ALMIGHTY and merciful God, of whose only gift it cometh that thy faithful people do unto thee true and laudable service; Grant, we beseech thee, that we may so faithfully serve thee in this life, that we fail not finally to attain thy heavenly promises; through the merits of Jesus Christ our Lord, etc.

ALMIGHTY and merciful God, of whose only gift it cometh that thy faithful people do unto thee true and laudable service; Grant, we beseech thee, that we may so faithfully serve thee in this life, that we fail not finally to attain thy heavenly promises; through the merits of Jesus Christ our Lord, etc. 

The address of this collect combines two of God’s attributes:  his omnipotence and his mercy.  Both of these attributes are often present in the addresses of the collects, with ‘almighty’ being the most frequently mentioned attribute of all.  But God is often addressed under the attribute of mercy also.  Sometimes only God’s mercy is mentioned:  ‘merciful God’ (Tuesday in Whitsun week), ‘merciful Lord’ (Trinity XXI).  Sometimes mercy is combined with some other attribute, such as his omnipotence, as in this collect or that of Trinity XX (‘almighty and most merciful God’).  In some worldly contexts power and mercy may seem in tension or at least in contrast.  In God, however, these two attributes are simply aspects of the same essential reality:  God’s power is merciful and his mercy is powerful.  In the human world mercy is sometimes powerless and power is sometimes merciless.  In God mercy and power are preeminently real and are not finally distinguishable, though they may appear to us to be different.

According to this collect both God’s almightiness and also his mercy are revealed ‘through the merits of Jesus Christ our Lord’ in a particular way, which extends the address.  This way, which illustrates the double attribute of God, is that his ‘faithful people do unto thee true and laudable service’.  The power and mercy of God are revealed in the service of God’s ‘faithful people’.  That is not to say that God’s power and mercy are not revealed by faithless people:  on that matter this collect at least is silent.  But God’s ‘faithful people’ do him ‘true and laudable service’.  This service is the result of a divine gift only:  ‘of whose only gift it cometh’.  That is to say, there is no true and laudable service’ of God by people except through a gift from God.  ‘Only gift’ does not mean, of course, that this is the only gift God gives, but that it is a gift that only is received because it is given.  We might paraphrase the collect by saying ‘thy faithful people do thee true and laudable service only by thy gift’.  God is not truly served, and service to God is not true or praiseworthy, through our unaided efforts.  Rather true and laudable service is ‘only gift’, only the result of grace, and only ‘through the merits of Jesus Christ’.  In the end all creation serves God’s providential will because he is almighty.  But that service is unintended or unwilling if it does not flow from free will graced and empowered by God.  And unintended service is not ‘laudable’.  We do not praise the rock because by God’s law of gravity it falls when dropped:  we only praise the order of the world fashioned by God. 

The petition flows naturally from the theology of grace embedded in the address.  The collect prays that ‘we may so faithfully serve thee in this life, that we fail not finally to attain thy heavenly promises’.  God’s ‘heavenly promises’, the eternal life and blessing already begun in this life through grace in the Church, crowns ‘faithful’ service.  Just as some service is ‘true and laudable’, while other service appears to be unwilling and unintended, so one may distinguish ‘faithful’ service that is willed and intended for the love of God, from faithless service which God’s providence nonetheless weaves into the ultimate design of the world.  While we cannot judge the boundaries that separate these two kinds of service, we pray that God will grant us grace to serve ‘faithfully…in this life’ so as to receive his ‘heavenly promises’.

The address of this collect combines two of God’s attributes:  his omnipotence and his mercy.  Both of these attributes are often present in the addresses of the collects, with ‘almighty’ being the most frequently mentioned attribute of all.  But God is often addressed under the attribute of mercy also.  Sometimes only God’s mercy is mentioned:  ‘merciful God’ (Tuesday in Whitsun week), ‘merciful Lord’ (Trinity XXI).  Sometimes mercy is combined with some other attribute, such as his omnipotence, as in this collect or that of Trinity XX (‘almighty and most merciful God’).  In some worldly contexts power and mercy may seem in tension or at least in contrast.  In God, however, these two attributes are simply aspects of the same essential reality:  God’s power is merciful and his mercy is powerful.  In the human world mercy is sometimes powerless and power is sometimes merciless.  In God mercy and power are preeminently real and are not finally distinguishable, though they may appear to us to be different.

According to this collect both God’s almightiness and also his mercy are revealed ‘through the merits of Jesus Christ our Lord’ in a particular way, which extends the address.  This way, which illustrates the double attribute of God, is that his ‘faithful people do unto thee true and laudable service’.  The power and mercy of God are revealed in the service of God’s ‘faithful people’.  That is not to say that God’s power and mercy are not revealed by faithless people:  on that matter this collect at least is silent.  But God’s ‘faithful people’ do him ‘true and laudable service’.  This service is the result of a divine gift only:  ‘of whose only gift it cometh’.  That is to say, there is no true and laudable service’ of God by people except through a gift from God.  ‘Only gift’ does not mean, of course, that this is the only gift God gives, but that it is a gift that only is received because it is given.  We might paraphrase the collect by saying ‘thy faithful people do thee true and laudable service only by thy gift’.  God is not truly served, and service to God is not true or praiseworthy, through our unaided efforts.  Rather true and laudable service is ‘only gift’, only the result of grace, and only ‘through the merits of Jesus Christ’.  In the end all creation serves God’s providential will because he is almighty.  But that service is unintended or unwilling if it does not flow from free will graced and empowered by God.  And unintended service is not ‘laudable’.  We do not praise the rock because by God’s law of gravity it falls when dropped:  we only praise the order of the world fashioned by God. 

The petition flows naturally from the theology of grace embedded in the address.  The collect prays that ‘we may so faithfully serve thee in this life, that we fail not finally to attain thy heavenly promises’.  God’s ‘heavenly promises’, the eternal life and blessing already begun in this life through grace in the Church, crowns ‘faithful’ service.  Just as some service is ‘true and laudable’, while other service appears to be unwilling and unintended, so one may distinguish ‘faithful’ service that is willed and intended for the love of God, from faithless service which God’s providence nonetheless weaves into the ultimate design of the world.  While we cannot judge the boundaries that separate these two kinds of service, we pray that God will grant us grace to serve ‘faithfully…in this life’ so as to receive his ‘heavenly promises’.

One thought on “Collect for Trinity XIII

  1. Thank you for another splendid sermon sir. The collects are so rich and you open them and make them so accessible to us ordinary folk.

    Like

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