Gleanings from the Collects: Christmas

“Almighty God, you have given your only-begotten Son to take our nature upon him, and to be born [this day] of a pure virgin: Grant that we, who have been born again and made your children by adoption and grace, may daily be renewed by your Holy Spirit; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom with you and the same Spirit be honor and glory, now and for ever. Amen.”

This theologically rich collect first appeared in the 1549 Book of Common Prayer although it is similar to a collect in the Gregorian rite of the 10thcentury. It is repeated in the 1662, 1928, 1979 and the 2019 BCP. 

The collect is well echoed in the proper preface[1]“Because you gave Jesus Christ, your only Son, to be born for us; who, by the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary his mother, was made truly man, yet without the stain of sin, that we might be cleansed from sin and given the right to become your children.”

“This day” is in brackets, giving the option of omitting it when the collect is used in Mass throughout Christmas week.

This prayer is one of the most theologically rich of all of the collects. At least 7 core doctrines are proclaimed.

  1. The Trinity – All three Persons of the Trinity are included
  2. The Divinity of Christ – “your only begotten Son”
  3. The Incarnation – “take our nature upon him”
  4. The Virgin Birth – “born this day of a pure virgin”
  5. Regeneration – “we who have been born again”
  6. Adoption – “made your children by adoption and grace”
  7. Sanctification – “may daily be renewed by your Holy Spirit”

It is not the point of this prayer to explain or defend these doctrines. Rather it simply declares them to be so. 

It is important to not miss the forest for the trees when considering this theologically saturated prayer. It is a prayer not just for the head but also for the heart. The recitation of these vital truths should fill us with wonder, overwhelming gratitude and joy. Why did He do all of this? He did all of this for us! 

The lesson we can take away from this collect is said so well by St. Athanaius (d.373). “He became what we are that we might become what He is.”

[1]  The proper preface is the variable portion of the Eucharistic prayer that marks the season or occasion. 

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