O ALMIGHTY and most merciful God, of thy bountiful goodness keep us, we beseech thee, from all things that may hurt us; that we, being ready both in body and soul, may cheerfully accomplish those things which thou commandest; through Jesus Christ our Lord, etc.

This collect’s address is very similar to that of the collect for Trinity XIII (‘Almighty and merciful God’) and for the early celebration on Whitsunday (‘Almighty and most merciful God’).  God’s mercy and mercifulness are very often mentioned in the collects, including those for the next Sunday, Trinity XXI, as well as those for the Epiphany, Ash Wednesday, the Tuesday in Whitsun Week, Trinity IV, VII, XI, and so forth.  Therefore this petition is not surprising, though the most common combination of divine attributes in the collects is ‘almighty and everlasting’ or the similar ‘almighty and everliving’ (see Epiphany II & III; Ash Wednesday; Palm Sunday; Trinity; Trinity XII & XIV; the Purification; S. Bartholomew; S. Thomas).  On the combination of God’s mercy and his might, see the notes on the next collect, that for Trinity XXI. 

In other respects, the petition of this collect may initially seem somewhat unusual, since it includes some words that are relatively rare in Prayer Book use.  ‘Bountiful’ occurs only two other times in the 600 pages of the Prayer Book, though both of those other uses are in collects and are similar to this one:  on Advent IV we pray ‘that…thy bountiful grace and mercy may speedily help and deliver us’; on Trinity XXIV we pray that by God’s ‘bountiful goodness we may all be delivered from the bands of…sins’.   ‘Cheerfully’ occurs uniquely in this collect, though ‘cheerful’ and ‘cheerfulness’ occur seven other times (four of which are in biblical quotations).  But the meaning of ‘cheerful’ is not far from ‘joyful’ (Easter Eve) and ‘joyfully’ (Christmas day; Tuesday before Easter; Trinity V), from ‘patience and comfort’ (Advent II), and from other near synonyms in other collects.   

In any case, the petition is not unusual in its fundamental, root request:  ‘keep us…from all things that may hurt us’.  The collects regularly petition God positively for grace and blessings and negatively for preservation from evil and harm.  The collect closest to this one in its petition, and by chance the other Prayer Book use of ‘hurt’ in a collect, is that for Lent II:  ‘that we may be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul’.  On Lent II the distinction of body and soul is used to speak of different kinds of hurts and harms:  ‘adversities which may happen to the body’ and ‘evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul’.  In this collect for Trinity XX, in contrast, the petition is a general request for protection:  ‘keep us…from all things that may hurt us’.  The body and soul are distinguished in principle, but the petition asks that both may be devoted to God’s service:  ‘that we, being ready both in body and soul, may cheerfully accomplish those things which thou commandest’. 

Often in the collects we pray for grace that we may do what is good or what God commands.  While this petition includes such a prayer, its emphasis seems to be mostly on the manner of that doing:  readily and cheerfully.  God’s will is done by all, whether by the loving cooperation of his obedient creatures or in accordance with his providential and powerful will by reluctant or disobedient creatures.  Here we pray that we may be universally ‘ready’, ‘both in body and soul’, so that we may ‘cheerfully accomplish’ our obedience to God’s commands.  When our will is aligned with God commandments, then all is well, God’s goodness is bountiful and our obedience is cheerful, and we will be free from ‘all thing that may hurt us’.  God’s wrath has been defined as the love of God as experienced by those who reject that love.  If we are not ready or willing to do what God commands, then our movement through the world ‘may hurt us’.  But if our will is cheerfully to obey and accomplish God’s will, then we will be free from ultimate hurt and may enjoy God’s bounty. 

All of that said, Christianity is not a philosophy of Coué or Pollyanna.  In a sinful world doing that which God commands ‘in body and soul’ may hurt.  God’s great and bountiful goodness may often indeed spare us such adversity and suffering, but we are told that the servant is not above his Master.  We may pray to be spared from pain and hurt:  indeed we pray for that in this very collect.  But we know that it is ultimate hurt and loss alone that we are to be certainly spared.  It is that ultimate, final assurance that allows us cheerfulness even in the midst of this world and even if hurts fall upon us. 

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