After Monday’s brief interruption with the feast of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist, the Collect of the Day for the Daily Office this week has gone back to Sunday’s “Proper 7.” Hmm, we should probably look at what “Proper #” means, one of these days. But right now we’re looking at the Collect. Here it is:
Lord of all power and might, the author and giver of all good things: Graft in our hearts the love of your Name, increase in us true religion, nourish us with all goodness, and bring forth in us the fruit of good works; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever. Amen.
It is written in James’ epistle that “true religion” involves caring for those in need. As the Collect suggests, that is what the original set of Scriptures, in the traditional one-year lectionary, dealt with. This Collect was originally paired with Mark 8:1-10 (wherein Jesus feeds the 4,000) and Romans 6:1-23 which provides a more detailed explanation for this: we can either be “slaves” to sin or to God; slavery to one is freedom from the other.
A critical lesson of this traditional set of propers (collect & readings) is that being a truly religious slave of God is active, not passive. This informs our reading of the Collect as a whole, too. “Graft in our hearts the love of your name” is a prayer not just for an internal disposition, but for external transformation. It leads to (or includes) an increase in “true religion”, a nourishment “in all goodness” (that is with God’s goodness or righteousness), and “the fruit of good works” brought forth in our lives.
If you look back at the Scripture lessons in our modern (2019) lectionary, you’ll find this Collect is a good answer for the Epistle lesson, Galatians 3:23-29, which spoke of faith that is free from the law.
As this week continues, perhaps this Collect will take you back to that lesson on Sunday. Or perhaps it can lead you in new directions, deeper into what it means, tangibly, to love God, increase in true religion, be filled with his goodness, and bear the fruit of good works. It is a prayer to aid us against sloth and lethargy – faith is to be active and productive; internal realities are to have external consequences. Pray for your growth in Christ, this week!