In the Time of this Mortal Life
Sunday, December 2nd, is the first day of Advent. During worship today, Anglican congregations around the world will pray together a “Collect” from the great Anglican theologian Thomas Cranmer. He wrote it for the 1549 edition of the Book of Common Prayer. Using these words we will prayerfully frame the meaning of Advent.
“Almighty God, give us grace that we may cast away the works of darkness, and put upon us the armour of light, now in the time of this mortal life, in which thy Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious Majesty, to judge both the quick and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, now and ever. Amen.”
During Advent the Church prepares for both the First Coming of Christ (the Incarnation) and for the Second Coming (the End of the Age). You see both of these in this collect. 'This mortal life in which Christ came to visit us in great humility" is his incarnation. "The last day, when he shall come again" is his second coming.
The collect alludes to the Romans 13:12. "The night is far spent, the day is at hand; let us therefore cast off the works of darkness and let us put on the armour of light." The prayer weaves together this passage, as well as the meaning of the season. In it, we ask God for a two fold grace. First, that by grace we will put away the works of darkness. With God's help we will repent, leave behind our wicked ways. Second, that by grace we will put on the armor of light, the whole armor of God in Ephesians 6:10 etc.
Both the First and Second Coming are about light coming into the world, as in John 1:4 etc. So the prayer uses the imagery of light and darkness, as well as other poetic use of the English language like "this mortal life" vs "the life immortal."
It is a poetic prayer, a biblical prayer. It is a prayer that lifts us up to God's special grace during this holy season. In the midst of all the business of life, here is a door to the Reality of the season. I commend it to your use, both today and in the season to come.