Gleanings from the Collects: Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost

Keep your Church, O Lord, by your perpetual mercy; and because without you the frailty of our nature causes us to fall, keep us from all things hurtful, and lead us to all things profitable for our salvation; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

This collect, although absent from the 1979 Book of Common Prayer, has its roots in the Gelasian sacramentary[1]. It appears in the 1662 and 1928 BCP. 

The immediacy of this collect is interesting. Collects usually begin by invoking the Lord along with acknowledging a divine attribute, such as “Almighty and everlasting God…” To open with a plea adds a sense of desperation, but it is a holy desperation because it is abundantly true that without the Lord “the frailty of our nature causes us to fall.” Jesus reminded us that without Him we can do nothing at all.[2]

Archbishop Cranmer changed the language of the original collect from “perpetual propitiation” to “perpetual mercy.” It is perfectly acceptable to plea for God’s mercy, but the words “perpetual propitiation” tie the collect more closely to the Eucharist. We receive the Body and Blood of Christ, as we pray in the 1928 liturgy, “that our sinful bodies may be made clean by his body; and our souls washed through his most precious blood, and that we may evermore dwell in him, and he in us.”[3]Thus while we do not believe that Christ is re-sacrificed in the Eucharist, we do believe that the benefits of His sacrifice are re-presented to us every time we receive Holy Communion.. 

The strength of this collect is that it reminds us of both our utter reliance upon the Lord and that it is His nature to show mercy. The Scripture declares, “Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy.”[4]So while it is humbling to think that we delight God when we come to Him for help, it also underscores that He is our loving heavenly Father and we should never hesitate to seek His help. 

[1]8thcentury book of liturgy

[2]John 15:5

[3]1928 Book of Common Prayer p.82

[4]Micah 7:18

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