Among the Church’s treasures that get overlooked on Sundays is the Collect, or opening prayer, for the Mass. Extraordinarily rich and carefully-worded, these prayers set the tone for Sunday Mass and really for the whole liturgical week.
In today’s Collect we pray to God, “giver of every good gift,” which orients us to a basic principle of stewardship. In recognizing that everything in and around us is good (“it’s all good!”), that we live under friendly skies, we gain the joyful energy to live as Christ’s faithful disciples. “Life is Good” not because we make it so or imagine it to be so, but because every bit of life is from God. Even life’s difficulties strengthen us to love more deeply, if we trust God with our afflictions.
“Tolerance” v. “Reverence”
The collect continues: “Put into our hearts a love of your name,” the Holy Name, the sacred name of Jesus—“so that, by deepening our sense of reverence….” And here we pray for that neglected and forgotten virtue, reverence. We aspire not just to respect, and not merely to “tolerance,” which is the secular virtue of our time, but we aspire to reverence, both for God and for everything He has created. I need more than mere “tolerance” and to be tolerated. I need to be loved. So we aspire to that burning love and awe in the presence of the infinite, a beauty and goodness that only God can give. This begins with reverence for the Holy Name of God, which is so casually blasphemed on TV, movies, schoolyards, and workplaces.
Authentic reverence deepens when we acknowledge, when we confess, that all has been given to us, and we glorify and thank Him who has given it to us. The Catholic Church in the west began to decay when we began to lose reverence at Mass. Our Sunday worship begins the week, and if it is off balance, the rest of our week will be imbalanced. This loss of reverence at Mass has led to a loss of faith in God, and loss of reverence and even basic respect for each other. Let us aspire to an intense reverence for God, reverence for the earth he has given us, and for every person he has created.
The joy of knowing, loving, and serving God begins with reverence, with that delicate and humble reception of the gift. We receive our lives with trembling hands, full of wonder and gratitude. We receive the lives of others with the same wonder and gratitude. Our Lady received the gift of Jesus at the words of the Angel Gabriel. She bowed in reverence to him, a messenger sent from God on high. She bowed her will to God, saying “let it be done to me according to your word.” In that simple act of reverence, she received the perfect joy of knowing, loving, and serving God in this life, so as to be happy with Him forever in the next. May we find that perfect joy in this life, and be forever perfectly happy in the next.