The BCP

Quinquagesima

Author: The Revd Dr Peter Toon

Collect

O LORD, who hast taught us that all our doings without charity are nothing worth: Send thy Holy Ghost, and pour into our hearts that most excellent gift of charity, the very bond of peace and of all virtues, without which whosoever liveth is counted dead before thee: Grant this for thine only Son Jesus Christ's sake. Amen

Collect Commentary

This Collect is closely related to the Epistle, St Paul's hymn of charity or love, which is 1 Corinthians 13. The opening words recall the third verse. "Though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor and though I give my body to be burned and have not charity it profiteth me nothing." And these words also point back to the opening of the Collect for Sexagesima, "O Lord God who seest that that we put not our trust in anything that we do..." When we trust in what we actually do, that is in our good intentions and deeds, they break down under us as we lean upon them for "without charity they are worth nothing" - and perfect charity is never found in our souls.

As we approach Lent, when we are called to engage in both personal asceticism and good works in order to please our Lord in preparation for the celebration of his Atonement and Resurrection, we need this solemn reminder - that unless what we do for others is inspired by the faith that works by charity and love it will not be acceptable in the kingdom of heaven or pleasing to our God.

Thus it is most clear that we need the presence of the Holy Ghost in our souls and lives so that he who is God can bring to us the actual love of God, the gift of charity. Then we can both love God and love man as the two great commandments calls for us to do.

The gift of divine love and charity becomes for us the bond that brings peace to the soul and peace between the brethren. From it also spring the virtues or the doings of charity - the almsgiving, the endurances, the labours and the serving and evangelising. These which are "our doing" need to proceed from, be united in, and be surrounded by divine love so that they truly are means for the promotion of the kingdom of Christ and for the glory of God (see further Ephesians 4:3 & Colossians 3:14).

The last part of the Collect presents a very strong assertion, yet one taken from Holy Scripture. Without the love of God in our hearts we are as dead persons before God. "He that loveth not his brother abideth in death" (1 John 3:14). "Though I have all faith and have not charity, I am nothing" (1 Corinthians 13:2).

What an excellent prayer to use in the week that includes Ash Wednesday & the beginning of the 40 days of Lent.

 

Epistle 1 Corinthians 13

THOUGH I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing. Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see through a glass darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three: but the greatest of these is charity.

 

Gospel St Luke 18.31-43

THEN Jesus took unto him the twelve, and said unto them, Behold, we go up to Jerusalem, and all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of man shall be accomplished. For he shall be delivered unto the Gentiles, and shall be mocked, and spitefully entreated, and spitted on: and they shall scourge him, and put him to death; and the third day he shall rise again. And they understood none of these things: and this saying was hid from them, neither knew they the things which were spoken. And it came to pass, that as he was come nigh unto Jericho, a certain blind man sat by the way-side begging: and hearing the multitude pass by, he asked what it meant. And they told him, that Jesus of Nazareth passeth by. And he cried, saying, Jesus, thou son of David, have mercy on me. And they which went before rebuked him, that he should hold his peace: but he cried so much the more, Thou son of David, have mercy on me. And Jesus stood, and commanded him to be brought unto him: and when he was come near, he asked him, saying, What wilt thou that I shall do unto thee? And he said, Lord, that I may receive my sight. And Jesus said unto him, Receive thy sight; thy faith hath saved thee. And immediately he received his sight, and followed him, glorifying God: and all the people, when they saw it, gave praise unto God.