Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts… James 4:8
Dear Friends in Christ,
I hope that you are having a blessed Advent, with times of preparation and connection to God. In Advent, we prepare our hearts for God’s presence in Jesus, whose coming we celebrate at Christmas. In our liturgy (the form of our weekly worship services) we also prepare ourselves. After the opening hymn we invoke the God we are there to worship: “Blessed be God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” Then the Celebrant (the priest leading the service that day) leads us in praying what is commonly known as the ‘collect for purity.’
You might remember my Thursday Message about collects—they are a certain form of prayer often used in the Book of Common Prayer. Here is the collect for purity:
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 Christ our Lord. Amen.
Athletes prepare for a game physically and mentally. Candidates prepare for job interviews outwardly and inwardly; teachers and students prepare for their hearts and minds for their classes. Likewise, we prepare to worship God and be fed from Holy Scriptures and Holy Sacraments. Part of this preparation is to come physically and meet with our brothers and sisters in Christ if we are healthy enough to do so. Part of this is postures of kneeling or standing for certain prayers or hymns. We sing, or we speak prayers together, or silently.
In the collect for purity, we ask God to prepare us to love and worship him by cleansing the thoughts of our hearts with his Holy Spirit. Notice that “inspiration” in this case means filling with the Spirit: ‘in-spirit-ation’ you might say. We seek a spiritual cleansing and a spiritual renewal, one that also impacts our bodies and our words and actions too. And we realize that we need the work of God within us to accomplish this preparation. So we ask for God, who knows us better than we know ourselves, to fill us with his Holy Spirit that we might be more open to hearing his Word, and more ready to pray and receive his blessings.
This is, in microcosm, the spiritual practice in the season of Advent. I invite you to this kind of preparation in your own lives, so that you may, with joy, discover more of God’s grace for you.
Yours in Christ,