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Commentary on the Collect
The Rev. Dr. Peter Toon

Collect for the Sunday after the Epiphany:

LORD, we beseech thee mercifully to receive the prayers of thy people which call upon thee; and grant that they may both perceive and know what things they ought to do, and also may have grace and power faithfully to fulfil the same; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Having prayed since the Feast of the Epiphany to be given the grace to contemplate the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ in heaven, five days later the Church makes two further and inter-connected petitions of her heavenly Father, the Lord our God, in the name of her Saviour and Mediator, Jesus Christ our Lord.

The first is that God will receive in mercy and compassion the desires, vows and prayers of his people who supplicate, with bended knee, before him. However, the Church does not ask God to answer them as asked, but rather to receive them and then in the judgment of his perfect wisdom and mercy to respond to them for the true good of his people. For, if God gave to his people merely what they desired and asked for, he would not be a merciful God, since we often desire and ask for that which is not for our short-term or long-term good!

The force of the verb "grant" in prayer is that of "give and supply for no other is able to do so." Of God the Church asks that she will be inspired by the Holy Ghost to recognize and see what is her duty according to the divine will, and that, further, she will have the will and strength to perform that duty in its totality.

In relating to God, we need to know him, to perceive by his inspiration what is his will and then knowing the will, to perform and do the same. It is so easy for us to assume that our own best human wisdom and insights are in fact God's will for us and his Church. Such an assumption is best avoided and in its place there should be a humble recognition that we need to know from God what is his purpose and plan, and then we need his help to fulfil the same!

The Epistle calls for wholehearted commitment to the Lord and his service by each and every member of the congregation of Christ's flock and that they all be conformed to his perfect will. The Gospel provides us with an example of the developing consecration of Jesus to the Father's will and his growing sense of being uniquely the Father's Son. Thus he is the One to whom we go in order to know and come to the same Father.

Because of the Gospel lesson, this Sunday is sometimes called "A Feast of the Holy Family".

A final comment. If the original Latin prayer in the Gregorian Sacramentary had been translated literally by Archbishop Cranmer, it would have been something like this:

"O Lord, we beseech thee, regard with the compassion of a heavenly Father the fervent desires of thy people, who make their supplications unto thee, that they may both see what things ought to be done, and may have strength to fulfil what they see. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen."

It will be observed that each prayer seeks the same blessings from the one and the same Lord God.