GRANT, O Lord, that this holy Sacrament, which we have received : may in such wise deliver us from our former nature; that we may be worthy to enter into the fellowship of thy saving mysteries. Through.
This simple and beautiful postcommunion is read near the beginning of Lent. It speaks of the communicants as poised between their ‘former nature’ and their goal in the ‘fellowship’ of God’s ‘saving mysteries’. The collect implies that the movement from the one to the other is a process and that the worthy reception of holy communion is intrinsically related to that movement. Deliverance from our former, fallen nature is not a single moment, but is life lived within the ‘fellowship’ mentioned in this prayer. That fellowship, the Church, is itself in turn constituted by participation in the sacraments, the ‘saving mysteries’, particularly baptism and holy communion.
Reception of the Sacrament of the Altar after baptism is a chief element in the process of deliverance and in our continuing life within the mysterious, saving fellowship. For this reason postcommunion prayers often ask that in addition to the outward reception of the Sacrament we may also receive its inner, spiritual benefit.
The reference to ‘the fellowship of [God’s] saving mysteries’ also suggests the temporal context for the prayer at the outset of Lent. Lent is, among other things, the season in which catechumens anciently and normatively complete their preparation for baptism at the Easter Vigil. More generally, Lent is the time of preparation to enter sacramentally into the Paschal mysteries through baptism, Holy Communion, and participation in the great Liturgies of Holy Week.
The phrase ‘from our former nature’ translates the Latin a vetustate. The Saint Joseph Sunday Missal translates vetustate quite literally as ‘the old life’. Both translations (‘former nature’; ‘old life’) again hint at the coming baptisms and, more generally, at the ongoing fruits of baptism in all those who hear the collect: to drown the old man, the old Adam, the old life, our former nature.
Finally, a prayer for deliverance ‘from our former nature’ fits well with the general, penitential character of Lent. More specifically, the prayer fits with dominant themes in the first half of Lent, since the gospel lessons for the first three Sundays in Lent are all concerned with the demonic. Since the first half of Lent concentrates on the purgative, negative side of conversion, the postcommunion prayer for Lent I is particularly appropriate for the season.