsequent, howsoever we consider grace. Now there are five effects of grace in us: of these, the first is, to heal the soul; the second, to desire good; the third, to carry into effect the good proposed; the fourth, to persevere in good; the fifth, to reach glory. And hence grace, inasmuch as it causes the first effect in us, is called prevenient with respect to the second, and inasmuch as it causes the second, it is called subsequent with respect to the first effect. And as one effect is posterior to this effect, and prior to that, so may grace be called prevenient and subsequent on account of the same effect viewed relatively to divers others. And this is what Augustine says (De Natura et Gratia xxxi): “It is prevenient, inasmuch as it heals, and subsequent, inasmuch as, being healed, we are strengthened; it is prevenient, inasmuch as we are called, and subsequent, inasmuch as we are glorified.”
God’s love signifies something eternal; and hence can never be called anything but prevenient. But grace signifies a temporal effect, which can precede and follow another; and thus grace may be both prevenient and subsequent. The division into prevenient and subsequent grace does not divide grace in its essence, but only in its effects, as was already said of operating and cooperating grace.

Lord, we pray
that your grace may always precede and follow us,
that we may continually be given to good works;
through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you
and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

The Book of Common Prayer (TEC/USA) p.234-5

The 1962 Roman Missal moved Domine to after quaesumus rather than having it before quaesumus as above.
ICEL 1973 translated this collect for Roman Catholics as:

our help and guide,
make your love the foundation of our lives.
May our love for you express itself
in our eagerness to do good for others.

In the failed 1998 English Missal translation:

Let your tireless grace accompany us, Lord God, let it go before us and follow after,
that we may never slacken in our resolve
to pursue the practice of good works.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God for ever and ever.

The new RC translation (2011) rendered it as:

May your grace,
O Lord, we pray,
at all times go before us and follow after
and make us always determined to carry out good works.

In the Church of England it has been restored to the seventeenth Sunday after Trinity in Common Worship (CofE) as the collect after communion:

Lord, we pray that your grace
may always precede and follow us,
and make us continually to be given to all good works;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.