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The Third Sunday in Lent MMXII

We beseech thee, Almighty God, remember the vows of thy lowly ones, and stretch forth the right hand of thy majesty to be our defense; through the Lord..

Latin original Collect:

Quaesumus onimipotens Deus, vota humillum respice atque ad defensionim nostram dexteram tuae maiestatis extende, per Dominum.
--Gelesian Sacramentary

Introit: Mine eyes are ever toward the Lord: for he shall pluck my feet out of the net.…
Ps: Unto thee O Lord, do I lift up my soul…
Epistle:  Ephesians 5:1-9  Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children…
Gradual:  Arise O Lord; let not man prevail…
Gospel:  Luke 11:14-28  And he was casting out a devil, and it was dumb…

See it all here

another translation

We beseech thee, almighty God, look upon the hearty desires of thy humble servants, and stretch forth the right hand of thy majesty to be our defense against all our enemies; through Jesus Christ our Lord
[Cranmer, 1549]

The English translation first appeared in the Anglican Prayer Book.  We are informed by Strodash that it does not convey all the meaning one might have inferred from hearing the Latin, and adds more to it.

-- Look upon
 There are other meanings that may have been understood: "Look back upon" or "remember".  Look back at what-- our hearty desires? What were our hearty desires from the past?  They were our vows (vota) we made when we professed our faith.  These were made in all humility.  They were humble desires from the many lowly ones (humillium).  These vows were generally made on Easter for the candidates for baptism. The lessons and training that lead up to the day for vows were taught in the period we now call Lent. We hear in the Psalm, "Vow, and pay unto the LORD your God: let all that be round about him bring presents unto him that ought to be feared" [Psalm 76:11]

dexteram tuae maiestatis extende,
-- Extend the right hand of thy majesty
Regard favorably the heartfelt, ardent, hungering petitions of thy lowly ones.  Imagine if you can a humble supplicant approaching the throne of the most powerful and divine regent. He makes his humble petition, and the regent extends his right hand as a sign that he may approach and is received.  This is more than simply granting the petition, it is an assurance that it will be fulfilled, of favor.  We hear in the story of Ester, "And when the king saw Queen Esther standing in the court, she won favor in his sight, and he held out to Esther the golden scepter that was in his hand. Then Esther approached and touched the tip of the scepter" [Ester 5:2]

ad defensionim nostram
--Defend us
This is the Latin petition, and it ends there.  The translators added, "with all enemies" , and in a way, limited it.  The plea for defense extends beyond the concept of "all enemies" and includes: granting of strength, protection from every calamity, shelter, and peace.  The petition calls upon the Almighty to defend us in every way and always. The idea of defense is beautifully expressed in this psalm, "The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower." [Psalm 18:2]

In considering today's collect, one cannot separate it from the challenging words of the Epistle with which it is traditionally linked. Paul clearly reminds the Ephesians of their vows upon baptism, to run the way of the Commandments-to follow Christ and walk in love, and then he enumerates those actions which betray that vow [Ephesians 5:1-9]: 

"But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints; Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks. For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience. Be not ye therefore partakers with them." 

The catechumens understood the will of our Lord, and held such teachings as the Ten Commandments as central to their vow to turn from Evil, and embrace Christ.  The ancient ceremony had the baptismal candidate face westward, and the presbyter would ask, "Do you renounce all Evil?" The candidate vowed that he renounced the Evil one, and then turned toward the east and the vector of the coming of the Son on the day of the Resurrection, as in repenting and turning from sin, and completed his confession of faith in the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost.  The catechumens understood sin to be described in great measure by the Ten Commandments which our Lord acknowledged as standards for righteousness. Jesus said, "Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother." [Luke 18:20]

These are the vows incumbent upon all Christians, and along with them the Summary of the Law, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets." [Matthew 22:37-38]

See an homily by Chrysostom on the Epistle


(Portions were paraphrased and passages cited from The Collect of the Day, by Paul Zeller Strodach, 1939, The United Lutheran Press, Philadelphia)
The Ancient Collect: Its history and form
Released by Primus Pilus
Legio Christi-Ecclesia Militans
"Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another" [St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans 14:19]


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