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Cathedral Church of Saint Catharine of Siena, Allentown, PA

Stir up our hearts, O Lord, to prepare the ways of thine Only Begotten Son: that through his advent we may be worthy to serve thee with purified minds; through the same Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

As in the days before this holy season began, so today the Church calls upon her Lord to stir up our hearts in preparation for the advent of Christ; his twofold coming in the nativity and in judgement at the end of time. This sacred time calls us to a certain penance and purification that we may be worthy to serve our Almighty Father; the King of kings and the Lord of lords. The Collect, directed as always to God but setting the “agenda” of our ecclesial and common prayer, reflects this sentiment, and denotes a specific purpose: to serve thee with purified minds.

First, then, we are to ask the Lord God to revive something already present within us. We do not ask him to “imbue our hearts” but, rather, to stir them up; to excite them in such a way that the grace of our baptism—grace that has perhaps become dormant, oppressed by sin—is summoned once more to life within us. This is truly necessary if we are to prepare the ways of Christ. We are one with him, grafted to his mystical body in the waters of the sacred font, and thereby his hands and his feet (as Saint Teresa would have it) in his mission in the world. Our inaction, even in the hidden life of faith, is itself of detriment to the whole Church. As Saint Paul writes, “the body does not consist of one member but of many” (1 Cor. 12: 14). To prepare the way of the Lord, then, requires each of us to become so united and conformed to his firm but gentle rule, that he cannot but be present in the world through us. As Cardinal Newman prayed: “Shine through me, and be so in me that every soul I come in contact with may feel your presence in my soul. Let them look up and see no longer me, but only Jesus!”

In a sense, this is the ultimate act of our service. It is the full and complete offering of oneself to God the Father, in God the Son, and with God the Holy Spirit. It is a noble act of worship. And so, in a more immediate way, this purification of our minds and this stirring to life of the grace in our hearts, is in order that our worship—particularly our participation in the offering of the Eucharistic sacrifice—might be more perfect, more worthy of the object of our praise, that we might more readily prepare a place fit for the Eucharistic Christ to come and dwell within us now, and so be ready for his advent at the end of time. We might pray that our hearts be so stirred that the grace within us awakens our hearts to the need of this purification in our life, that all the more closely configured to the person of Christ Jesus, he may be found in us, and we in him. By this union with him we become truly one in his prayer to the Father, united in the Holy Spirit, and thereby one with the perfect worship of the perfect Godhead: three in one and one in three.

This Collect is one of two options provided for this day in Divine Worship: The Missal. The first, presented here, has been in use on this day in the Roman Rite since the eighth century, and is assigned to the Thursday in the second week of Advent in the 2002 Missale Romanum. The second Collect was a new composition of Archbishop Thomas Cranmer for the Book of Common Prayer of 1549. (See Pristas, The Collects of the Roman Missal, 47; Hole, Manual of the Book of Common Prayer, 140). This post is part of a series on the Collects of Divine Worship, which may be viewed by clicking this link.

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