The Collect for the Second Sunday in Advent is sometimes nicknamed “the Scripture Collect” for obvious reasons:
Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that by patience and the comfort of your Holy Word we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
One of Archbishop Thomas Cranmer’s originals, this Collect has a beautiful and intelligent list of verbs noting a progression of the individual’s interaction with Sacred Scripture: first hear, then read, then mark, then learn, and finally inwardly digest them. This, I believe, seems to be what most people latch on to when they uplift this Collect as one of their favorites. But what follows is particularly important; we pray for this venerable interaction with the Bible so that “we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life“. This may not stick as well in memory, but it’s very important to consider. As it turns out, that part of the Collect is a paraphrase of Romans 15:4, which says:
For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope.
And this is no random reference; the Epistle lesson for the 2nd Advent Sunday was Romans 15:4-13, until the modern calendars of the 1970’s onward took over. Though even still, we do have that scripture lesson appointed for the Epistle in Year A of the lectionary’s three-year cycle. That is why it’s a very good thing that we’ve got this Collect back on Advent II. I say “back” because the Episcopalian Prayer Book of 1979 (as well as some of the recent calendar revisions in the Church of England) shuffled this Collect off to a spot typically somewhere in November, a couple weeks before Advent begins. There, it was just a nice prayer. Here, it is relevant to the season and directly references the Epistle reading (one year out of three).
Unless you attend a traditional parish that uses the historic calendar and lessons and therefore already heard it, take a few minutes to read Romans 15:4-13. Not only does its first verse echo the Collect, but the rest of the text continues to speak of hope, trust, and peace, as well as make a couple fantastic Old Testament references including “the root of Jesse” – one of the famous Advent & Christmas texts. It will be well worth your time and devotion!