The “Collect,” the official opening prayer of a Catholic Mass, is
a wonderful experience for the Church to start its worship time and sit with God in His Word and to sup with God in His Eucharistic and Living Christ.
It is one of three official times in the Mass when we are called to prayer by the priest, as he acknowledges the whole body of believers in his prayerful words, and invites the communal response from everyone. The Collect follows the opening Sign of the Cross, greeting, and penitential rite (Lord, Have Mercy) and the Gloria praise prayer (when done on Sundays). The priest, standing at the presider’s chair, invites all to approvingly, prayerfully, and vocally agree with the led prayer, with an “Amen.”
It all really is a shared agreement for participation with the Lord in the Sacred Liturgy.
We have been invited to meet the Lord in the Mass; we speak in faith and favor to the Lord’s kindness of seeking deeper communion with us.
The Collect is a prayer of priest and people joined in unison.
It is about the whole Church praying as one, and as being led by Jesus as its Priest. There is a focus to the prayer leader (priest) who is gathering people is the sign-value (Sacrament) of Christ being present with us as the Living Head of the Worship. Jesus is the Priest at Mass.
You really can’t understand the reason for a Collect if you don’t know Christ as truly Present in a liturgy.
Nor might you not “get it” as to why a priest speaks for the assembly, her words, and then calls for an affirmation and agreement in it, with her “Amen.” Not if you didn’t understand Christ as truly Present in a liturgy.
Jesus is the One really speaking that Opening Prayer (Collect); all of us are those to whom He is addressing, and inviting a favorable response to it (Amen!). That is, if you’d believe that He comes into the parish church and leads the Mass, using the Catholic priest to give us a representative sign of Him being there.
Jesus also is the One Who has chosen that representative for His Presence, a human vessel for His service–in that Catholic priest.
Jesus is The priest ordainer. He uses them for Sacrament revelation to be living and present among His Church. He also so uses the Bread and Wine as Sacrament revelation to be living and present among us. He will also use the Sacred Scriptures to reach us in His Living Presence.
So, we want to get underway in the Sacred Liturgy. We have a “Collect.”
(Interestingly, just to note it here: Jesus is Priest, Victim and Sacrifice–All in One in the Mass. As Priest, He appeals to His Father for us. In the Mass, we pray with Jesus to the Father. Notice all the times we pray to the Father in our words at Mass. As Priest He will stand with us and by us. Jesus will mediate His life as Peace Offering from humankind to the Divine, in His Victimhood. Jesus is Sacrifice as the Lamb of God for His people.)
Priest. Victim. Sacrifice. Truly Present to us at Mass.
Christ is with His Church in a Mass. He is acknowledged as The Sacrament Encounter of a Living Saviour Jesus. The Catholic priest (or bishop) speaks the prayer for our awaited response, yet we pray as if Jesus Really is leading the worship, using his chosen priest-servant as His embodied witness of His actually being there.
It is another reason why I, the priest, then so love the Collect prayer. It is Jesus starting the Mass, using my lips and words (from a Church-approved text of His One, Holy, Catholic, Church), as to gather a people to Himself, as Shepherd to His sheep. When the congregation says “Amen” to the prayer, they are answering Jesus’ Collecting Call.
He loves to hear His people say “Amen” to Him.
I ponder the prayers in the letter of St. Paul to the church at Corinth of which he had spent the most time with… and he is hoping for God’s faithful to pray a “yes” in their dialogue with God through his apostolic ministry. The 2nd Letter to the Corinthians begins with one of the loftiest prayers of blessing contained in the New Testament. It reads: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God”
One ought to want to reply a hearty “Amen!” to it. “Yes–Blessed Be this Wondrous God of ours!” Paul, I echo your words. Amen.
Here is a Collect for Holy Trinity Sunday.
“God our Father, who, by sending into the world the Word of truth and the Spirit of sanctification, made known to the human race your wondrous mystery; grant us, we pray, that in professing the true faith, we may acknowledge the Trinity of eternal glory and adore your unity, powerful in majesty. Through our Lord, Jesus Christ.”
We want to reply a hearty “Amen!” to it.
Let’s examine what the prayer said for us.
God the Father is addressed. We prayerfully acknowledge Him as the Initiator in sending both the Son and Holy Spirit to us to experience. We note the benevolence of God’s love in doing this for us. He gives us two-fold in blessing. He gives into the world the Word of Truth. He gives right behind that Gift the Spirit of sanctification. He makes these members of His Godhead known and revealed to us. He works in Mystery to a human understanding and reception, so that we could believe and even profess Who and What is True. It reminds us that as disciples we are to subordinate our will to God just as Christ did. We are to respond to all that is true, or better said, to all Who is True. God is All True. Real. Manifest to us to enter, in mystery, a life unto eternal glory, with access to adore the Majestic One. All made available in Jesus the Lord.
Do we desire this offer??!! We do. We could shout our Yes, our Amen—it is so good!!
Yes, we believe our Christian Faith to be “the true faith.” Its Lord and Founder IS THE TRUTH!
We profess our trust in Him and His Way.
In this next part of surveying The Collect Prayer, I quote a Lutheran pastor’s appreciation of this approach to God in liturgy.
He says: “The Collect is somewhat poetic and reverent in nature. It is not written/spoken in a free, extemporaneous style. Yet, we should never fall into the mistaken notion that written prayers are not spiritual. On the contrary, a written prayer is a well-thought- out reflection of the God of order.”
” It has been said of the Collect, Their humility of spirit is balanced by certainty of faith, and their brevity of form by breadth of thought. (L. Reed, The Lutheran Liturgy). So, both written and extemporaneous prayers have a place among God’s people as long as the prayer is truly spiritual in the thought it conveys and in the heart of faith that prays it.
The Lutheran pastor further explains the ‘workings’ of a Collect:
“The Collect will often follow this five part pattern.
1. God is addressed. Typically it is to the Father, but prayers addressed to the Son and Holy Spirit are also used when it is appropriate (e.g. “Almighty God, merciful Father”)
2. The basis of the prayer is given (e.g. “since you have awakened from death the Shepherd of your sheep”)
3. The request is given (e.g. “grant us your Spirit that we may know the voice of our Shepherd”)
4. The purpose or benefit of the prayer is stated (e.g. “that sin and death may never pluck us out of your hand”)
5. The ending comes, which is a doxology and serves to clarify once again that we are praying to the one and only Triune God and via the Savior/Mediator/Lord of the Body (e.g. “through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.”)
Thanks for the survey, pastor.
Now, when you come to pray next Sunday, pay a little more attention to the Collect prayer.
And, use the printed copy of it in your bulletin, to reflect more deeply, later, on what we were praying to God.