Gleanings from the Collects: The 3rd Sunday in Lent

Heavenly Father, you have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you: Look with compassion upon the heartfelt desires of your servants, and purify our disordered affections, that we may behold your eternal glory in the face of Christ Jesus; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

This collect, although new to the Book of Common Prayer, reflects both a prayer attributed to St. Augustine[1]and the collect for the 3rdSunday in Lent in the 1662 BCP[2].

The prayer begins with a bold statement that should be self evident to all. We have been made for Him and so we are restless until we rest in Him. We may try to fill our God shaped vacuum[3]with anything and everything else, but since we have made by God and for God, nothing else will satisfy. Life is meaningless until we find meaning in the Him. 

Our restlessness is also true in an eschatological sense. Even after finding peace with God in this life, there still exists a restlessness. This is so because deep within we know that this world is not our true home. Our citizenship is in heaven[4]and we will never know true and complete peace until we are at home in our Father’s house where we belong. It is why the Spirit says, “Blessed are those who die in the Lord.”[5]

The collect goes on to diagnose our true condition. We have “heartfelt desires” and we know that these desires are never pure. Even our highest virtues are tainted with “disordered affections.” We are, as Luther said, “simil justus, simil peccartor.”[6]

However it is vital to note that the collect tells us how to address this condition. We are not to live in guilt or under a cloud of condemnation. Rather we are to acknowledge our need and then call out to the LORD for compassion. He is faithful to answer and “pardon and deliver you all your sins, confirm and strengthen you in all goodness and bring you to everlasting life; through our Lord Jesus Christ our Lord.”[7]

We must always remember that we are never alone as we battle with the world, the flesh, and the devil. Thus we battle from a posture of quietness and confidence[8]as we say with the Psalmist, “I will fear no evil for Thou art with me. Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.”[9]

It is our ultimate destiny that puts the challenges of this life in proper perspective. We know that by grace we will “behold your eternal glory in the face of Christ Jesus.” Anything that this transitory life has to offer, or that can be taken from us, pales by comparison. While the battles continue in this life, Christ’s victory has already been accomplished, and what awaits us is beyond our ability to comprehend. St. Paul declares, “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.”[10]

And so we continue in our Lenten journey. Repentant of our sins while fixing our eyes on the One who is the author and perfecter of our faith.[11]

[1]“Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.”

[2]“We beseech thee, Almighty God, look upon the hearty desires of they humble servants….”

[3]“What else does this craving, and this helplessness, proclaim but that there was once in man a true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace?This he tries in vain to fill with everything around him, seeking in things that are not there the help he cannot find in those that are, though none can help, since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable object; in other words by God himself”Blaise Pascal’s Pensees New York; Penguin Books, 1966, p.75

[4]Philippians 3:20

[5]Revelation 14:13

[6]“at once justified and a sinner”

[7]1928 Book of Common Prayer p.76

[8]Isaiah 30:15

[9]Psalm 23

[10]I Corinthians 2:9

[11]Hebrews 12:2

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