Holy Week Walkthrough

Holy Week is a special time of year; the historic Prayer Books provide different readings for a Communion service on each day of the week, a coverage not enjoyed anywhere else in the calendar.  (If you look in the 1979 and 2019 books, you’ll see Easter week is also fully covered, but historically only Monday and Tuesday of that week were provided for.)

The Gospel lessons throughout the week were very simple.  On The Sunday Next Before Easter (commonly called Palm Sunday) was read Matthew 26:1-27:56; on Monday was read Mark 14, on Tuesday was read Mark 15, on Wednesday was read Luke 22, on Maundy Thursday was read Luke 23, and on Good Friday was read John 19.  In short, the Passion narrative of all four Gospel books were read in sequence throughout the week, leaving the burial in Matthew 27:57.  The Epistle or OT lesson to match these Gospels were also great material for the death of Christ: Philippians 2:5-11, Isaiah 63, Isaiah 50:5, Hebrews 9:16, 1 Corinthians 11:23-26 on Maundy Thursday, from Hebrews 10 on Friday, and 1 Peter 3:17ff on Saturday.

How anyone thought they could improve on this is beyond me.  But change it they have; the 1979 and 2019 Prayer Books offer a completely different Holy Week experience.  Rather than reflecting upon the death of Christ for the majority of the week, we are now taken on a roller coaster ride through various events near Jesus’ last days.

  • Palm Sunday
    In a marvelous reclamation of pre-Reformation tradition, we have the Liturgy of the Palms back, complete with a procession and Gospel: either from Matthew 21, Mark 11, or Luke 19 depending upon the year.  The Passion Gospel in the regular service, too, changes with the year: Matthew 27, Mark 15, or Luke 23, with options to lengthen them to include the previous chapters.
  • Monday
    On this day we get a flashback to the anointing of Jesus at Bethany, from John 12:1-11 or Mark 14:3-9.  This probably took place shortly before the triumphal entry observed in the liturgy of the Palms the day before.
  • Tuesday
    Here we have a choice between the cleansing of the Temple in Mark 11:15-19 or a Gospel from John 12:37-38,42-50 in which Jesus both acknowledges that some will reject him and promises salvation to those who hear.
  • Wednesday
    The plot to kill Jesus, with the betrayal of Judas, as reported in Matthew 26:1-5,14-25 is the Gospel of this day.  Like the Mark 14 option on Monday, this actually replicates a small piece of what a traditional Prayer Book would cover during Holy Week.
  • Thursday
    Luke 22:14-30 is the standard Gospel option, focusing on the institution of the Lord’s Supper, though the option of John 13:1-15 (the washing of the disciples’ feet) is also available.  This option was introduced at least as early as the American 1928 prayer book.
  • Friday
    The old tradition finally comes back in line on Good Friday, going with John 19:1-37, though allowing for chapter 18 to be added.  At last, the crucifixion of Christ returns to the fore.
  • Saturday
    Again, the traditional burial of Christ is still the Gospel for this day, though the specific reading (Matthew 27:57-66) is now offered alongside a parallel alternative: John 19:38-42.

So, let’s say you want to observe Holy Week to the full; praying both Office each day plus the daily Communion service.  What would that look like according to the 2019 Prayer Book, and executed in a traditional fashion?

  • Palm Sunday, 14 April
    Morning Prayer: Numbers 8, Mark 9:30
    Liturgy of the Palms: Luke 19:29-40 & Psalm 118:19-29
    Communion: Isaiah 52:13-53:12, Psalm 22:1-11, Philippians 2:-11, Luke (22:39-71) 23:1-49 (50-56)
    Midday Prayer: Leviticus 15
    Evening Prayer: Job 12, Hebrews 4:1-13
  • Monday, 15 April
    Morning Prayer: Numbers 11, Mark 10:1-31
    Communion: Isaiah 42:1-9, Psalm 36:5-10, Hebrews 11:39-12:3, John 12:1-12
    Midday Prayer: Hosea 13:1-14
    Evening Prayer: Job 13, Hebrews 4:14-5:10
  • Tuesday, 16 April
    Morning Prayer: Numbers 12, Mark 10:32
    Communion: Isaiah 49:1-6, Psalm 71:1-12, 1 Corinthians 1:18-31, Mark 11:15-19
    Midday Prayer: Hosea 14
    Evening Prayer: Job 14, Hebrews 5:11-6:end
  • Wednesday, 17 April
    Morning Prayer: Numbers 13, Mark 11:1-26
    Communion: Isaiah 50:4-9, Psalm 59:7-15,22-23, Hebrews 9:11-28, Matthew 26:1-5,14-25
    Midday Prayer: Lamentations 1
    Evening Prayer: Job 15, Hebrews 7
  • Maundy Thursday, 18 April
    Morning Prayer: Daniel 9, John 13:1-20
    Midday Prayer: Lamentations 2
    Communion: Exodus 12:1-14, Psalm 78:14-25, 1 Corinthians 11:23-26(27-34), Luke 22:14-30 (note that John 13 is covered in the daily office), Washing of the Feet, Stripping of the Altar, Reserving of the Sacrament
    Evening Prayer: 1 Corinthians 10:1-22, John 13:21-38
  • Good Friday, 19 April
    Morning Prayer: Lamentations 3:1-36, John 18
    Communion: Genesis 22:1-18 or Isaiah 52:13-53:12, Psalm 69:1-23, Hebrews 10:1-25, John 19:1-37, Solemn Collects and Laments, Veneration of the Cross, Communion from the prior day’s Reserved Sacrament
    Midday Prayer: Genesis 22:1-18 or Isaiah 52:13-53:12 (whichever was not chosen for the previous service)
    Evening Prayer: 1 Peter 2:11-25, Luke 23:18-49
  • Holy Saturday, 20 April
    Morning Prayer: Lamentations 3:37-58, Hebrews 4
    Liturgy of the Word (or Antecommunion): Job 14:1-17, Psalm 130, 1 Peter 4:1-8, Matthew 27:57-66
    Midday Prayer: Zechariah 9
    Evening Prayer: 1 Peter 4:1-8, Luke 23:50-56
    Easter Vigil, which merits a post of its own!

This doesn’t happen often in the ACNA lectionaries, but you can find interplay between the daily office readings and the communion service readings during Holy Week – I pointed out a couple points of contact already.  As I lamented at the beginning, it is my opinion that Holy Week is better served with the traditional approach: the daily communion readings from the trials and passion and death of Christ from Sunday through Friday.  We’ve got all year to explore the context of his death; can’t we just “settle in” to this dark moment at the foot of the Cross?  The modern set of Collects added in for Monday through Wednesday add a nice touch in that direction, but they aren’t reinforced by the Scripture readings.  Still, at least the daily office lessons maintain a decent focus on the death of Christ, so the new daily collects will fit in better there than in the Communion services.

Whateverso, Holy Week is just around the corner, and hopefully this overview will help you get ready.

Passion Sunday Coming Up

After Lent’s lighter moment on its 4th Sunday, things really start to ramp up on the 5th Sunday.  This is nicknamed Passion Sunday, even the Passion Gospel itself is not read on this day.

As I introduced this day in a previous post, it is an anticipation of Palm Sunday.  A noteworthy feature of the traditional lectionary was that major Sunday commemorations tended to have a follow-up Sunday to further explicate its meaning, but in the case of Palm Sunday, that follow-up had to be a preview Sunday instead.  Originally, the Gospel was Jesus’ speech about “before Abraham was, I am” – asserting his divinity.  This was paired with a lesson from Hebrews about his priestly sacrifice, so the theological import of his death on the Cross would be better appreciated on the following Sunday.  The modern calendar carries out a similar function using the Gospel stories of the resurrection of Lazarus, Jesus’ saying that “the son of man must be lifted up,” and the parable of the wicked tenants.  The traditional Collect was similar to those for the 2nd and 3rd Sundays, with a thematic similarity to the Collect for Good Friday, making it serve as another “preview” of the Passion to come.  The modern Collect, however, is a transfer from what was originally an Eastertide Collect, asking God to fix our hearts where true joy is to be found, despite our unruly wills and affections.  As far as I can see (thus far), this somewhat weakens the traditional Passion Sunday function.

One of the old traditions that typically began with this day is the covering, or veiling, of images in the church building.  All the statues, icons, even crucifixes, would have some sort of shroud or veil obscuring them.  In past days where church buildings were beautifully and vividly decked with visual splendor, this would have been a stark sight to behold.  On one level this tradition is easy to understand as an anticipation of the starkness of Holy Week: the mourning of Christ’s death on account of our sins, the injustice of his conviction, is aptly expressed in the covering of images that normally bring us joy.

But there are also connections to the liturgy of Passion Sunday itself that probably play a role in this.  The traditional Gradual, from Psalm 143, contains the verse

Hear me, O Lord, and that soon, for my spirit waxeth faint: * hide not thy face from me, lest I be like unto them that go down into the pit.

– a plea that is given an extra layer of personal devotion when the visual depictions of God and his Saints are literally hidden from your face that morning!

The traditional Epistle, from Hebrews 9, also contains a thematic link.  Starting in verse 11, “CHRIST being come an High Priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands; that is to say, not of this building; neither by the blood of goats and calves; but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.”  It is fitting, therefore, to cover all the things in the church “made with hands”, to remind people that these images are merely images of the Truth to whom they must ultimately look.

Finally, and perhaps most bluntly, the traditional Gospel for the 5th Sunday ends with the Jews wanting to stone Jesus for claiming equality with God, “but Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple.”  Sure enough, as you look around the room back then, Jesus has hidden himself; his images are covered.  Suddenly you find yourself in the place of those who would kill Christ – he is hidden from you.  This is very much an anticipation, in tone, of the final rejection of Christ on the following Sunday: “Crucify him!”

Chances are, however, that your church building is not adorned with wall-to-wall pictures, icons, artwork, and lined with alcoves with statues of our Lord and our Lady and the Saints.  Directly appropriating that old tradition may not have anywhere near the usual impact in many church buildings today. So what might we do instead?

  • put a veil over the altar cross
  • print a service bulletin with no cover art
  • silence some or all of the instruments

Be creative!  How else might you ratchet up the experience of Lent?

Commemorating Saints during Lent

Looking at the calendar of optional commemorations, there are four in a row this week: F. D. Maurice yesterday, Henry Budd today, James Lloyd Breck tomorrow, and Martin Luther King Jr. on Thursday.  Next week has four such commemorations also.  But should we observe these commemoration days?

The first answer is: it’s up to you / your rector.  These are all optional, and the Prayer Book does not mandate how one must handle a weekday Communion service apart from the Red Letter Days.

But if you want to take longstanding tradition and practice into account, things get a bit pickier.  As a penitential season, Lent is best served by maintaining the tenor of penitence at the public worship services.  If four out of seven days in a week is a celebration of a Saint, then there isn’t really much time left for actually observing Lent.  There are also sets of Collects and Lessons for each weekday in Lent that you can find in Lesser Feasts and Fasts and the Anglican Missal and in the Roman liturgy.  I haven’t studied these sources against one another but I suspect they all represent a very similar tradition.  The idea, simply, is that the Church provides for a Lent-focused Communion service every day in Lent, leaving potentially no room for Saints’ days.

Of course, the “Red-Letter Days” take precedence over these; we celebrated the Annunciation last Monday for example.  But among the optional commemorations, there is room for further consideration.  Roman practice has a complex system of liturgical hierarchies: different sorts of holy days take different levels of precedence.  And although post-Vatican-II reforms have simplified their system somewhat, it’s still more developed than most Anglican sources are on the matter.  When it comes down to it, the Romans expect daily mass in their churches and we don’t, so it’s a matter of priority and emphasis.

So if you’re looking for what to do at a weekday Communion service in your church, or for your own devotions at home, you would do well to consider which of the optional commemorations you would “elevate” to observe during Lent, and which you would leave be in order to keep the Lenten disciplines the priority throughout the week.

Ultimately what this is doing is to create a middle class of holy days – what I would prefer to call Minor Feast Days – to stand between the official Major Feast Days and the Commemorations.  How you decide which saints to so elevate is a big question, and one that is better served on its own.  For now, at least, let us remember that Lent is a time of penitence, and it would not serve us well to get carried away with celebrating every commemoration that comes our way.

Laetare Sunday coming up

The Fourth Sunday in Lent is known by two nicknames: Laetare Sunday and Mothering Sunday.

The first name, Laetare, comes from the Introit (the opening hymn, if you like) in Latin.

Lætare Jerusalem: et conventum facite omnes qui diligitis eam: gaudete cum lætitia, qui in tristitia fuistis: ut exsultetis, et satiemini ab uberibus consolationis vestræ.

Rejoice with Jerusalem, and be glad for her, all you who love her; rejoice with her in joy, all you who mourn over her; that you may suck and be satisfied with her consoling breasts.

These words are from Isaiah 66:10-11a, and serve as an antiphon to Psalm 122, Laetatus sum (“I was glad”).  This joy-filled antiphon, paired with a joy-filled Psalm, start off the 4th Sunday in Lent with a noticeably cheerful mood compared to the rest of the season.  This is, roughly, the midpoint of Lent, and thus serves as a sort of breather from the rigors of the season where the congregation can take their noses off the grindstone, so to speak, lift up their heads, and take a good look at the joy of Easter fast approaching.

This is traditionally matched with slightly “lightened up” vestments from violet to rose, and the historic Gospel is the feeding of the 5,000, adding to the theme of God strengthening us with provisions along the long hard road of the great penitential season.

The modern lectionary’s take on this Sunday, however, is not quite as noteworthy, and undercuts (or at least diffuses) the impact of “Laetare Sunday” compared to the historic lectionary.  It almost doesn’t make sense to retain the rose vestments for this day anymore, and indeed a great many churches, both Roman and Anglican, have not.

The other nickname for this Sunday is Mothering Sunday.  This largely stems from a tradition of masters giving their household servants this day off from their duties so they can go visit their own mothers.  I couldn’t say where this particular custom originates, though it’s probably not a coincidence that the traditional Epistle of this day begins in Galatians 4:21, discussing the allegory of Hagar the slave woman and Sarah the free woman.

Other traditions associated with this day also add to the enhanced cheerfulness of the occasion: the organ, normally silenced during Lent in pre-Reformation practice, was permitted to be used on this Sunday.  Flowers might be placed on the altar.  And weddings, traditionally disallowed during the penitential season of Lent, could be held on this one day of the season.

Given that many of those old Lenten traditions are not in place in many of our churches today, there aren’t many ways that we can “lighten up” the 4th Sunday of the season anymore.  Plus, given that our Lenten disciplines and modern lectionary and calendar are also a great less rigorous than the days of old, there is far less cause or need for such a day as this.  But sometimes knowing about how things used to work can help us reshape our modern practice, and rediscover some of the discipline and mentality that were nearly lost in the 20th century.

9 Months to go…

Are you expecting?
Well you should be; as nine months from now the Church will be celebrating the birthday of her Lord.  Today is the Feast of the Annunciation, as some will point out the “real” feast of the incarnation – when Jesus was conceived in the womb of the Virgin Mary.  This holy day is placed, quite logically, nine months before Christmas Day.  If you thought radios and shops playing Christmas music in early November is excessive, how about starting the countdown clock nine months early? 😉

Simply realizing that the Annunciation is celebrated at an appropriate time of the year relative to Christmas can give one a newfound appreciation for this holiday.  But there is more.

There was also an ancient belief that great persons died on the same day they were conceived – there was a sort of symmetry to their lives.  (Perhaps this was more of a poetic assertion than an actual biological belief, I don’t know.)  Whateverso, the Annunciation, March 25th, is often very close to Holy Week and Easter, the sequence of days that commemorate Christ’s death and resurrection.  A couple years ago March 25th was Good Friday itself, perfectly lining up our Lord’s conception with his death.

Liturgically, this means we hold off (or transfer) celebrating the Annunciation to the Monday after the Sunday after Easter Day, rather than celebrating it during Holy Week or Easter Week.  But it is worthwhile to note, in those years, the confluence of liturgical events.

This year, with a later Easter, the Annunciation gets to stand on its own date quite unaffected by the Holy Week schedule and goings-on.  The season of Lent is still around us, of course, still giving an ominous sort of context to this celebration.  Just as Mary was overshadowed by the Holy Spirit, so is this holy day overshadowed by the Lenten season, reminding us of the dire destiny of Mary’s newly-conceived son.  This, more than Christmas, is perhaps a better time to sing those songs about how Jesus was born in order to die on the Cross.  Christmas is a festal holiday and season in its own right, we don’t need to drown its joy in reminders of Good Friday; the Annunciation however is much more ripe for that combination of moods.

Also, one last reminder: this is a holy day, a Red Letter Day, a major feast day.  And that means your Lenten fasts and disciplines are suspended for the day.  Go and celebrate the obedience of our Lady and the conception of our Lord!

Don’t forget the Great Litany!

It’s a Friday in Lent.  If you haven’t already, you probably should go back and pray the Great Litany today.  Lent is, after all, a season of heightened spiritual discipline, especially in the areas of fasting, alms-giving, and prayer, as we were reminded on Ash Wednesday, and praying the Litany is probably one of the basic-but-important ways we can fulfill the latter discipline.

Besides, in historic prayer books, the Litany was appointed to be said at the end of Morning Prayer on every Sunday, Wednesday, and Friday, regardless of the liturgical season.  So the least we can do is pick it up during Lent if we normally neglect it.

An interesting feature of the Great Litany’s structure, which perhaps originated in the 1979 book, is the separating of its ending (the “Supplication”) into an optional section.  Classical Prayer Books were much simpler, the Litany was one distinct string of prayers to be used wholesale.  The modern distinction of the Supplication in its final section is handy if you want to shorten the Litany a little bit, or evade its particularly “grim” tone toward the end.  It also means that we can draw upon the Supplication portion by itself as an extra devotion “in times of trouble or distress” as the rubrics suggest.

But for Fridays in Lent, we probably should just pray the whole thing and not cut any corners.

Glorious Lent: a hymn for the season

“You’re fasting during Lent?!  What are you, a closet Catholic?”  Alas, these all-too-common accusations are born of great ignorance of Christian history (including Anglicans and Protestants), not to mention ignorance of the Scriptures.  This penitential season is a time, among other things, of fasting.  It simply is a part of the season; to omit fasting is to ignore everything that the Church announces, in her liturgy, on Ash Wednesday.

And this fasting is glorious!

Consider this 6th century hymn that has adorned Anglican hymnals for a while:

The glory of these forty days
We celebrate with songs of praise;
For Christ, by whom all things were made,
Himself has fasted and has prayed.

Alone and fasting, Moses saw
The loving God who gave the law;
And to Elijah, fasting, came
The steeds and chariots of flame.

So Daniel trained his mystic sight,
Delivered from the lions’ might;
And John, the Bridegroom’s friend, became
The herald of Messiah’s name.

Then grant us, Lord, like them, to be
Full oft in fast and pray’r with thee;
Our spirits strengthen with thy grace,
And give us joy to see thy face.

O Father, Son, and Spirit, blest,
To thee be ev’ry pray’r addressed,
Who art in threefold name adored,
From age to age, the only Lord.  Amen.

What a glorious thing it is to observe a holy Lent!  Fasting so often comes with negative baggage; disciplines of self-denial are so easily looked down upon with disdain today.  Yet songs like this capture the glorious end of self-denial such as fasting: strengthening in God’s grace, similitude with great saints of old like Moses, Elijah, Daniel, and John the Baptizer, not to mention our Lord Jesus himself.  It is a curious thing for a Christian to imagine that he or she could aspire to holiness without utilizing even the most basic of tools championed by the great cloud of witnesses that have come before us.

Let hymns like this encourage you and build you up, this Lenten season.  Yes we have great sins to bewail and repent of, but we also have much to celebrate in the healing- and strengthening-power of God!

Still using the Ash Wednesday Collect?

During the seasons of Advent and Lent, in Prayer Books before the 1970’s, there was a special tradition of repeating the first Collect of the season on every day throughout the season.  For example, this is what you find in the 1662 Prayer Book:

The first Day of Lent commonly called Aſh Wedneſday.

The Collect.
ALMIGHTY and everlaſting God, who hateſt nothing that thou haſt made, and doſt forgive all the ſins of thoſe who are penitent; Create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we worthily lamenting our ſins, and acknowledging our wretchedneſs, may obtain of thee, the God of all mercy, perfect remiſſion and forgiveneſs; through Jeſus Chriſt our Lord. Amen.

¶ This Collect is to be read every day in Lent after the Collect appointed for the day.

(I kept the “long s” typeface in for fun this time; usually I edit them to the regular S.)

Anyway, notice the rubric underneath the Collect: it is to be used throughout the Lenten season in addition to whatever the Collect of the Day normally would be.  For example, yesterday was the Second Sunday in Lent, so we could have read that Collect followed by the Ash Wednesday Collect near the beginning of the Communion service.  You could even be using this extra Collect in the Daily Office every morning and evening!

Now, there is no such rubric in the 1979 or 2019 Prayer Books.  But there is no prohibition against reviving this traditional practice either.  I’ve made a practice of retaining the Collect for Ash Wednesday (sometimes nicknaming it the “Collect for Lent” or “for the season”) on each Sunday in my congregation.  Yes, it does make an awkward break in the rhythm of the liturgy: people are used to sitting down after the Collect but suddenly they have to wait through a second one.

But this can be a good kind of awkwardness.  This Collect is one of the great gems of our Prayer Book tradition, capturing the wretchedness of our sin and the great love and mercy of God in one beautiful little prayer.  It’s a good interruption to receive in the ordinary course of worship.  I can’t say that anybody has ever come up to me after the worship service to comment on it before, but I do think it is a subtle-but-meaningful tradition to hang on to.

Canticles for Lent

One of the fun resources in the 2019 Prayer Book is the collection of Supplemental Canticles for the Daily Office.  As we proceed through this season of Lent, there are two Canticles in particular that stand out as appropriate for regular use at this time.

First is the Benedictus es.  This Canticle is taken from the Greek Old Testament version of Daniel 3, known separately in our Bibles as “The Song of the Three Young Men” – when Hananiah, Azariah, and Mishael were in the fiery furnace alongside the fourth man, the pre-incarnate Christ.  There are two hymns in that passage, and this Canticle is a summary of the first one.  Liturgically, this Canticle is offered directly in the Morning Prayer text itself, presented as an option in place of the Te Deum during Lent.  This Customary recommend using it on Ash Wednesday, the First Sunday of Lent, Palm Sunday, and on weekdays throughout the season.  (For the 2nd through 5th Sundays, it may be prudent to bring back the Te Deum in recognition that though Lent continues, Sundays are not fast days; and though it is still a penitential season, we are still celebrating the victorious Christ.)

From the Supplemental Canticles,  #3, the Kyrie Pantokrator, may be used in place of the Nunc dimittis (the second Canticle in Evening Prayer) on Ash Wednesday, the First Sunday of Lent, Palm Sunday, and every weekday throughout the season.  This Canticle is also from the Greek Old Testament, entitled in English as the Prayer of Manasseh.  It is a prayer of penitence attributed to the wicked King Manasseh (2 Chronicles 33:10-20, especially verses 18 & 19).  As with the Benedictus es above, this Canticle is shortened a bit from its original version; also some of its hyperbolic language is toned down so as not to confuse the average reader.  This Canticle, in particular, is a marvelous offering of penitential worship.  In this age where so many of us run fast and loose with sin, the strong language of condemnation and grace in the Kyrie Pantokrator could do us a world of spiritual good.

And it’s got an awesome name, to boot!

Know and Obey

When we looked at the logic of the season of Lent last week, as highlighted by the Collects and Gospels for each Sunday, I implied that our Collect for the First Sunday in Lent is the same as in the historic Prayer Books; this is not entirely true.  Our Collect functions the same way as the traditional Collect, and both make reference to the Gospel story of Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness, but how exactly that is applied to us has changed.  In the 2019 Prayer Book, the Collect is going to look rather like this:

Almighty God, whose blessed Son was led by the Spirit to be tempted by Satan: Come quickly to help us who are assaulted by many temptations, and, as you know the weaknesses of each of us, let each one find you mighty to save; through Jesus Christ…

The premise of the prayer is temptation of Jesus by the Devil, followed by the reality that we, too, are assaulted with demonic temptation.  God, in his mercy and perfect knowledge, knows our weaknesses and so we pray for experiential knowledge: that God is “mighty to save.”  The historic Collect goes in a very different direction:

O LORD, who for our sake didst fast forty days and forty nights: Give us grace to use such abstinence, that, our flesh being subdued to the Spirit, we may ever obey thy godly motions in righteousness and true holiness, to thy honour and glory, who livest and reignest…

The premise of this prayer is fasting of Jesus during those forty days, followed by a prayer that we would be enriched by our own fast during Lent.  Or rather, our abstinence.  Abstinence is a particular type of fast: to fast from something is to reduce its place in your life or your consumption or participation in something, while to abstain from something is to remove it from your life or to cease consuming or participating in something.  Eating smaller meals and cutting out snacking is fasting; giving up meat or chocolate or alcohol for Lent is abstinence.  Abstinence, in whatever specific form it takes, is one of our chief weapons in the subduing of the flesh to the Spirit, and this Collect prays that we would become more able to obey God’s commands “in righteousness and true holiness” (Ephesians 4:24).

Notice the modern Collect is focused more on experiential knowledge – knowing that God is our powerful Savior – while the traditional Collect is focused more on our obedience.  Surely both are necessary, and belong together, for a sincerely Christian life.  As such, I find I can’t make a personal judgment as to which one is “better” than the other.

The traditional Collect, by referencing the spiritual discipline, links back to Ash Wednesday more than the modern Collect does, so if you’re concerned about liturgical coherence from holy day to holy day then the old tradition preferable here.  But, on the other hand, perhaps one would prefer to see a balance: Ash Wednesday delivering the focus on our call to Lenten discipline and the First Sunday pointing us more to the example and power of Jesus rather than reiterating the disciplines we’re undertaking.

It’s all a matter of perspective and emphasis; certainly there is a place for both traditions.  And, as I said at the beginning, both function in the same way: they are making sure we are getting started into Lent on the right foot.