Last Sunday was the second Sunday after the Epiphany, and today (January 21, 2007) is the third. The Collects (prayers for use on a particular Sunday and all the following week) appointed for these Sundays and their following weeks are concerned with peace and our need of God's help in the face of spiritual or physical enemies. The Collect for the second Sunday was composed in the tumultuous sixth century, when much of the European world was torn apart by struggling kingdoms in the aftermath of the collapse of the western Roman empire. Life was difficult and frightening, and the Latin of the collect says, "grant Thy peace in our times", reflecting concern in that chaotic and violent age. The Prayer Book in English now says, "grant us thy peace all the days of our lives," a reminder that although we live in relative peace in our time, there's no guarantee of its continuance. The Saxon monk Alcuin, who so advanced education in Charlemagne's Frankish court around 800, chose this collect for the second Sunday after Epiphany and it's been there ever since. (As a related bit of trivia, one of Charlemagne's bishops, Theodulf of Orleans, who knew Alcuin, wrote the lyrics to the hymn "All Glory, Laud, and Honor" which many of us still sing in our churches.)
Collect for the second Sunday after the Epiphany: "Almighty and everlasting God, who dost govern all things in heaven and earth; mercifully hear the supplications of thy people, and grant us thy peace all the days of our life; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen."
The collect for the third Sunday after the Epiphany (today) likewise appeals to God's mercy in the light of our weaknesses, physical and mental and spiritual, and begs for His defence on our behalf: "Almight and everlasting God, mercifully look upon our infirmities, and in all our dangers and necessities stretch forth thy right hand to help and defend us; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen."
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