The Collect of the Day from Sunday that we’re repeating this week is a classic:
Stir up, O Lord, the wills of your faithful people; that they may plenteously bring forth the fruit of good works, as they await the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ to restore all things to their original perfection; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns for ever and ever. Amen.
In the classical prayer books, before 1979, this was the Collect for the Last Sunday before Advent, a spot now occupied by “Christ the King Sunday.” On a cultural level, this Collect earned that Sunday the nickname “Stir Up Sunday”, because, landing just about one month before Christmas, it coincided with the time-frame in which people would “stir up” and bake their Christmas Cakes which would then ripen in the pantry for the following month, periodically re-soaked with brandy.
Curiously, I mentioned this to my parents, and they’d already made our family’s Christmas Cake! It’s as if they heard the “stir up” collect in its modern week-earlier position 😉
Thematically, this Collect is a sort of wake-up call, heralding the approaching season of Advent: “stir up” is very similar to “keep watch”. The call to good works as the fruit of faithful Christian living also forms part of the crucial link between Trinitytide and Advent in the historic lectionary and calendar. In the modern system, it still serves as a pre-Advent Collect, just two weeks ahead instead of one.
Structurally, this Collect is unusual. The “request” portion of the Collect is tiny: “Stir up … the wills of your faithful people.” The bulk of the prayer is dwelling on the “reason” portion: good works, as they wait for Jesus’ return, who will restore the perfection of creation. All sorts of implications could be teased out from this:
- The “application” of this Collect is kept blatantly simple: we are to be stirred up to active Christian living.
- As Advent approaches we should first spend more time meditating on the reason for our good works.
- The “end” of the Christian life ought to loom large in our hearts and minds.
If you have a mid-week service (Communion, Evening Prayer, or otherwise) then perhaps this Collect could be a point of spiritual reflection as you teach, preach, talk with others, or simply pray it again with the congregation.