QUINQUAGESIMA: The next Sunday before Lent (February 18, 2007)
O LORD, who has 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 whosever liveth is counted dead before thee: Grant this for thine only Son Jesus Christ’s sake. Amen.
Lord God, who have taught us that without genuine love everything we do is worthless in your sight: Send your Holy Spirit that he may pour into our hearts the excellent gift of genuine love, which is the bond of peace and of all virtues, for without such love we who are physically alive are counted as dead before you. Grant this, we pray, for the sake of your only Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.
The Epistle: 1 Corinthians 13. 1-13 The Gospel: Luke 18. 31-43
From St Paul, in the First Epistle to Corinth, we receive the great hymn of love/charity. God’s love to us, our love of him and of fellow creatures will survive death and will be magnified, extended and fulfilled in the life of the age to come. For God as God is Love. Faith and hope will cease with the resurrection of the body and the life of the age to come, but Love will continue for God is Love.
From Jesus, in the Gospel of Luke, we see love in action. First of all, it is love of his Father and love for his people that led him to go to Jerusalem, where he knew that certain pain, suffering and death awaited him as he fulfilled the vocation of the Suffering Servant of God. Secondly, it was compassion for the blind man at Jericho which led Jesus to heal him by the merciful power of God.
We may observe a close connection between the Sexagesima Collect and this one for Quinquagesima. Last week we acknowledged the very difficult to accept lesson that we should not trust in human doing and achievement at all for salvation, even if it be as spectacular as the work of a St Paul, and even if be undertaken for the Gospel’s sake. In fact we acknowledged before God that we had learned the lesson and that he is the One “who seest that we put not our trust in anything that we do.” Thus we are to trust God and him alone without qualification.
Here, immediately before Lent in the Collect to be used until Ash Wednesday, the lesson or teaching upon which the petition in the prayer is built is that what we seek to do as “good works” but is not motivated by and soaked in love for God and man is of no avail before God; such deeds are “without charity nothing worth.”
We recognize in praying this Collect that genuine love – the will to do true and genuine good to other people – is not something that we can produce within our own beings, for, after all, we are sinful creatures. Thus we beseech God our Father to send the Holy Ghost, who is the very Love that unites the Father and the Son in the Blessed Trinity, that he may place the divine gift of charity or real love in our souls and lives.
The presence of this heavenly Love is “the very bond of peace and all virtues”. This statement is based upon Ephesians 4:8, “endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace,” and Colossians 3:14, where after listing virtues, St Paul writes, “And above all these things put on charity, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.”
And we end this Prayer in recognizing that without genuine love or charity in our souls and lives we are not spiritually alive before God and not in communion with him. St John declared that, “he that loves not his brother abides in death” (1 John 3:14). And St Paul wrote: “If I have faith so as to remove all mountains, but have not love, I am nothing,” (1 Cor. 13:3).
Having gone humbly through the mini preparation for the major season of Lent, from Septuagesima to Quinquagesima, we are now ready by God’s prevenient grace to enter into the spiritual disciplines which begin on Ash Wednesday and move into Quadragesima. So we shall pray:
Almighty and everlasting God, who hatest nothing that thou hast made, and dost forgive the sins of all them that are penitent: Create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we worthily lamenting our sins, and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain of thee, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
One thing we lean afresh in the preparation for Lent and the keeping of it is that the genuine confession of sins from a contrite heart is in fact the praise of God, for it is a supreme acknowledgement of his justice, his mercy and forgiveness.
It seems that the old, traditional custom of the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday has totally gone and been replaced by a new one which are seen in its extreme in places like New Orleans and Rio de Janeiro. The old custom was of confessing one’s sin and getting absolved (that is getting shriven—the old Saxon scrifan, to receive a confession and administer the sacrament of penance) by which shrift it was sought to sanctify the forty days fast, soon to start. The new custom is of sport and merriment for this day because it is not allowed in traditional discipline during Lent from Ash Wednesday till Easter Day.
AND let us remember the Primates in Tanzania some of whom may use this prayer and all of them may hear it on Sunday 18th Feb.
firstname.lastname@example.org Feb 14, 2007