O God, who have commanded us
to listen to your beloved Son,
be pleased, we pray,
to nourish us inwardly by your word,
that, with spiritual sight made pure,
we may rejoice to behold your glory.
The collect, or opening prayer for the Second Sunday of Lent comes to us by way of the Mozarabic or Spanish Liturgy. For over a century it has served as an invitation to the Lenten Season as we enter more deeply into the mysteries of our faith.
From the earliest days of the Church, Lent has served as a sort of catechism of the faith, and the Sunday prayers and readings lie at the heart of this effort. This is why this prayer echoes three of the major Gospels of Lent: the Baptism of the Lord, the Temptation in the Desert and the Transfiguration on Mount Tabor.
First, we hear the voice of the Father speaking from heaven as at the Baptism of the Lord. "This is my beloved Son!" But then we hear the same voice from heaven at the Lord's glorious transfiguration on Mount Tabor: "Listen to him!"
In response to this command, we ask God to "nourish us inwardly by [his] word," recalling last Sunday's Gospel of the Temptation in the Desert, where Satan tempts the Lord to satisfy his hunger by turning the stones into bread. But Jesus responds, "Man does not live by bread alone, but on every word which comes from the mouth of God." (Matthew 4:4) There's a certain irony in that expression, as the words are spoken by the word made flesh, Jesus, the Christ!
When the prayer uses the word "inwardly" there is a special message for us here. For the word of God is not destined to be heard only by our ears, but to be received in our hearts. The word takes root deep within us; it changes us, and makes us into what God wants us to be. It purifies our sight, that we might behold the glory seen by Peter, James and John at the Transfiguration on Mount Tabor.