This post is part of a series on the Collects of the Christian Year (ACNA), called “Collect Reflections.” If you’re just jumping in, make sure to check out the introductory post, “Announcing Collect Reflections.” All Collect Reflection posts can be found here.
Collect for the Second Sunday in Advent
Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that by patience and the comfort of your Holy Word we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Last week, the prayer for the week linked the remembrance of the first coming of Christ to the expectation of the second coming of Christ, while situating our own lives directly between them both. We prayed for God’s help in being Kingdom people in our time of waiting.
In this second week of Advent, we ask the Blessed Lord to illuminate our understanding of the Scriptures as we faithfully devote ourselves to living in accordance with them.
The first point to notice is the confession that God “caused all holy Scriptures to be written.” Here we acknowledge that, even though the Bible was penned by humans, it is ultimately of divine origin. Additionally, the Scriptures were given by God “for our learning,” that we would understand them — and, through them, God himself — at a deep level.
But the reality is that most of us — if not all of us — would say we do not know the Scriptures as well as we should. That being the case, this collect draws upon the words of Thomas Cranmer in the preface to the 1549 Book of Common Prayer, where he expresses his desire for the people of England to “hear, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest” the Bible. In this collect, we ask God to grant us the ability to do just this.
But note precisely what we are requesting. It is an intensely personal and involved process of studying the Scriptures for the sake of learning what they say. Even so, the prayer moves quickly from head knowledge (information) to heart knowledge (wisdom). For when we “hear, read, and mark” the Scriptures, it is primarily to learn the content for our minds. But when we “inwardly digest” them, it is to let the message and meaning of the Scriptures sink into our bones.
Why, then, would this be something we ask God to help us do? The prayer itself gives us three reasons why we should ask God to help us learn the Scriptures:
- First, the Scriptures are from God, and as such, they bear the character of their author. The Scriptures are the revelation of the person of Christ, who is the final revelation of God. They are true, trustworthy, life-giving words that ground the people of God through the storms of life, because they lead us to the Anchor, Jesus himself.
- However, we have no chance of understanding the Scriptures without the illuminating work of the Holy Spirit. The same God who inspired the writing of Scripture is the one who now opens the minds and hearts of Christians to “inwardly digest” it for themselves. Apart from his help, the Scriptures will be to us just another book.
- Lastly, the collect tells us why we should learn and inwardly digest scripture: so “that by patience and the comfort of your Holy Word we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life.” Having revealed God to us, the Scriptures are able to encourage us in our hope of everlasting life by reminding us of the trustworthiness of the God who promised to come again and bring us to himself.
This Advent, let us seek the Lord and ask him to open our minds and hearts to the Scriptures, and to kindle a zeal in us to actively and diligently study them for ourselves. In doing so, may we come to know our God more intimately, and grow in confidence in our hope of glory when Christ will come again to make all things new.