The Penitential Rite in the Communion liturgy

Early in the Communion liturgy, on page 106 and 124 of BCP 2019, we come to the “penitential rite” portion.  The rubric there states:

Then follows the Summary of the Law, or The Decalogue (page 100).

The Kyrie or the Trisagion follows.  A “vanilla” use of this page of the liturgy would therefore go as follows: Collect for Purity, the Celebrant reads the Summary of the Law, the Kyrie follows, then on to the Gloria.  But with this option of the Decalogue (or Ten Commandments), what should we do?

We should begin with a little history.  This part of the original Prayer Books contained the Decalogue only.  And it wasn’t a shortened version with congregational responses; it was the full text of the Decalogue in Exodus 20 plus congregational responses.  That was the norm, every Communion.  By 1928 in the US, more options had arisen.  The Decalogue was still the default, but shortened versions were suggested, so it wouldn’t be quite so belabored.  The Summary of the Law was added as an option after, and the Kyrie was to follow the Summary of the Law if the Decalogue was omitted.  So there were three primary choices for the penitential rite in the 1928 Prayer Book:

  1. Decalogue (full text or shortened)
  2. Decalogue (full or short) + Summary of the Law
  3. Summary of the Law + Kyrie

A rubric also noted that The Decalogue may be omitted, provided it be said at least one Sunday in each month.  There was also this optional prayer that concluded the penitential rite:

O ALMIGHTY Lord, and everlasting God, vouchsafe, we beseech thee, to direct, sanctify, and govern, both our hearts and bodies, in the ways of thy laws, and in the works of thy commandments; that, through thy most mighty protection, both here and ever, we may be preserved in body and soul; through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Proponents of the historic prayer book tradition often complain that modern books have too many choices and options… this is one area where a classic book actually has more options than the 2019 prayer book!

With this background in mind, we should acknowledge that even though The Summary of the Law is implicitly the default penitential rite in the two 2019 Communion services, we should continue to make use of the Decalogue, conveniently provided on the pages immediately before the Communion liturgy begins.  It would be wise to adopt at least the rule of thumb of the 1928 prayer book: that we use the Decalogue at least one Sunday a month.  This Customary would add to that the weekly (and weekday) use of the Decalogue throughout the seasons of Advent and Lent, and on other appropriate times such as feasts of St. John the Baptist (a very Law-heavy preacher), or other penitential occasions.

One other observation that should be made is the text of the congregational responses in the Decalogue.  As I observed in January of last year, “The Decalogue has undergone some significant rewording.  Instead of asking God to “give us grace to keep this law” we ask for him to “incline our hearts to keep this law”, which is (again) more faithful to the old Prayer Books, and is more theologically specific.  We don’t just need “grace” to do better, but our hearts need reorientation.”  If you’re accustomed to the language of the 1979 prayer book, make sure you take note of this improvement, and perhaps point it out to your congregation (which I believe I did by the beginning of Lent that year).

What does “Proper 9” mean, anyway?

You have probably seen reference to this before, on this blog if nowhere else lately, that the previous two Sundays have been called “Proper 8” and “Proper 9”.  If you look inside our 2019 Prayer Book (as well as the old 1979) you’ll see these names in the Collects and Calendar sections.  There’s a further bit of explanation in the new book, which you might find handy – “PROPER 9 Week of the Sunday from July 3 to July 9” – but still doesn’t answer the question – what does “Proper” mean?

The term proper originally referred to parts of the Mass that changed from day to day or week to week: it was a feature of the Mass that was proper to a particular occasion or date.  Traditionally this included things like the Introit, Collect, Epistle, Gradual, Gospel, Offertory Sentence, Communion Sentence, and so on, but in the Prayer Book tradition the Propers were simplified to three things: Collect, Epistle, Gospel.  These three things are printed together, for each Sunday and Major Holy Day of the year, in the Prayer Book, such that you don’t actually need a Bible in hand to follow the entire Communion service.  The advent of the three-year lectionary, with its further addition of an Old Testament lesson and Psalm, has made such a feature much too large to fit in the Prayer book, so now our Communion lectionary is just a table of lessons, rather than the actual texts themselves.

With the radical revisions of the 1970’s came a revolutionary new liturgical calendar.  Pre-Lent was gone, Epiphanytide was almost completely revamped, and the season after Trinity Sunday was utterly rewritten.  You can read a little about how the historic Trinitytide season worked on this page.  The modern calendar, which our 2019 Prayer Book has inherited (this is my only significant complaint about the new book), does not build on “Sundays after Trinity” like the historic one, but instead has a set of “Propers” – that is, collects and lessons, tied to the secular calendar dates from late May until about four weeks before Christmas when Advent starts.  This means, given the shifting date of Easter from year to year, that although “Proper 29” will always be the last one before Advent, the first Proper Sunday will be different each year.  On average it starts around Proper 5 in roughly the second week of June.

One odd feature is the fact that Proper 1 is the week of the Sunday from May 8 to May 14, which is so early that neither it nor Proper 2 will ever be used on a Sunday!  They exist solely to provide for weekday Communion services of those weeks when Pentecost is that early, because the modern calendar has (again, sadly) one away with the Pentecost Octave.  Don’t worry, the Scripture lessons aren’t wasted, as they are duplicated with the corresponding Sundays in the latter weeks of the modern Epiphanytide.  Yes it’s complicated, but thankfully most people don’t have to worry about the mechanics of all this.  I only explain it here because someone out there is bound to be curious!

You can also look at the rubrics on page 614 for a few further notes about this portion (half) of the year.

To attempt to summarize this long answer into a short one… when you see “Proper 9”, don’t imagine it has any great special meaning.  It’s merely the 9th set of Propers (Collect & Lessons) in a line of Sundays spanning from May through November.  There are 29 in all, and we just jump right in to them after Trinity Sunday each summer.

Sanctoral Calendar

When you look at the liturgical calendar of the Roman Church, with all its various types, classes, or ranks of feast days, you will quickly appreciate the simplicity of the Prayer Book tradition.  It’s either a “red-letter day”, that is, a holy day mandated in the book, or it is a “black letter day”, a commemoration that you can celebrate if you want to, or ignore if you want.

But the priest may find, after considering how best to celebrate some of the names in our calendar, that not all commemorations ought to be treated equally.  Certainly, yes, all God’s children are equal in His sight, but as we look to the examples of those who have gone before us, there is a marked difference in the impact of Augustine of Hippo and, say, Samuel Shoemaker.  Pastorally, it’s worth helping our flocks identify who the ‘major players’ are in church history, who the great theologians and teachers are, who lived truly holy lives that we can strive to emulate.  And thus we stumble back into the Western tradition of feast days of different ranks.

The Saint Aelfric Customary sets forth a four-tired rank of saints days, and it’s very simple.

  1. The Major Feast Days (“red-letter days”) are the ones specifically named and mandated in the prayer book.  They each have their own set of Collect and lessons for Holy Communion that day, and usually impact the Daily Office Lectionary with at least one special reading.
  2. The Minor Saints Days are “black letter days” which are identified as the most prominent.  If you have a weekday communion service on one of these days, they ought to be celebrated, as if they were a major feast.  Unlike major feasts, though, these aren’t celebrated on Sundays, and don’t impact the Daily Office.
  3. The Commemorations are the “black letter days” entirely unchanged – they’re still optional, at the discretion of the celebrant to observe or not.
  4. The Memorials are the “black letter days” that are set aside as not for observance at Holy Communion.  This is born out of a respect for the liturgical tradition of not naming new Saints without either due process or clear consensus.  And since the Anglican tradition has no official process, we can only gain new saints by martyrdom or by clear consensus.  The names in our calendar that do not meet these terms are therefore categorized as Memorials.

You can download the Saint Aelfric Customary version of the Sanctoral Calendar here.

Note also that this calendar “elevates” three commemorations to Major Feast Day status:  Aelfric, Augustine of Canterbury, and King Charles I.  This is due to the fact that they are the three “patron saints” of this Customary, and therefore ought to be especially available to those who use this Customary.

Looking Ahead: Holy Days in late July and early August

We’re in a quiet couple weeks right now, but let’s take a look at the “red-letter days” that are coming up toward toward the end of the month.  Because none of these are on Sundays, and therefore are not likely to directly impact the life of most congregations (as the sad reality is that our culture rarely considers going to church on weekdays), it is all the more helpful and important to take note of these dates beforehand as they approach, so we can be prepared to give due consideration to these commemorations when they arrive.

July 22nd is the feast of St. Mary Magdalene.  The Gospel at the Communion service is a little Easter flash-back, and the special Gospel lesson at Morning Prayer is the story of the the women who washed Jesus’ feet, whom for much of church history was identified as Mary Magdalene.  She sinned much, was forgiven much, and therefore loved much, devoutly anointing the feet of her dear Lord and scrubbing them with her own hair.  Modern exegesis doesn’t seem to share this assumption that she’s the same person, but it’s certainly in keeping with her physically-expressive character in John 20.

July 25th is not Christmas in July, but actually St. James’ Day.  As you’ll read in the beginning of Acts 12, which takes the part of the Epistle at the Communion that day, James was the first of the apostles die, martyred for the faith.

There are also some optional commemorations at the end of the month whose days this Customary would especially point out as worthy of celebration.

  • The Parents of the Virgin Mary, traditionally given the names Joachim (or Heli for short) and Anne, are commemorated on July 26th.  Depending on the flavor of the spirituality of different cultures, they are sometimes known instead as the grandparents of Jesus.  In either case, they are people we know nothing about from the Bible, yet must have had a tremendous impact on our Lord’s early life.
  • Lazarus, Mary, and Martha of Bethany are commemorated on July 29th.  They are prominent characters in the Gospel books, particularly that of St. John, and are known as beloved friends of Jesus.  Some people in history have even identified Mary of this family with Mary Magdalene, though again this is an assumption widely disregarded today.  The similarity of their affections for our Lord, however, is noteworthy.
  • St. Joseph of Arimathea is commemorated on August 1st.  He is the rich Jewish elder who donated his tomb for Jesus’ body on the day of the crucifixion, rather than let him be tossed into a mass grave for common criminals.  This showed great (even risky) devotion on his part, substantial reverence for our Lord, and made the proof of the resurrection all the more clear, as a common mass grave would have been harder to guard, and the accusation of the disciples stealing the body harder to refute.

August 6th, finally, is the feast of the Transfiguration of our Lord.  The modern calendar does kind of double it at the end of the Epiphany season, but if you take the time to compare the Collects and lessons for that day and this, you’ll notice a marked difference in emphasis.  The former sets out the transfiguration as a precursor to the passion and death of Christ; this feast day simply revels in the divine glory of Jesus.  Eastern Orthodox custom calls for a 40-day fast beginning at Transfiguration Day, which we don’t have in our tradition, obviously, but can give us pause for thought concerning our spiritual devotions at that time of year.

Book Review: A Manual for Priests of the American Church

Welcome to Saturday Book Review time!  On most of the Saturdays this year we’re looking at a liturgy-related book noting (as applicable) its accessibility, devotional usefulness, and reference value.  Or, how easy it is to read, the prayer life it engenders, and how much it can teach you.

One of the most useful supplementary liturgical texts on my shelf is A Manual for Priests of the American Church by Earl H. Maddux.  Originally produced in 1944, it reached a fifth edition in 1968.  Its subtitle is “Complementary to the Occasional Offices of the Book of Common Prayer” (paired with the 1928).  After the 1979 Prayer Book was released, I don’t believe this book had a successor.  This is partly because the 1979 Prayer Book added to its pages a few things supplied in this book, and partly because what remained useful in this book didn’t really need any updating for those who were disposed to its it.

The book consists of three sections: Offices, Blessings, and an Appendix of extra material.

The “Offices” supplement what’s in the 1928 Prayer Book, adding some instructions for emergency and conditional baptism, admitting catechumens, sacramental confession, communion from the reserved sacrament, blessing civil marriages, ministry to (including anointing of) the sick, prayers for the dying and departed, particular situations for Burial services, and the like.  Much of this is found in the 1979 Prayer Book in one form or another.  The 2019 Prayer Book provides a form of most of this material too.  If you’re a 1928 Prayer Book user, this part of the book is still immediately practically useful; for the rest of us it’s informative reference material to see how some of the “new” parts of our prayer book were previously rendered.

The “Blessings” section is the part that I don’t know if can be found in any newer books.  It begins with a set of rubrics about how priests and bishops are to handle priestly blessings, how to vest, what sort of contexts and permissions are necessary, and starts the list with the blessing of holy water, as that is what’s typically used in blessing nearly any other object or locale.  If you are open to this line of tradition, this collection is invaluable, as it represents an Anglican adaptation of traditional Western liturgical material.  My congregation is not particularly high-church in their devotion and piety, but there have been times when they’ve asked me to bless new crosses, bibles, and the like.  Rendering some of this book’s blessings into contemporary English has been a handy resource for me!  It’s got blessings for advent wreaths, vestments, pictures, pregnant women, children, books, candles, houses, other types of buildings, prayer beads, vehicles, even including…

WIN_20190705_13_40_24_Pro

you know… just in case you’re the chaplain to NASA or something.  Clearly the star-gazing 60’s had an impact on the later editions of this book!

The Appendix section of this book is a sort of catch-all for various bits and bobs.  More blessings and offices, including the Asperges, the Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, imposition of ashes for Ash Wednesday, and large pile of additional blessings and prayers, fill another 70 pages of the volume.  A few of these features (like ashes for Ash Wednesday) have found their way into modern prayer books, and therefore make for interesting comparative liturgical study as we consider how mid-20th-century highchurchmen sought to restore ancient traditions such as the imposition of ashes into the Anglican context.

The book closes with a set of indexes, making its rather scattered contents much easier to find, especially if you find yourself “is there a blessing/prayer for this?”

As you can probably tell from a number of the features listed in this book by now, this is a decidedly highchurch, Anglo-Catholic, resource.  It is to such a degree that many would consider this in violation of the Anglican formularies by (re-)introducing prayers for the departed, traditions that suggest a “sacerdotal” priesthood, and so-called Roman superstitions concerning the Sacrament of Holy Communion.  A lowchurch or charismatic Anglican may find elements of this book useful on a careful pick-and-choose basis, but on the whole this book is unashamedly Anglo-Catholic.  However, before you dismiss this book entirely on theological-party grounds, it should be noted that this book is presented as complementary to the Prayer Book; nothing in here replaces the authorized Prayer Book.  So let us not regard this book as representing a divisive element who wanted to replace the Prayer Book; that is an extreme to be found elsewhere, not here.

The Saint Aelfric Customary, apart from its primary role of parsing out the execution of the 2019 Prayer Book liturgy in a traditional manner, also aims to provide some supplemental liturgical material, and many of the blessings in this book will be drawn upon, adapted into contemporary English to match our new Prayer Book’s style.  If you are priest with even just a little bit of high-church interest, I recommend this book very highly; it is a useful resource to have around, even if it’s only practically useful once in a blue moon!

The ratings in short:

Accessibility: 4/5
Because it’s been through a few additions, some of its sections, especially the Appendix, aren’t as logically ordered as one might wish.  But the index section in the back is simple, making it easy to find what you’re looking for.  The fact that its material is in traditional English may also be a slight deterrent for those unused to it.

Devotional Usefulness: 2/5
It’s hard to rate this book on this scale.  If you’re an Anglo-Catholic Priest, in a high church 1928 Prayer Book parish, then this book is probably a 4.  For the rest of us priests, though, this is much more of an occasional resource.  If you’re not ordained, this book will almost never be “useful” to you at all.

Reference Value: 3/5
From the standpoint of the History of Liturgy, or liturgiology, this is a really cool text.  You get see, here, several examples of Anglo-Catholic recoveries of traditional liturgical material before it gets appropriated the Liturgical Movement of the 1960’s as represented in the 1979 Prayer Book.  In this sense, then, this book is a fascinating study to anyone interested in the subject.

By way of a last word, this is a book that I think all Anglican priests should know about, most should have, even if only a few will use.

BCP 2019 Corrections!

A few weeks ago there was a big to-do over a sketchy rubric that snuck into the Additional Directions for the Communion service back in 2018.  The Saint Aelfric Customary did its part in advocating for the correction of potential sacrilegious malpractice, and together we all successfully made our voices heard!  The College of Bishops agreed to amend the offending text.  Here’s the result:

sacrilege averted!

Admittedly this is not a perfect correction; the witness of every historic Prayer Book regardless of churchmanship or theological party, is that excess consecrated wine is to be drunk up by people, not the ground or a special sink called a piscina.  So the line “except as authorized and directed by the Bishop” still leaves room for such malpractices, though now you need your Bishop’s permission to abuse the Sacrament.

Apart from this, there are a number of minor corrections to the first printing of the Prayer Book (2019) that the committee has tried to make people aware of.  If you got your new Prayer Book at Assembly a couple weeks ago, or just received it from a pre-order, you need to make the following corrections to it (like I did in the picture above).

bcp2019 errata first edition

As you can see, most of these are just grammatical issues.  It’s normal for the first edition of a book to have a handful of little mistakes like these – I’ve seen stupid spelling mistakes in respected theological text books before.  It happens; it’s an imperfect world.  Just grab a black pen and make these little edits in your book if it needs them, and carry on your merry way.

We’re not here to complain about the quality of our worship books, after all; we’re here to worship.  Let us pray!

Praying the Collect for Purity

One of the most famous prayers in Anglican liturgy today seems to be “The Collect for Purity” which is found near the beginning of the Communion service.  It seems like every “introduction to Anglicanism” article or series of articles eventually turns to this prayer as a quintessential example of a collect, and the enduring nature of liturgical prayer and worship.

Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hid: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy Name; through Christ our Lord.  Amen.

So I probably don’t need to tell you that this was originally a “vesting prayer” said by the celebrant alone before the actual Mass began, and that Archbishop Cranmer moved it to the beginning of the Communion liturgy itself when he first wrote the English Prayer Book.  Besides, you don’t need me to harp on about the history of liturgy too much, lest you think I’ve lost my edge when it comes to giving practical advice 😉

Ye who are used to modern liturgies (1979 Prayer Book and newer) are probably accustomed to praying the Collect for Purity with the whole congregation.  For many people, this is the one Collect they definitely have memorized.  You may be surprised to learn, though, that before the modern era of liturgical revision, this Collect was still said by the priest alone.  The first directional rubric in the 1662 Prayer Book’s Communion liturgy, for example, concludes with this sentence:

And the Priest standing at the north side of the Table shall say the Lord’s Prayer with the Collect following, the people kneeling.

It is interesting to note that in our own (2019) Prayer Book the rubric attached to this Collect reads:

The Celebrant prays (and the People may be invited to join)

which indicates that the “primary” fulfillment of this rubric is that the Celebrant says it, and the “secondary” option is that the congregation might be invited to say it too.

If you take that rubric prioritization along with the historic rubrics – that the Priest prays it alone at the holy table (or altar, as many commonly say today) – this gives us a suggestion for how we should go about praying this Collect in our worship services today.

The people were standing for the Acclamation immediately before this, so what if we all kneel to pray this prayer?  That would make sense, especially with the Summary of the Law or Decalogue following, to hear those spoken over us by the priest while we kneel.  If you’re the celebrant, you too should consider (with the historic prayer books) turning toward the altar and kneeling for the Collect for Purity.  Even if the congregation remains standing for it, the extra time and motion involved in you kneeling for the prayer and then standing up to address them in the following penitential rite will be a significant action that reinforces the message of this prayer – namely, that we need cleansing in our hearts by the Holy Spirit in order to love God perfectly and magnify his holy name in a worthy manner.

Worshiping God is kind of a big deal.  Praying that he would help us to worship, even enable us to worship, is not a prayer we should take lightly.  Go kneel before the altar, use your body’s posture and motion to express the seriousness of this prayer!

Overview of the book of Esther

Evening Prayer in our Daily Office Lectionary begins the book of Esther in a couple days.  I had the joy and privilege of preaching all the way through this book a few years ago; it was a lot of fun, and I get kind of enthusiastic about it.  So please forgive me as occasionally stutter over my words in excitement as I talk about this book!

Subject Index of the video in case you want to skip around:

  • 00:00 – it’s an unusual book
  • 02:11 – Characters
  • 05:46 – A Tale of Two Esthers (Hebrew & Greek)
  • 09:50 – Authorship & Origin Questions
  • 13:58 – Canonical Purpose of the book of Esther

Pairing a Collect with a Hymn

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…” 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.

 

Collect for “Proper 8”

This week’s Collect of the Day is drawn from yesterday’s position in the calendar, “Proper 8”.  This is a prayer for God’s fatherly ordering of our lives:

O God, your never-failing providence sets in order all things both in heaven and on earth: Put away from us all hurtful things, and give us those things that are profitable for us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

On its own, simply, this is a prayer that highlights God’s parental role over us.  If you have had children, or have cared for or ministered to children regularly, you know on an experiential level just how important a prayer like this is.  Children often have a hard time accepting or understanding the difference between the “hurtful things” and “those things that are profitable”… what they want is what they want, and that’s that!  Of course, we adults fall into the exact same mentality all the time, we’re just usually a little more sophisticated about it.  “I deserve to indulge myself today”, “Just one ___ won’t hurt me”, “I know it’s bad for me, but I can keep it under control”.  This prayer demands of us an honesty that we’re not always prepared to attain to on our own.

In the traditional calendar, this Collect was appointed for the 8th Sunday after Trinity, and was paired with Romans 8:12-17 and Matthew 7:15-21.  That epistle is very clearly in mind in the construction of this Collect:

For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.

The Gospel contains a warning against false teachers – wolves in sheep’s clothing.  This adds to the Epistle’s concern with things that are morally and spiritually harmful or profitable the further level of doctrinal harm and profit.  It is critical that we do not scratch our “itching ears” as it is written elsewhere in the New Testament.  We must pray that God will keep, or make, us open to receive his true teaching rather than the teaching we want to hear.  Our fleshly, sinful, self-centered tendencies can easily overrule our moral, spiritual, and doctrinal commitment to Christ and his Church, so let this Collect remind you in the Daily Office throughout this week to “mortify the works of the flesh”, to discern the disguised wolf from the true sheep, and endeavor to follow Christ as he leads, not as we would have him lead.