God of everlasting mercy,
who in the very recurrence of the paschal feast
kindle the faith of the people you have made your own, increase, we pray, the grace you have bestowed,
that all may grasp and rightly understand
in what font they have been washed,
by whose Spirit they have been reborn,
by whose Blood they have been redeemed.
The Second Sunday of the Easter Season has several names. The older names are ''Dominica in albis'' or Whit Sunday. This refers to the fact that today, one week after they were baptized at the Easter Vigil, the neophytes removed the white garments with which they were clothed in Baptism.
In more recent times, by the inspiration of St. Faustina, this Sunday is also called Divine Mercy Sunday, recalling the mercy that flows from the Paschal sacrifice of Christ which is a the heart of the Easter Feast.
It's also called Thomas Sunday, since the Gospel reflects on the Lord's post-resurrection appearance to the doubting disciple.
The collect, which comes to us from the "Missale Gothicum" in the seventh century, reflects all three of these themes in a curious way. It sees the purpose of our annual Easter celebrations as not just a meditation on our white garments, our need for mercy, and our need to cast way all doubts, but on the source of Baptism, the author of mercy and the cause of our faith.
That's why the last three lines of the prayer speak of the font, the Spirit, and the blood, in other words baptism, mercy, and Eucharist. But it prays that we might understand what lies behind the font in which we are washed, the Spirit in whom we are reborn, and the Lord by which we have been redeemed. The font is an encounter with the Lord, by which he incorporates us into his life. The mercy of God is dispensed by joining us to his Paschal death and rising. The blood which has redeemed us not only washes away our sins, but also makes us one with the one who shed it. In other words, it is not the action of redemption that we get out of the cross, which should be the center of our joy, but the encounter with the living God who offers himself for our salvation.
The face of Christ is, for us, a constant reminder of the meaning of Easter, for like the women at the tomb, we long to see him. Like St. Thomas we long to touch him and to proclaim with our whole heart and soul: my Lord and my God!
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 second of a series of reflections on the collects of the Easter season.