The Collect or Opening Prayer follows the Kyrie litany and the Gloria. Its origin and the authorship of the varying prayers are not always clear. St. Justin Martyr (100 AD or so to 165 AD) gives an account of the liturgy that begins immediately with the readings, lacking any such opening prayer. It appears that the Collects begin as prayers said at various stations prior to the liturgy, as at the tombs of martyrs. The first official Collects may have been composed by Pope Damasus (366 AD to 384 AD). By the time of the Leonine Sacramentary (used from the fourth to the seventh centuries) the Collects were complemented with three other prayers: the Prayer over the Gifts, the Prayer after Communion and the Prayer over the People. The Collects allude to the liturgical season or a particular occasion or a given feast or sanctoral memorial.
The fundamental role of the priest is to function as an instrument for Christ in the forgiveness of sins. While we may bring many intentions to Mass, the greatest need that we lay before the Lord is for his mercy. We can already see why the Confiteor and Kyrie should have themselves inserted into the ritual. They spell out what the priest collects from the many to offer in his one prayer to the heavenly Father. We are called to have both a personal and a communal faith within the unity of the Church. The priest is not excluded, for the peace he extends to the congregation they return to him. This is one of the reasons why certain liturgists wanted the sign of peace repositioned at an early point in the liturgy. The peace of Christ always symbolizes unity and solidarity. Akin to the sign of peace or the kiss of peace, the priest also kisses the altar. The altar table is a profound symbol of Christ and his redemptive sacrifice.
Before the Collect, the celebrant says, “Let us pray . . . .” After the prayer, the people respond, “Amen.” They affirm the priestly prayer. At one time in its history, the deacon would intervene and direct the congregation to kneel in prayer and later to rise. Today, the priest may pause for congregants to silently make their private prayer intentions but often he moves quickly to the Collect where he gathers them into a common petition. Ideally, the congregants should have already formulated their prayer intentions before Mass. The typical Roman Collect is succinct or brief. By contrast, a number of the modern Collects for American saints tend to be wordy— a point of humor for certain liturgists when speaking about our verbosity. The Collects are structurally addressed to God the Father and usually include a dependent clause prior to the petition. Here are two examples:
Almighty and 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.
Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God, for ever and ever. R/. Amen.
O God, who on this day,
through your Only Begotten Son,
have conquered death
and unlocked for us the path to eternity,
grant, we pray, that we who keep
the solemnity of the Lord’s Resurrection
may, through the renewal brought by your Spirit,
rise up in the light of life.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God, for ever and ever. R/. Amen.
Historically while Collects are almost always addressed to God the Father, there were a few Collects addressed to God the Son, as on Corpus Christi; however such would be the exception. No Collects are directed to the Holy Spirit. The Collect is also employed in the Liturgy of the Hours as the prayer of the day. While some Catholic authorities would argue that the Eastern rites and the Orthodox churches have nothing that directly corresponds to our Collects; they themselves would point out their Synapté or Synaptai (plural). These are supplication prayers that form a litany.
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