O Lord, we beseech thee mercifully to hear us: and grant that we, to whom thou hast given an hearty desire to pray, may, by thy mighty aid, be defended and comforted in all dangers and adversities; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘We pray that we may be defended and comforted, a typical doublet but with a more special point than usual, because it puts first negatively and then positively the benefit for which we ask. We wish to be defended against all dangers and comforted in all adversities.
After all, we are very like children. No man can ever be so supremely self-confident that he never wants to be protected, shielded from harm. It is said that Gladstone’s favourite hymn was the Latin version of “Let me ever more abide hidden in thy wounded side”. The need that so great a statesman was not ashamed to confess is surely common to all.
More positively we desire comfort in adversity. “Comfort” makes one think of a mother soothing a sick child. Something of that overtone hovers about the word. But in this instance it is probably used in a sense nearer to its etymological meaning of “strengthen”. We can catch the sense if we remember the precise meaning of the word “fort” in a military connection, a fortress or strongpoint. To comfort is to make especially strong.
It is no doubt in this double sense that the Bible speaks of the angels comforting Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane, and that Jesus could speak of his own Spirit as the Comfort (though in the latter instance there is the added thought of the advocate called in to help). In any case what we are asking for is not merely some help to relieve our pain but additional strength to enable us to meet and to bear it.
Dangers then may be taken to arise out of the changes and chances of this mortal life, and adversities may be taken to apply to our utmost need however and whenever experienced. If we are inclined to think that their prevalence is somewhat exaggerated and that we may quite possibly get along without encountering them at all, we should remember how many aspects of our life they cover. They may be either physical, moral, or spiritual… The toll of deaths on the roads warns us of our physical dangers. Temptations to get rick quick warn us of our moral dangers. While the materialism of modern society is a constant danger to our spiritual life.
All these we can face with a measure of equanimity if we rely on the defence and comfort supplied through God’s mercy’.
from Reflections on the Collects, 1964
by William Wand KCVO, 1885-1977 (Bishop of London 1945-1955)
Fr Lee Kenyon