19 June 2009

Review: "Opening Prayers: Collects in Contemporay Language"

In the past several years, many resources have become available to those desiring to provide a more thematic approach to the praying the Scriptures of the modern three-year Eucharistic lectionary (i.e., the modern Roman lectionary and its various cousins, including the Revised Common Lectionary). "Opening Prayers" from ICEL and the Canterbury Press fits the bill.

To be sure, there are a few collects that could still use some tweaking to make them more chant friendly or to allow them to flow a mite-bit-better in the American idiom (these prayers were originally drafted in the UK), but on the whole it provides a refreshing take on praying the Scriptures that is deeply rooted in the appointed readings of the day.

These collects are not mere reassignments of existent collects (not that there is anything wrong with such an approach) - the are all, each and every one of them, completely new. As such, they will probably not appeal to liturgical purists who want to tie the historic collects of the western liturgy into the new lectionary. (For such a resource, I would recommend a copy of the Evangelical Lutheran Hymnary which assigns the historical collects to the three year lectionary based on similarities of theme, or the "Propers of the Year" volume from the Lutheran Service Book (LCMS, Concordia Publishing).)

"Opening Prayers" manages to balance mild horizontal inclusive language (phrases like 'sons and daughters' and 'your children' are used and feel just right) with unswerving confessions of God in traditional idiom. It avoids issues that plague the collects of Revised Common Lectionary Prayers and Evangelical Lutheran Worship (Leaders Desk Edition), both of which suffer from (the former moreso than the latter), at times, vapid texts which carry little inspiration and bear utterly musical or repetitive qualities whatsoever. (ELW has some gems, 'diamonds in the rough' that need to be polished to shine brightly, but RCLP has nothing worthwile).

Several of the collects in particular stand out: the Easter Vigil and Trinity Sunday collect for Year C are the two best in the book, with Ordinary Time 27b coming in a close third. One outstanding feature is that, while a basic conclusion is used in Ordinary Time, one with thematic implications is generally used (with a few exceptions) throughout specific seasions. Thus, the doxological conclusion of collects in Advent have an emphasis on Christ 'whose coming is certain, whose day draws near'. In Paschaltide, Christ our 'Passover and peace' is praised... outstanding features that one might miss with a cursory glance.

If you are looking for a series with collects for the three-year lectionary, this is the volume for you. Laypersons will find it to be a stimulating way to prepare for the Sunday service, or to integrate the preceding Sunday's readings into one's daily prayer life during the subsequent days. Clergy will find it a rich treasure to enhance their experience in the modern lectionary, one which may help their own spirituality find new ways to comprehend what is the length, breadth, depth, and height of the love of God made manifest to us in Christ Jesus.


All original material (C) 2007-2010 by Father Robert Lyons.

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