One of my favorite things about the 2017 hymnal, “Book of Common Praise“, is that among its extensive indices it has a liturgical index that suggests hymns to match each Collect, OT lesson, Epistle lesson, and Gospel for each Sunday and holy day in the traditional calendar. (Yes, traditional calendar, not the modern 3-year lectionary, because the REC made this book, and they still use the classic Anglican calendar.) If you pay attention to the traditional Collects and find where they are in the modern (2019 Prayer Book) calendar, then you can profit from this liturgical index.
Take, for example, the Collect for Proper 9, which is this coming Sunday. It corresponds with the 9th Sunday after Trinity (most of the post-Trinity collects numerically line up from the old to new calendars like this, which is handy). The collect reads as follows:
Grant us, O Lord, we pray, the spirit to think and do always those things that are right, that we, who can do no good thing apart from you, may by you be enabled to live according to your will; through Jesus Christ our Lord…
The 2017 hymnal recommends the following hymns to match with this Collect:
- “Dear Lord and Father of mankind“
- “Breathe on me, Breath of God“
- “O thou who camest from above“
- “Take my life, and let it be“
“Dear Lord…” right off the bat reveals its connection with this collect: “Forgive our foolish ways! Reclothe us in our rightful mind, In purer lives thy service find…” The recognition that we need God to enable us to good is clear throughout the hymn.
“Breathe on me” is perhaps better known. It’s not as “negative” about the sinful self, but its plea for reliance on God is just as sincere: “Fill me with life anew, That I may love what thou dost love, and do what thou wouldst do.”
“O thou who camest” is a hymn for Confirmation in this hymnal. It isn’t until verse 3 that this hymn’s connection to the Collect is clear: “Jesus, confirm my heart’s desire to work, and speak, and think for thee”. Verse 4 also contributes: “Ready for all thy perfect will,
my acts of faith and love repeat”. Its emphasis on doing the desire of one’s heart is revealed to be the godly intention of desiring what God desires, and thus plays into the main theme of the Collect.
“Take my life, and let it be” may be cliche to some. But the entire song can serve as a meditation on this Collect’s prayer for God’s spirit which alone enables us to do good. Verse by verse this hymn hands to God our life, hands, lips, heart, voice, and finally our will:
Take my will, and make it thine;
It shall be no longer mine.
Take myself, and I will be
Ever, only, all for thee. Amen.
If you want to make use of these hymns to reinforce the Collect of the Day on this coming Sunday, one of the best spots to do this is either between the Gloria in excelsis and the Collect. The rubrics on pages 107 and 125 indicate that the Gloria may be substituted for a different song of praise, which my congregation traditionally stretches a little such that we say the Gloria and then sing a hymn. I know of other congregations that take this idea even farther and put a whole “praise and worship set” after or in place of the Gloria… that strikes me as a stretch of the rubrics too far. Whateverso, placing one of these hymns immediately before the Collect maximizes the potential for people to hear the thematic echo of the hymn in the Collect when the celebrant reads it.
If you place the related hymn elsewhere in the liturgy, it may be necessary for the preacher to identify that connection during the sermon. And honestly, that’s not a bad idea either. Include an explication of the Collect in the sermon, quote a piece of the hymn that connects to it, and then have the congregation sing that hymn during the Offertory or something. That way the liturgy stands as a more coherent whole, and you the ministers are helping your flock see that, recognize that, and learn to make those connections on their own. For if we truly believe lex orandi lex credendi (the law of prayer is the law of belief) and vice versa, we should take care to see that our form of worship is just as coherent as our biblical preaching and doctrinal catechesis.