Saturday, June 05, 2010

Trinity I--Collect

O God, the strength of all those who put their trust in thee; Mercifully accept our prayers; and because, through the weakness of our mortal nature, we can do no good thing without thee, grant us the help of thy grace, that in keeping thy commandments we may please thee, both in will and deed; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Thomas Cranmer translated this collect from Latin with virtually no change. It sounds like a rather Augustinian collect. We cannot do any good thing without God. All our righteousness is as filthy rags.

I don't fully understand that. No matter how hard I try, I have trouble believing that the goodness--real goodness--of unbelievers is as filthy rags in the eyes of God. I would prefer to think that even they are, at some level and in some sense, receiving the help of God's grace. Which does not mean that they, we, or anyone can in any measure earn his favor by being good.

But at a practical level, this is a good collect for all occasions, the sort of prayer one can pray on any given day and find applicable. One needn't bother with Augustinian theology. We know ourselves. We know the weakness of our mortal nature. We know how we start out the day and can scarcely get through an hour without some sin--even if it is a mere matter, and not so "mere" either, of tone of voice. We start out full of the milk of human kindness and good resolutions, and then someone does something that throws our plans out of whack, someone else's tone of voice doesn't seem right, we notice that little thing that has always been so darned irritating, and there we are, back in the soup.

One cannot make hard and fast predictions in the spiritual life, but perhaps starting the day with this collect would be helpful.

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