The Sunday called Quinquagesima, or the next Sunday before Lent.
O LORD, who hast 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 whosoever liveth is counted dead before thee. Grant this for thine only Son Jesus Christ’s sake. Amen.
Old Testament Reading: Deuteronomy 10.12-11.1
Psalter: Psalm 15, 16 | 111, 112
Epistle Reading: 1 Corinthians 13.1-13
Gospel Reading: St. Luke 18.31-43
Barbee and Zahl: “This Collect is an original composition of Thomas Cranmer, ( . . . ) based on the Epistle which would follow, St. Paul’s hymn to love in 1 Corinthians 13. The Collect returns us to the theme of either-or. Either we are alive or we are dead (St. Luke 15:24, 32). Either we are found or we are lost (15:6, 9). Either we see or we are blind (St. John 9:25). And here, in the context of this prayer, we are without charity “counted dead before thee.” Moreover “all our doings without charity” are worth absolutely nothing (“nothing worth”)! This immense either-or at the heart of Christianity is alarming in the extreme. It concedes nothing to slow improvement, ( . . . ) the idea that life is in essence a process, a journey, even a pilgrimage. Not one of the familiar metaphors of gradualism counts here. This implies a pessimistic, better a tragic estimation of the human condition. Which is to say, it asserts that on its own terms or in the initial situation of its sorry givenness, the problem of being human is a closed system. Our human nature being what it is, the world’s work is of zero moral worth. On the other hand, with the gift of divine love we are able to achieve the works of love which carry true value and worth. With the gift of charity come peace and all the other virtues. ( . . . ) You and I have seen this to be true. When an action towards us mirrors genuine caring, it hits its mark: it reaches us. When a word pronounced in our direction is intended for our good, we listen. The Collect is extreme, and it is also right” (30-1).