‘The Church hath now finished the celebration of the high Festivals and thereby run, as it were, through a great part of the Creed, by setting before us in an orderly manner the highest Mysteries of our Redemption by Christ on earth, till the day he was taken up into Heaven, with the sending down of the Holy Ghost at Pentecost. Now after she hath in consequence and reflexion upon these Mysteries, broke out into a more solemn and special Adoration of the Blessed Trinity, she comes according to her Method in the Intervals of great Feasts to use such Epistles, Gospels, and Collects, as suit with her holy affections and aims at this season. Such, namely, as tend to our edifying, and being the living Temples of the Holy Ghost our Comforter with his Gifts and Graces; that having Oyl in our Lamps, we may be in better readiness to meet the Bridegroom at his second Advent or coming to judgement. And this done in the remaining Sundaies till Advent, which in their Services are, as it were, so many Ecchos and Reflexions upon the Mystery of Pentecost (the life of the Spirit) or as Trumpets for preparation to meet our Lord at his second coming.
The Collects... have a general congruity with the affection of the season. For as Faith, Hope and Charity, graces and gifts of the Holy Ghost, are the general subject more or less of [the] Epistles, and the same taught, exemplified and confirmed in the Gospels; so are these Collects certain general Invocations upon God for the assistance of his holy Spirit, and bringing forth the fruits of it, and consist usually of a most humble acknowledgement, and a petition suitable, as is above declared.
And as we have taken there a brief view of the pious sense and spirit of these acknowledgements, so will it not be amiss to do the same here concerning the petitions; which in each Collect are some or other of these following, or such like: That God would be pleased to prevent and follow us always with his grace, and with his mercy in all things direct and rule our hearts, to stir up our wills, pour into our hearts (graft in them) the love of his holy Name, make us to have a perpetual fear and love of it, to ask such things as shall please him, to have the Spirit, to think and do always such things as be rightful (to please him, both in will and deed) that he would encrease, nourish, keep us in true Religion and all goodness; give unto us the encrease of Faith, Hope and Charity, that we may live according to his will, with pure and free hearts follow him; accomplish those things he would have done, may be cleansed, assoyled, delivered from all our offences, have pardon peace, protection and defence; may plentifully bring forth the fruits of good works, and by him be plenteously rewarded, and obtain his promises which exceed all we can desire. Such requests as these (besides some other, That God would hear the prayers of the people, of which are by the Priest presented to God, fit for the Churches meditations at this time after Pentecost, and not unfitly following the Lessons, the Decalogue, and the following Supplications of the people, as the proper place of Collects: Being all of them (though in several branches and expressions) in effect thus much: That by the merciful Grace, Inspiration, Defence and Protection of God Almighty, we may be cleansed from our sins, may obey his Commandments, may live as Christians ought, not after the flesh, but after the Spirit, and so to be fitter to meet our blessed Lord at his second Advent to judge the world.
And this meditation of the second Advent of Christ is thought so seasonable in the last place; that some Churches instead of those Readings which we have for the last Sunday of this Time, make use of some other which concern the day of judgement: But our Church, as she hath good reason for her method, as we have seen. So is she not at all defective in her thoughts of Christ’s second coming: In time of Advent, and often afterwards she takes occasion to remember it, but most especially at this season. The last Gospel (except that which implyes a prophesie of Christ's advent) sets before us his raising up of one from the dead, a great ground of our faith and hope of a Resurrection. The Epistle that goes with it, and all the rest in a manner aim most evidently at this, the Quickning us to a life spiritual by the hopes of an eternal. The last Collect, with some other, is for the enjoyment of it according to God’s promises. So that we see the Church in her Meditations for the conclusion of the year, takes in that for her subject which is the close of our Creed, end of our Faith, and Crown of our Devotions: The Resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting’.
from A Rationale upon the Book of Common Prayer of the Church of England, 1655
by Anthony Sparrow, 1612-1685 (Bishop of Exeter, 1667-1676; Bishop of Norwich, 1676-1685)
Fr Lee Kenyon