Grant, we beseech thee, Almighty God: that we, who for our evil deeds do worthily deserve to be punished, by the comfort of thy grace, may mercifully be relieved; 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. – Collect for Lætare Sunday, Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘There seems almost to be a suggestion of pious, cloistered humour in the collect for Mid-Lent Sunday. As this is Refreshment Sunday our forefathers in the faith, while recognising their responsibility for the sin that made necessary the austerity of the season, yet claim some momentary relief before they enter on the special rigour of passiontide. If that is so, they certainly pass on from the thought of the particular relief to the more general consideration of final redemption and its release from the consequence of sin.
The attitude of the prayer is one of complete sincerity before God. We recognise our true condition. There is no attempt to offer excuses. We do not begin, as so many poor things have done when faced with the imminence of severe illness, bereavement, or death: “But I’ve done no wrong: why should this happen to me?” We admit our evil deeds and the justice of our punishment. We throw ourselves on God’s mercy. We admit that we worthily deserve to be punished.
Is this sincerity true of us individually as we repeat the prayer? How conscious are we of our own guilt? It is very easy to listen to the words as they are said or sung by the priest. We can even in a fashion accept them without letting them penetrate very deeply into our consciousness. All our responsibility and conventionality toughen the fibre of our self-respect and make it really difficult for such sentiments to pierce through to the heart. We need therefore to examine ourselves seriously as to our own state of mind.
To what evil deeds are we confessing? Mere peccadilloes, for which we excuse ourselves as soon as they are committed? Or real faults, for which we know in our heart of hearts there is no adequate excuse? Certainly, if we look deep enough, we shall find much of which we must honestly say, “My fault, my own fault, my own most grievous fault”. We feel guilty both for what we have done and probably more for what we have left undone.
…For all this we acknowledge that we “worthily deserve to be punished”. No doubt we are talking in rather childish language. But as this is Mothering Sunday it is perhaps natural that we should revert to the language of the nursery, where, after all, the foundations of our moral life were laid. In any case there is an honesty and simplicity about it that is very refreshing. It is better than much of the psychology of today, which would put the blame for our bad dispositions on our environment, heredity, or childhood misadventures’.
from Reflections on the Collects, 1964
by William Wand KCVO, 1885-1977 (Bishop of London 1945-1955)
Fr Lee Kenyon