This post, in addition to being a part of Rookie Anglican, 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.
The Second Sunday in Lent
Almighty God, you know that we have no power in ourselves to help ourselves: Keep us both outwardly in our bodies and inwardly in our souls, that we may be defended from all adversities that may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts that may assault and hurt the soul; through Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Admitting Our Powerlessness
One of the great false teachings of the modern age is the supreme power of will supposedly possessed by humans. This is especially true in the modern West, where such value is placed on individual freedoms – whether economic, social, or sexual – that the notion of the sovereignty of God is typically placed as secondary to the sovereignty of the human will (even in nominally Christian communities).
The opening to this Collect recalls the truth of our situation to the mind of the believer – “we have no power in ourselves to help ourselves.” Despite the perceived advances in medicine, technology, safety procedures, or other things that we can do or use to attempt to extend our lives or protect against calamity, in the end, we have no true power to stave off injury, illness, and eventual death.
Left to our own devices, we may make strides in temporarily staving off mortal conditions, but we have no power or ability to give or restore life. Left to our own devices, we bring only ruin and desolation to our own souls, as we exalt the god of our will over the God of the universe.
To begin to approach the divinity of God and truly ask for His help and protection, we must first freely admit that we have no power to provide that help and protection for ourselves.
Asking for Protection
From this admission, the Collect moves to two linked petitions which address the need for protection from outward harm and inward assaults.
“Keep us both outwardly in our bodies and inwardly in our souls” confronts head on the facts of our creation, that we are both spirit and flesh. Asking God to “keep” us in our bodies and souls affirms that He made both good, and that we rely on him to preserve us in that state, acknowledging that without him our flesh decays and our souls wander into damnation.
The close of the petition clarifies to us what we are asking for: we ask for deliverance from physical injury and illness (“adversities which may happen to the body”) and defense against the unseen powers which seek to assail our faith and lead us away from obedience to God’s will for our lives (“evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul”).
The closing address names the Lord of our lives as the defender of our bodies and souls. Since it is the Word of God by which all that exists was created, it is also by this Word that all continues to exist, and those who call upon that Word receive continual sustenance by the Holy Spirit, submitting their lives to the sovereignty of the Father and the oneness of the eternal God.
Lincoln Anderson is the Lay Catechist at The Good Shepherd Anglican Church, which serves the Opelika-Auburn, AL, area. He is also an Aspirant to Holy Orders in the Gulf Atlantic Diocese, and blogs at WordsAndMeditation.net, which focuses on reflections of the Sunday Lectionary used by the ACNA.