Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Fasting From Sin and Collects in Verse

The Temptationin by Simon Bening.
Lent brings one of  my favorite collects, which appears in various forms in several rites in slightly different places. Here is the translation from the books we used when I was a monk:

GRANT, we beseech You, Almighty God: that like as Your family do abstain from food to the mortifying of the flesh; so they may likewise fast from sin to the following after justice. Through Jesus Christ, Your Son, Our Lord, Who lives and reigns with You in the unity of the Holy Spirit, One God, forever and ever.

I love that image of fasting from sin. We are not only engaged in symbolic forms of physical abstinence during these 40 days, but we are to starve our bodies and minds of their sinful attachments to be ready to meet the Risen Lord at Easter. We are to fast from anger, gossip, and all of the venial sins both hot and cold that weigh down our souls.

A few years ago when I was looking at some of the variants of the collect, I ran across John Rusher’s The Collects of the Church of England, Imitated in Verse at Project Canterbury. Rusher was a school master, estate agent, and poor house administrator, who occasionally bled the poor for extra money. (How often do you get to read a sentence where "bleeding the poor" is used in a literal sense?) The preface to the 1790 work reads:

I trust, the truly pious and devout Members of the Church will not think this little Work beneath their notice; and am encouraged by several eminent Schoolmasters, who have seen it in manuscript, to hope that it will be found of infinite service in Sunday and other Schools, where (as rhime is pleasing, especially to young persons, and such a powerful and necessary assistant to the memory) one of these Collects may be every Week learned and retained, by the most indigent capacity.

What heavenly fruit may be expected from thus planting the fertile soil of the infand mind with comprehensive Prayer which, if water with the Divine Blessing, will continually grow, take deep root, and can never be eradicated; but even, when lopped by the broad axe of Death, will break out more abundantly in praise and adoration, and flourish through a glorious Eternity.
I love this kind of verse and think that memorization is another of those important and seriously neglected arts. Since Lent has, thus far, been a little thin on entries of Breviary texts, I thought I might make up for it a bit by printing Rusher’s verses for Ash Wednesday and the Sundays of Lent.


O gracious God, who madest all,
And hatest nothing thou hast made,
Who hearest sinners, when they call
In faith and penitence for aid;

Create us new and contrite hearts,
That we who do our sins confess,
Convicted in our inward parts
Of folly, sin, and wretchedness;

May thro’ the riches of thy grace
To perfect favor be restor’d;
And come to that eternal place
Prepar’d thro’ Jesus Christ, our Lord.

The First Sunday in Lent.

O Lord, who (as thy blessed word recites)
Didst once fast forty days, and forty nights,
Restrain our nature, succour us within,
And give us grace and pow’r to fast from sin;
That leaving all inordinate desires,
And doing what thy holy will requires,
We may be sav’d according to thy word,
Thro’ thy transcendent love, O blessed Lord,
Who, with the Father and the Holy Ghost,
One God, dost reign amid the heav’nly host.

The Second Sunday in Lent.

Almighty God, who know’st our helpless state,
Our num’rous foes, their strength, and vile deceit;
Protect our outward and our inward parts
From sin, the world, and Satan’s evil darts;
Let no bad deeds our mortal frame controul,
Nor evil thoughts afflict th’immortal soul,
But give us cause to triumph in thy word,
Thro’ Jesus Christ, thy only Son, our Lord.

The Third Sunday in Lent.

Almighty God, receive our fervent pray’rs,
And when our foes beset us unawares,
Or openly and terribly arise,
Be our defence against our enemies:
O hear, and grant us what we have implor’d,
Thro’ Jesus Christ, thy only Son, our Lord.

The Fourth Sunday in Lent.

O God, our hearts have daily swerv’d,
Our evil deeds have long deserv’d
The threat’nings of thy word;
Yet give us grace to turn from sin,
That we the promises may win,
Thro’ Jesus Christ our Lord.

The Fifth Sunday in Lent.

We beseech thee, O God, to look graciously down,
Where the seeds of the glorious Gospel are sown,
And encourage the growth of thy word;
Let thy Spirit direct, rule, and govern the whole,
And preserve us for ever in body and soul,
Thro’ thy only Son Jesus our Lord.