Almighty ever-living God, who as an example of humility
for the human race to follow
caused our Savior to take flesh and submit to the Cross, graciously grant
that we may heed his lesson of patient suffering
and so merit a share in his Resurrection.
Today's collect is one of the oldest and most beautiful of the Sacred Liturgy. Some say it was written by Pope St. Leo the Great himself, and that never a year has gone by in the whole history of the Church when this prayer has not been prayed in every parish Church all throughout the world.
Maybe it has lasted so long because it so beautifully prayer summarizes the whole mystery of our faith. It begins with Christmas. Yes, with Christmas! It praises God for causing his Son to take flesh, as an example of humility.
There's always a close connection between the crib and the cross. Jesus could never have offered his life on the cross unless he had been born in a manger. And likewise, the manger is always seen in the shadow of the cross.
St. Paul tells us this in his letter to the Philippians:
"Though he was in the form of God, he did not deem equality with God something to be grasped at. Rather he emptied himself, talking the form of a slave, born in the likeness of a man."
The perfect humility of Christ is kenotic, self-emptying, in two acts: first, in his taking on the limitations of human flesh, but then in his offering that same human flesh in the Sacrifice of the Cross. That cross was ascended by a long road of patient suffering, a self-emptying which required submission to the will of God and the cruelties of sinful men.
But such self-emptying wins the Resurrection, not only for the first born of many brothers, but for each of us who dies with him in Baptism and will be raised up to stand before him on the last day.
Today's beautiful collect reveals the mystery of life, the Paschal Mystery which we celebrate in this week we call Holy.
Msgr. James P. Moroney, presently professor of liturgy at St. John's Seminary, Brighton becomes the 20th rector there on July 1, 2012. This is the sixth of a series of reflections on the collects of the Lenten season which continues throughout this holy season.