O God, who through your Word
reconcile the human race to yourself in a wonderful way,
grant, we pray,
that with prompt devotion and eager faith
the Christian people may hasten
toward the solemn celebrations to come.
Lent is more than half way done, and so we celebrate Laetare Sunday, the Fourth Sunday of Lent, with a collect which, at least in its first half, has been with us from the days of the Gelasian Sacramentary. The second half, however, is even older, having been taken from a sermon of Pope St. Gregory the Great.
The prayer begins by addressing God as the one who, through Jesus, the Word made flesh, reconciles the human race to himself in a wonderful way. That wonderful way, of course is by the Paschal Sacrifice of Christ upon the cross. By his suffering we are redeemed, and by his death we have come to inherit eternal life.
But having received this great gift of our salvation, what are we to do next? This is the subject of the second half of the prayer. That's where the sermon of Pope St. Gregory the Great comes in. Pope Gregory begins by talking about Lent itself, noting that no matter how much we are fasting, we should hunger more for the Word of God than for food! He continues: