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In Christian liturgy, a collect ['kɒlɛkt; kol'-ekt] is both a liturgical action and a short, general prayer. In the Middle Ages, the prayer was referred to in Latin as collectio, but in the more ancient sources, as oratio. In English, and in this usage, "collect" is pronounced with the stress on the first syllable. Collects appear in the liturgy of the Mass of the Roman Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, and some other rites.
Traditionally, the liturgical collect was a dialog between the celebrant and the people. It followed a hymn of praise (such as the "in Excelsis Deo", if used) after the opening of the service, with a greeting by the celebrant "The Lord be with you", to which the people respond "And also with you" or "And with your spirit." The celebrant invites all to pray with "Let us pray". In the more ancient practice, an invitation to kneel was given, and the people spend some short time in silent prayer, after which they were invited to stand. Then, the celebrant concluded the time of prayer by "collecting" their prayers in a unified petition of a general form, referred to as a collect. Many of these still in use by churches of the West were originally composed in Latin, wherein they adhere to a flowing chanted style. Traditionally, a collect consisted of a single sentence, although this was often accomplished through non-standard punctuation, with a colon or semi-colon taking the place of a period. In some contemporary liturgical texts, this practice has been discontinued in favor of more standard sentence constructions.
In contemporary Catholic usage, the collect corresponds to the Opening Prayer. It is sung or recited audibly throughout by the celebrant, and follows the invocation "Let us pray" usually without a (significant) period of silent prayer, and may or may not employ the greeting dialog ("The Lord be with you / And also with you" or "The Lord be with you / And with your spirit").
Typically two or three collects may be used in a traditional Roman Mass.
For the Anglican rite, Thomas Cranmer (d. 1556) translated into English and retained collects for each Sunday of the year in the Book of Common Prayer; they have been part of subsequent alternative liturgies.
Similarly, Lutheran liturgies have typically retained traditional collects for each Sunday of the liturgical year. In the newly released Evangelical Lutheran Worship, however, the set of prayers has been expanded to incorporate different Sunday collects for each year of the lectionary cycle, so that the prayers more closely coordinate with the lectionary scripture readings for the day. In order to achieve this expansion from one year's worth of Sunday collects to three years, modern prayer texts have been added to the existing traditional set.
Collects (the liturgical action and the prayer) have a recognizable form:
- 1) Invitation ("Oremus" - Let us pray)
- 2) Address (the person of the Trinity who is being addressed, but usually the Father)
- 3) An attribute or quality of the deity, which relates to the petition (often "qui ..." - who)
- 4) The Petition (the matter being asked about or requested)
- 5) The Reason or Result expected (begins with the word "ut" - that)
- 6) Christian conclusion ("per Christum Dominum nostrum" - through Christ our Lord), or other longer doxologies
- 7) General affirmation ("Amen.", untranslated from the Hebrew)
Examples of the prayers
"A Collect for Purity"
- Latin composition
- Deus, cui omne cor patet et omnis uoluntas loquitur, et quem nullum latet secretum: purifica per infusionem Sancti Spiritus cogitationes cordis nostri, ut perfecte te diligere et digne laudare mereamur, per Dominum nostrum Iesum Christum. Amen.
- English translation
- Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known and from you no secrets are hid: cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love you and worthily magnify your holy name, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.
- English translation in the Book of Common Prayer, 1662
- Almighty God, to whom all hearts be open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hid; Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of thy Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love thee, and worthily magnify thy holy Name; through Christ our Lord. Amen.
- 2) Almighty God,
- 3) to you all hearts are open, all desires known and from you no secrets are hid:
- 4) cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit,
- 5) that we may perfectly love you and worthily magnify your holy name,
- 6) through Jesus Christ our Lord.
- 7) Amen.
"A Collect for the Renewal of Life"
- English composition
- O God, the King eternal, whose light divides the day from the night and turns the shadow of death into the morning: Drive far from us all wrong desires, incline our hearts to keep your law, and guide our feet into the way of peace; that, having done your will with cheerfulness during the day, we may, when night comes, rejoice to give you thanks; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
- 2) O God, the King eternal,
- 3) whose light divides the day from the night and turns the shadow of death into the morning:
- 4) Drive far from us all wrong desires, incline our hearts to keep your law, and guide our feet into the way of peace;
- 5) that, having done your will with cheerfulness during the day, we may, when night comes, rejoice to give you thanks;
- 6) through Jesus Christ our Lord.
- 7) Amen.
- Louis Weil. Gathered to Pray: Understanding Liturgical Prayer. Cambridge, MA: Crowley Publications, 1986.