Saturday, 16 November 2013

Two Collects

One of the themes of Pope Benedict XVI's time as Pope was that of the correct relationship between faith and reason, between what we can know through revelation and what we can know through the natural exercise of human reason. Two of his most controversial addresses - that at Regensburg and the one that he was unable to deliver at La Sapienza University in Rome - touched on this in different contexts. The Regensburg address set the question in the light of the nature of religious freedom and the challenge to that freedom represented by coercion of religious belief, before going on to examine the relationship between Christian faith and reason in a treatment ranging from ancient times to the present day. The La Sapienza address started from the point of view of how a historically received set of beliefs still remains a form of the wisdom that should have a part in a contemporary search for ethical truth, and then explored this particularly in the relative relationship between reason and belief in the search for what is ethically true, in the context of the mediaeval university and the contemporary university. Pope Benedict's address in Westminster Hall placed the question in the context of the relationship between religious belief and political activity.

In the light of this, I found the Collect for yesterday's feast of St Albert the Great quite pertinent. I offer two translations, one from the "Liturgy of the Hours" and the second from the revised English translation of the Missal. Their relevance to the pontificate of Benedict XVI illustrates, in my view, how the texts of the Liturgy at once can specifically reflect the charism of a particular saint, but at the same time retain a universal applicability:
Lord God,
you made Saint Albert great by his gift
for reconciling human wisdom with divine faith.
Help us so to follow his teaching
that every advance in science
may lead us to a deeper knowledge and love of you.

O God, who made the Bishop Saint Albert great
by his joining of human wisdom to divine faith
grant, we pray, that we may so adhere to the truths he taught,
that through progress in learning
we may come to a deeper knowledge and love of you.
In my own diocese, Saint Edmund of Abingdon's feast day is today celebrated as an obligatory memorial. He is one of the patrons of the diocese. Again, the Collect for the feast day expresses both something of St Edmund's charism whilst retaining an uncanny relevance to modern times:
O God, by whose grace the Bishop Saint Edmund of Abingdon
was vigilant over integrity in public office
and discipline in religious life,
grant, we pray, through his intercession,
that same spirit of constancy to your Church,
that she may be fearless in promoting justice.

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