Friday, 12 January 2018

The Collect: Christ who prays and is also the prayer

Pope Francis is currently offering a series of General Audience catecheses on the Eucharistic Liturgy. I quite often wonder whether, in the ordinary practice of parish life, it might be more pastorally useful for priests to preach on Liturgical texts other than the Scriptural readings. Very often the ecclesial sense of a feast day is more readily perceived in the Collect or Preface than it is in the Scripture readings. English clergy at least seem to have imbibed from somewhere the idea that the homily is only to be based on the Scripture readings of the day. But the General Instruction of the Roman Missal n.65 actually reads (with my italics added):
The Homily is part of the Liturgy and is highly recommended, for it is necessary for the nurturing of the Christian life. It should be an explanation of some aspect of the readings from Sacred Scripture or of another text from the Ordinary or the Proper of the Mass of the day and should take into account the mystery being celebrated and the particular needs of listeners.
Pope Francis General Audience addresses appear to offer a resource for this wider approach in preaching.

The most recent General Audience included a rather elegant observation on the Collect. As well as the easily recognised idea that, in this prayer, the celebrating priest draws into one the prayer of all those present, Pope Francis also commented on the posture adopted by the priest during the praying of the Collect (English translation is my own, as full English translation is not yet available on the website of the Holy See):
Il sacerdote recita questa supplica, questa orazione di colletta, con le braccia allargate è l’atteggiamento dell’orante, assunto dai cristiani fin dai primi secoli – come testimoniano gli affreschi delle catacombe romane – per imitare il Cristo con le braccia aperte sul legno della croce. E lì, Cristo è l’Orante ed è insieme la preghiera! Nel Crocifisso riconosciamo il Sacerdote che offre a Dio il culto a lui gradito, ossia l’obbedienza filiale.
[The priest recites this supplication, this prayer of collection, with extended arms and the attitude of the "Orantes", assumed by Christians from the first centuries - as the frescoes of the Roman catacombs bear witness - to imitate Christ with his arms open on the wood of the cross. And there, Christ is the "Orantes" and is at the same time the prayer! In the Crucified we recognise the Priest who offers to God the cult that is owed to him, to be exact filial obedience.]
The thought that, in the Collect, the priest represents both Christ as one who prays and at the same time the prayer offered is, I think, quite striking.

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