The BCP

Advent Sunday

Author: The Revd Dr Peter Toon

Collect

Almighty God, give us grace that we may cast away the works of darkness, and put upon us the armour of light, now in the time of this mortal life, in which thy Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious Majesty, to judge both the quick and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, now and ever. Amen.

Collect Commentary

This beautiful and moving prayer was written specifically for The Book of the Common Prayer (1549) by Archbishop Thomas Cranmer. Its structure, style and contents reveal just how perfectly he had mastered in English the grammatical structure of the traditional Latin Collects. It is a most appropriate prayer with which to begin the Christian Year for it is addressed to the Father, ìAlmighty God,î is centered upon the Lord Jesus Christ, ìthy Son,î and looks for the direct help in daily living of the Spirit of the Father and the Son (ìthe Holy Ghostî). And it takes specific guidance and inspiration from the Epistle.

Here in remembrance before Almighty God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, we remember both (i) the Advent/Coming of the Only-Begotten Son when he humbled himself, took to himself our human nature and was born from the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Bethlehem, and (ii) the future Advent/Coming of the same Son as the Lord of lords and King of kings to earth at the end the age in great glory, to raise the dead and to judge the peoples, and to inaugurate the kingdom of God.

As baptized believers, living in a world darkened by evil and sin, but given Light by Jesus Christ who is the Light of the world, we ask for the personal help of the Father, through the Holy Ghost, in order to live not as children of darkness but rather as children of light. Indeed, we pray to be protected by ìthe armour of lightî (see Romans 13:12). When Christ Jesus returns to earth in his Second Coming he will dispel all shadows and darkness, clear up all doubts, chase away all sorrows and cause the new dawn of the new day of the new age to appear. Then we shall cast off our sleeping apparel and put on the shining dress of the kingdom of God, as we are raised to the life immortal.

Prayed each day at Morning and Evening Prayer and whenever the Lordís Supper is celebrated during the four weeks of Advent, this Collect is a real means of grace whereby we prepare rightly during the four weeks of Advent to celebrate the Incarnation at Christmas and the Epiphany a little later.

In some forms of churchmanship Advent is regarded as a time of penitence, a kind of short Lent. Such may be based upon the words ìcast away the works of darknessî, which requires not only effort (assisted by divine grace) but self- examination to become aware of sin and darkness in the heart, mind and soul. Further, the theme of the Second Advent calls forth from the people of God, fasting and prayer as they watch and pray.

Let us make full use of it and pray its words with appropriate piety and reverence.

The Gospel for the week sets forth another Coming, the coming of the Lord Jesus to Jerusalem at the beginning of Holy Week. He enters the city as the Messiah, the Son of David, the Prophet of God, bringing salvation for Israel and the world, and he is welcomed as such by those who have previously heard his teaching and witnessed his exorcisms and miracles. Let us in Advent also prepare ourselves heartily to welcome the same Jesus as the Messiah of Israel, the Saviour of the world and the Judge of the peoples.

 

Epistle The Epistle: Romans 13.8-14

OWE no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law. For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. Love worketh no ill to his neighbour; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light. Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying. But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof.

 

Gospel The Gospel: St. Matthew 21.1-1

WHEN they drew nigh unto Jerusalem, and were come to Bethphage, unto the mount of Olives, then sent Jesus two disciples, Saying unto them, Go into the village over against you, and straightway ye shall find an ass tied, and a colt with her: loose them, and bring them unto me. And if any man say ought unto you, ye shall say, The Lord hath need of them; and straightway he will send them. All this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying, Tell ye the daughter of Sion, Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, meek, and sitting upon an ass, and a colt the foal of an ass. And the disciples went, and did as Jesus commanded them: and brought the ass, and the colt, and put on them their clothes, and they set him thereon. And a very great multitude spread their garments in the way; others cut down branches from the trees, and strawed them in the way. And the multitudes that went before, and that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna to the son of David; Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest. And when he was come into Jerusalem, all the city was moved, saying, Who is this? And the multitude said, This is Jesus the prophet of Nazareth of Galilee. And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves; and said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.