|What the Church and the Believer contain without Love|
O Lord, you have taught us that without love whatever we do is worth nothing: Send your Holy Spirit and pour into our hearts your greatest gift, which is love, the true bond of peace and of all virtue, without which whoever lives is accounted dead before you. Grant this for the sake of your only Son Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Collect for the Seventh Sunday
after the Epiphany
(from The Book of Common Prayer)
There are few Collects more direct and focused than this one. Love is what animates all Christian life, ministry, and witness. Without the love of the Holy Trinity, we are empty and our works are worth nothing at all.
Christians are often encouraged to forget this—even by the Church itself. Our parishes and institutions can become so focused on the doing of ministry that we forget the very being of Faith: Love. Over time this absence is revealed by stridency, shrillness, division, power-politics, and a myopic emphasis on “outcomes,” “metrics,” and group-think. What always signals our forgetting of our true purpose and identity is a decline in the Love of the Holy Three, manifested by a lack of peace and virtue—usually first in the leadership, then in the Body a whole.
The Holy Spirit is God’s greatest gift in the life of the believer. That Spirit is imparted in Baptism, taking up residence (so to speak) in our life and always pointing us back to Christ and his Gospel. The Gospel points to the will of the Father, and through Christ’s unique self-offering on the Cross, we are carried into the life of the Holy Trinity, growing in Divine love and likeness. This is the Good News Jesus came to bring to all humanity.
As we prepare for the season of Lent, this Collect serves to remind us of the desire for God which marks the authentic Christian life. Where that desire has gone cold, it is time that we turn back to God in love and humility, for he has promised: “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.” (James, 4:8).