First Sunday after Epiphany

Author: The Revd Dr Peter Toon


LORD, we beseech thee mercifully to receive the prayers of thy people which call upon thee; and grant that they may both perceive and know what things they ought to do, and also may have grace and power faithfully to fulfil the same; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Collect Commentary

Having prayed since the Feast of the Epiphany to be given the grace to contemplate the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ in heaven, five days later the Church makes two further and inter-connected petitions of her heavenly Father, the Lord our God, in the name of her Saviour and Mediator, Jesus Christ our Lord.

The first is that God will receive in mercy and compassion the desires, vows and prayers of his people who supplicate, with bended knee, before him. However, the Church does not ask God to answer them as asked, but rather to receive them and then in the judgment of his perfect wisdom and mercy to respond to them for the true good of his people. For, if God gave to his people merely what they desired and asked for, he would not be a merciful God, since we often desire and ask for that which is not for our short-term or long-term good!

The force of the verb "grant" in prayer is that of "give and supply for no other is able to do so." Of God the Church asks that she will be inspired by the Holy Ghost to recognize and see what is her duty according to the divine will, and that, further, she will have the will and strength to perform that duty in its totality.

In relating to God, we need to know him, to perceive by his inspiration what is his will and then knowing the will, to perform and do the same. It is so easy for us to assume that our own best human wisdom and insights are in fact God's will for us and his Church. Such an assumption is best avoided and in its place there should be a humble recognition that we need to know from God what is his purpose and plan, and then we need his help to fulfil the same!

The Epistle calls for wholehearted commitment to the Lord and his service by each and every member of the congregation of Christ's flock and that they all be conformed to his perfect will. The Gospel provides us with an example of the developing consecration of Jesus to the Father's will and his growing sense of being uniquely the Father's Son. Thus he is the One to whom we go in order to know and come to the same Father.

Because of the Gospel lesson, this Sunday is sometimes called "A Feast of the Holy Family".

A final comment. If the original Latin prayer in the Gregorian Sacramentary had been translated literally by Archbishop Cranmer, it would have been something like this:

"O Lord, we beseech thee, regard with the compassion of a heavenly Father the fervent desires of thy people, who make their supplications unto thee, that they may both see what things ought to be done, and may have strength to fulfil what they see. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen."

It will be observed that each prayer seeks the same blessings from the one and the same Lord God.


Epistle Rom. 12. 1.

I BESEECH you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world; but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God. For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith. For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office; so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.


Gospel St. Luke 2. 41.

NOW his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem after the custom of the feast. And when they had fulfilled the days, as they returned, the child Jesus tarried behind in Jerusalem; and Joseph and his mother knew not of it. But they, supposing him to have been in the company, went a day's journey, and they sought him among their kinsfolk and acquaintance. And when they found him not, they turned back again to Jerusalem, seeking him. And it came to pass, that after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions. And all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers. And when they saw him, they were amazed: and his mother said unto him, Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? behold, thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing. And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business? And they understood not the saying which he spake unto them. And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject unto them: but his mother kept all these sayings in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom, and stature, and in favour with God and man.