COLLECT (Five Minute Friday)

Lighten our darkness, we beseech thee, O Lord; and by thy great mercy defend us from all perils and dangers of this night. (Book of Common Prayer, Evensong, Second Collect, for Aid Against Perils)

Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people; that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works, may of thee be plenteously rewarded; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen (Book of Common Prayer, Collect for the 25th Sunday after Trinity/the Sunday before Advent)

Kate Moataung is very clever in her choice of prompt words for Five Minute Friday  (or Six Minute Saturday as it’s become for me this week). I wonder what word you heard when you read ‘collect’ this week?

I didn’t expect my thoughts to turn not to chauffeuring children or the accumulation of objects but to the Book of Common Prayer, to late evenings and the approach of Advent. But that’s where my head went.

I found myself remembering these prayers. At some point in the Anglican part of my spiritual journey, I must have learned these – perhaps at school or university, perhaps in the church we belonged to around wedding and babies.

Now I pray the first when my grown up boys go out partying or when life feels full of the darkness of stress or uncontrollable burdens. The second has become an integral part of our annual tradition of making Christmas puddings as close as possible to Stir Up Sunday (named after the Collect itself).

I used to make them every year with my mum, always more than we needed so we could give some away to extended family or to sell at the church bazaar and save one for the following Easter. Most memorable was the evening when my husband and I took all the ingredients in to make them with Mum in her nursing home for what was to be her last Christmas. Staff asked to join in and the mixture had to be taken round every resident in the lounge to join in the stirring and wishing. How many memories were stirred up too.

Now I make them with my niece and we still use my great grandmother’s recipe, which I’ve passed on to her in her first personal recipe book. But always with carols in the background and this prayer somewhere in the process.

And that familiarity is the great strength of these collects. They both automatically fit a set situation – evening or Advent – but also when we can’t find the words for a challenging or unfamiliar situation. Memorising prayers like these or Bible verses can prove to be the scaffolding that holds up our faith when its walls and foundations are shaken by trying circumstances. Repeating and chewing over the familiar words reveals further depths.

Rhythm. Poetry. Meaning. All in just one sentence.

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