Thursday, November 14, 2002
From where do the Collects of the BCP come?
While the Collects of The Book of Common Prayer (PECUSA,1928) generally conform to a common structure, they come from a variety of sources. Most of them are derived from the English editions of the BCP (1549 & 1662). So let us look at from where the Collects of the 1662 Prayer Book derive.
We find that (a) the largest group is made up of translations (chiefly by Archbishop Thomas Cranmer) from the Latin Collects of the Missal in the "Use of Sarum", and behind this medieval English source, to original Latin collections from late patristic times; (b) the middle-size group are English prose creations of Thomas Cranmer himself (or of a colleague) written for the first BCP of 1549; and the smallest group is by Bishop John Cosin in the 17th century.
The "Use of Sarum" was created by Bishop Osmund of Salisbury (Sarum) in 1085 and quickly became the principal text for the Liturgy/ Mass in the Ecclesia Anglicana, the Latin-speaking Church of England. And it remained in use until the sixteenth century, being still the norm during most of the reign of Henry VIII. It was similar to, yet different in details from, the Roman Use/Liturgy. In assembling this Use, Bishop Osmund collected and edited existing liturgical texts and sources from the Early Church. The Collects, Epistles & Gospels were taken chiefly from three ancient Sacramentaries (hand written books containing the Collects and the major part of the Mass) related to the names of Pope Leo I (d.461), Pope Gelasius (d.496), and Pope Gregory the Great (d.604). About fifty- three from these sources, as found in the "Use of Sarum" were used in The Book of the Common Prayer (1529).
Five of the Collects used by Cranmer for Holy Communion come from the Leonine Sacramentary. They are those for the Third Sunday after Easter, and for the Fifth, Ninth, Thirteenth and Fourteenth Sundays after Trinity.
Twenty and a half of the Collects used by Cranmer for Holy Communion come from the Gelasian Sacramentary. They are those for the 4th in Advent, Innocents Day, Palm Sunday, Good Friday II, Easter Day (1/2), 4th & 5th after Easter & I, II, VI, VII, VIII, X, XI, XII, XV, XVI, XVIII, XIX, XX, & XXI after Trinity; then, also, in addition to the Eucharistic prayers, the Morning and Evening Collects for Peace, the Evening Collect for Aid against all Perils, the Prayer for Clergy and People, the Confirmation Prayer for the seven-fold Spirit and others are from there as well.
And twenty-seven and a half of the Collects used by Cranmer for Holy Communion come from the Gregorian Sacramentary. They are those for St Stephen's & St John Evangelist, the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th & 5th after Epiphany, Septuagesima, Sexagesima, the 2nd, 3rd, 4th & 5th Sundays in Lent, Good Friday I, Easter Day (1/2), Ascension, Whitsun, III, IV, XVII, XXII, XXIII, XXIV & XXV after Trinity, the Purification, the Annunciation & Michaelmas; then also others in the Litany and Baptismal Service, and such others as "Prevent us,O Lord.".
Now we move on to note the creations of the sixteenth century, particularly the hand of Cranmer. Six of the Sunday Collects - Advent I & II, Lent I, Quinquagesima, Easter I & II, and fourteen others - Christmas Day, All Saints' and twelve Saints' Days. All these are written in the same prose, style and structure as the translations from the Latin of the others.
In 1661 in preparation for the BCP (1662) Bishop John Cosin of Durham wrote three new Collects (Advent III, Epiphany VI and Easter Even) and made major adjustments to that for St Stephen's Day.
Then, not in the BCP (1662) but in the American BCP (1928) there are Collects for "A Saint's Day" from William Bright, "Dedication of a Church" from John Dowden, "Ember Days" from William Heathcote DeLancey, "Rogation Days" from John Cosin, "Independence Day" from Edward Lambe Parsons, "Burial of the Dead" from John Wordsworth, and a few others whose authorship is not known.
The Collects of the reformed Catholic or Anglican way, it has been said, like the truths of the Gospel, are both old and new. Some of them were made new in the sixteenth century; but, the very Collects that were old then became new because of the freshness of the translation into English. So in the first Prayer Book of 1549 there are 48 old collects translated, 9 altered and 25 made new. And the structure and style of the new ones are based upon those of the old ones. They are excellent prayers to learn by heart!
The Rev'd Dr. Peter Toon
Posted by John at 7:34 PM