Thursday, March 7, 2024

You can run, but you can’t hide

ALMIGHTY God, unto whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hid; Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of thy Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love Thee, and worthily magnify Thy holy Name; through Christ our Lord. Amen.
In its present form, it goes back to the brilliant English scholar Alcuin, who worked with Charlemagne in the late eighth century to create a Christian civilization in Western Europe. Let’s say around 790. There is some doubt as to whether the prayer has older origins, perhaps back to Gregory the Great, around 600. ....

In the 1540s, Anglican reformer Thomas Cranmer took this Collect – as he did so much else from the medieval service books – and incorporated it into the regular liturgy of Common Prayer....

Several things come to mind about this collect, but above all the sense of rigorous and absolutely honest self-examination. It comes close to creating the mood of final judgment: whatever fronts or false faces you put up, God sees behind them. Or if you like melodrama, you can run, but you can’t hide. ....

It is a near-perfect prayer for any and all Christian denominations. That is partly because it is so rooted in the Biblical tradition, and specifically the Psalms. See Psalm 139:
You have searched me, Lord,
   and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
   you perceive my thoughts from afar…
Psalm 51 has also left its echoes. ....
Jenkins on how the prayer illustrates the usefulness of liturgy: 
  • Like the best parts of any liturgy, the Collect takes essential points about the Christian approach to life, and puts them in simple and memorable form.
  • It says these things better, more comprehensively, and more concisely than we could ever do ourselves.
  • By saying the words repeatedly, week by week, we learn and internalize them, and learn how to approach our own mental processes. ....
  • And as we say the words, we are aware of a tradition that takes us back well over a millennium, and perhaps far longer. We say them together with Thomas Cranmer and Alcuin.
  • We see and understand the chain of continuity, and place ourselves within that continuity.

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