O God, the King of glory, who hast exalted thine only Son Jesus Christ with great triumph unto thy kingdom in heaven: we beseech thee, leave us not comfortless; but send to us thy Holy Ghost to comfort us, and exalt us unto the same place whither our Saviour Christ is gone before; who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the same Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen. - Collect for the Sunday after Ascension from Divine Worship: The Missal.
‘This beautiful collect, which was composed for the first Prayer Book of Edward VI in 1549, strikes exactly the right note. It combines the thought of Christ’s triumph with that of the descent of the Holy Spirit, which is just what is needed on the Sunday between Ascension and Whitsuntide; and it also addresses God as the King of Glory, which immediately introduces us to the proper atmosphere of this season. In all our thoughts at this time we are surrounded by tokens of God’s glory.
In the Hebrew this notion of glory is associated with the idea of weight, as we in our own idiom are accustomed to speak of “a man of substance”. It suggests a royal robe of state which is so magnificently embroidered and sewn with jewels as to be quite heavy. In the Greek, on the other hand, the word for glory is associated with the idea of opinion or reputation. A person’s glory is his fame, which surrounds him like an aura.
The idea of an aura takes us back to the Old Testament again, for there God’s glory is particularly associated with the Shekinah, the luminous cloud which was taken as a sign of his presence during the wanderings in the wilderness. One also remembers the mention of a cloud in the New Testament on the occasion both of our Lord's Transfiguration and of his Ascension. The brightness of the cloud is a symbol of God’s glory. Now at the Ascension Jesus has been caught up into it and exalted with great triumph into God’s Kingdom in Heaven. The address, then, of the collect reminds us of God’s glory.
The second petition of the collect is that we may be exalted into the same place whither our Saviour Christ is gone before. The symbolism of height slips in so easily that we hardly notice it. We normally think of what is better as being higher. And when we ask to be with Christ we inevitably ask to be taken “up”. Actually, of course, the soul or personality knows no such conditions of place. Our essential self may be just as easily as in a space-ship travelling to the moon. Our prayer really means that we wish to be in closest possible communion with him at every moment, sharing with him the consciousness of his triumph over every human disability'.
from Reflections on the Collects, 1964
by William Wand KCVO, 1885-1977 (Bishop of London 1945-1955)
Fr Lee Kenyon
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