Tuesday, November 01, 2016

Unspeakable Joys

The collect for All Saints Day prescribed by Evangelical Lutheran Worship is adapted, with mercifully few changes, from Cranmer's original in the 1549 Book of Common Prayer.

The original reads:

Almightie God, whiche haste knitte together thy electe in one Communion and felowship, in the misticall body of thy sonne Christe our Lord; graunt us grace so to folow thy holy Saynctes in all virtues, and godly livyng, that we maye come to those inspeakeable joyes, whiche thou hast prepared for all them that unfaynedly love thee; through Jesus Christe. 
ELW's version is:
Almighty God, you have knit your people together in one communion in the mystical body of your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Grant us grace to follow your blessed saints in lives of faith and commitment, and to know the inexpressible joys you have prepared for those who love you, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
Such changes as may be found here are probably for the best.  "Thy elect," to many modern ears, dredges up images of a specifically Calvinist doctrine of election -- it ought not, but it does.  We really would prefer "virtues and godly living" to "lives of faith and commitment," but recognize that some of our colleagues might find it off-puttingly moralistic.

And of course, "inexpressible" is a good modern word for the joys of Heaven.  "Unspeakable joys," while titillating in the extreme, are probably off-limits to the faithful.

If you are curious, the Roman Rite prescribes this collect, in two forms:

(prior to 2011) Almighty and eternal God, through Your grace we honor the merits of all Your saints in the one solemn feast of today. Grant us the abundant mercy we ask of You through this army of heavenly intercessors. Through Our Lord Jesus Christ . . . 
(since 2011) Almighty ever-living God, by whose gift we venerate in one celebration the merits of all the Saints, bestow on us, we pray, through the prayers of so many intercessors, an abundance of the reconciliation with you for which we earnestly long. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. 
To be honest, we think it's kind of weak. The translations are awkward -- "the one solemn feast of today"? "an abundance of the reconciliation"? Really? -- but more than that, the appeal for mercy strikes us routine, and a smidge less spiritually uplifting than Cranmer's desire for the unspeakable joys of the Beatific Vision.

The 1985 Roman Sacramentary offered a different prayer, also in two versions, which was perhaps a little better.  We especially like the "alternative" version:

God, our Father, source of all holiness, the work of your hands is manifest in your Saints, the beauty of your truth is reflected in their faith. May we who aspire to have part in their joy be filled with the Spirit that blessed their lives. May we also know their peace in your Kingdom. 
"The beauty of your truth" is a delightful phrase, and an idea which ought to be held up more frequently.  By somebody besides Keats, that is.

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