I love the Collects of the Church Year. Sure, some are better than others, and some seem to match the readings for one lectionary year and not the others, but generally speaking, I think the Collects, many of which have been handed down from Cranmer’s first Prayer Book, are edifying for the life of Church. In the same way, I’m not sure that the Daily Office gets much use outside of seminary and monastic communities, I’m kind of doubtful that many of the faithful pray the Collects themselves, but I do think that there is great power in praying and reflecting upon them daily.
Take, for example, the Collect for The Baptism of our Lord, as it names a deep reality for the life of faith. “Grant that all who are baptized into [Jesus’] Name may keep the covenant they have made, and boldly confess him as Lord and Savior…” Not unlike a graduation ceremony, baptism is a beginning rather than an end. In baptism, whether as infants, older children, or adult, we are incorporated as members of the community of faith and welcomed into the household of God. Some, myself not included, would argue that baptism permanently punches our ticket to heaven, which makes it a convenient end to the whole “being saved” process. In reality, baptism isn’t the telos of faith, but rather the genesis. Baptism is where the hard work of living in the Kingdom begins.
Hence, the prayer for Sunday asks for God’s grace to help we, the baptized, to keep the covenant and confess Jesus as Lord. The covenant, at least for Episcopalians, includes things like: putting our faith in God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; taking part in the community of faith; working toward sanctification, and when we falter, seeking true repentance; proclaiming by word and example, the good news of Jesus [see the confess piece above]; loving our neighbor; and respecting the dignity of everyone.
Even the easiest parts of this list are impossible to do alone. And so, in baptism, not only does our work begin, but so too does our relationship with God who will assist us, and by the Holy Spirit, will guide us in the life of faith. Nobody promised it would be easy, if it is, you’re probably doing it wrong, but the true end (telos) of the life of faith is glory everlasting, and that’s worth every bit of struggle along the way.