… was finalised in 1662, but the language in it is as much as 100 years older.
It contains a prayer for every week that was meant to sum up (collect up) the prayers at every particular service during that week. These ‘collects’ are largely the work of Cranmer and it is he who is remembered on Thursday this week.
It was in fact on the 21st March 1556 that he was burned at the stake, one of a handful of so-called protestant martyrs under the counter-reformation regime of Queen Mary. These collect-prayers that he composed have given our Anglican church a very strong branding. There is no Christian church in the whole wide world that has such beautifully worded short and to-the-point prayers as our collects.
Over the years they have been modified and modernised, but the original ones remain available to us in the Book of Common Prayer. One difference between the old and the modern versions is that Cranmer knew life to be much more fragile than we experience today. Many of his prayers remind us that life on earth can be short or full of struggles. For him this meant that we need to live our lives with one eye at least firmly fixed on our destiny in heaven.
One of the reformation insights was that it was the work of Christ that would get us there, and this deep insight is invariably reflected in many of his collects.
ALMIGHTY God, who seest that we have no power of ourselves to help ourselves: Keep us both outwardly in our bodies, and inwardly in our souls; that we may be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul; through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Collect for the second Sunday in Lent, Book of Common Prayer)
17 March 2019