O GOD, who by the leading of a star didst manifest thy only-begotten Son to the Gentiles; Mercifully grant that we who know thee now by faith, may after this life have the fruition of thy glorious Godhead; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
This collect is assigned to be read daily through the octave of the Epiphany. Both its address to the Father and also the accompanying gospel for the feast, concern the chief Epiphany event in the Western imagination, namely the coming of the wise men to Bethlehem. In Eastern thought the baptism of Jesus is the central Epiphany event. (The American Prayer Book does not read of the baptism of Jesus until Epiphany II, and the English Prayer Books do not read of the baptism of Jesus at all in Epiphanytide.) The address, apart from this Western emphasis, states clearly the general theme of Epiphany both as a feast and as a season: the manifestation of the glory of God in the person of God the Son, Jesus Christ. On Epiphany day, this manifestation comes through ‘the leading of a star’, in the story of the Magi from the beginning of the second chapter of St. Matthew’s gospel. Furthermore, this manifestation on Epiphany itself is ‘to the Gentiles’. While Christmas showed the manifestation of divine glory to the Jewish shepherds, on Epiphany this manifestation is extended to the Gentiles in the form of the wise men from the east.
The petition of the collect requests a gift by God, that he would mercifully grant something to us by faith. The particular grace requested by the petition is mostly implicit in the reference to the ‘glorious Godhead’. This reference to the ‘glorious Godhead’ connects the collect to the specifically seasonal theme of epiphanic, or manifested, divine glory. More generally the petition is for the knowledge and enjoyment of God by faith in this life and more fully and completely (‘the fruition’) ‘after this life’.
The petition is well balanced with two main contrasts: between ‘now’ and ‘after this life’, and then between present ‘faith’ in this life and its ‘fruition’ in the life hereafter. In the central portion of the petition in the course of just eight words there are four words with ‘f’ sounds: ‘faith’, ‘after’, ‘life’, and ‘fruition’. The repetition is pleasing, as is the alliteration in the concluding words of the petition, ‘glorious Godhead’.
The doxology does not include the full Trinitarian termination, which is somewhat surprising. Epiphany day is the beginning of a season, and usually the full ending is given in the Prayer Book for collects at the beginning of seasons. The omission is also somewhat surprising since the seasonal theme of manifested divine glory connects rather directly to a doxological Trinitarian formula.