Word Smith: Collect
In our Lenten small group discussion, entitled Living the Eucharist, the leaders of our groups often used the word COLLECT as a verb, with the accent on the second syllable. It did not sound right to me. The confusion that many of us had was that the specific pronunciation and meaning of this heteronym were not as a verb, but as a noun. In our Lenten booklet, the word COLLECT (pronounced /kol′•ekt, with the accent on the first syllable) refers to a specific short prayer from the beginning of the Catholic Mass. This pray uses a particular structure within a Christian liturgy.
Collects appear in the liturgies of Roman Catholic, Anglican, and Lutheran rite churches, among others, but are unknown in the traditions and rites of Easter Christianity.
The noun COLLECT comes from the Latin collecta. The term was used in Rome during the 5th and the 10th centuries, although in the Tridentine version of the Roman Missal the more generic term oratio (prayer) was used instead.
The word collecta meant the gathering of the people together. The word may have been applied to this prayer as it was said just before the procession into the church in which Eucharistic Mass was celebrated. It may also have been used to mean a single prayer that collected into one the prayers of the individual members of the congregation.
Structure of the Collect
A COLLECT generally has five parts:
- Invocation or address: indicating the person of Trinity addressed, usually to God the Father, and rarely to God the Son
- Acknowledgement: description of a divine attribute that relates to the petition (often qui … – who …)
- Petition: “for one thing only and that in the tersest language”
- Aspiration: a. The desired result (begins with the word ut – in order that) b. Indication of a further purpose of the petition
- Pleading: a. Conclusion: indicating the mediation of Jesus Christ. b. Response by the people: Amen
In some contemporary liturgical texts, this structure has been obscured by sentence constructions that depart from the Latin flowing style of a single sentence.
At first only one collect was said at Mass, but the Tridentine version of the Roman Missal allowed and often prescribed the use of more than one collect, all but the first being recited under a single conclusion. This custom, which began north of the Alps, had reached Rome by about the 12th century.
The collects in the Book of Common Prayer are mainly translations by Thomas Cranmer (d. 1556) from the Latin prayers for each Sunday of the year.
Similarly, Lutheran liturgies typically retain traditional collects for each Sunday of the liturgical year. In the newly released Evangelical Lutheran Worship, however, the set of prayers has been expanded to incorporate different Sunday collects for each year of the lectionary cycle, so that the prayers more closely coordinate with the lectionary scripture readings for the day. To achieve this expansion from one year’s worth of Sunday collects to three years’, modern prayer texts have been added.
In the 1970s English translation of the Roman Missal, the word collecta was rendered as “Opening Prayer”. This was a misnomer, since the collect ends, not opens, the introductory rites of the Mass.
1. C. Frederick Barbee, Paul F.M. Zahl, The Collects of Thomas Cranmer (Eerdmans 1999 ISBN 9780802838452), pp. ix-xi
2. Adrian Fortescue, The Mass: A Study of the Roman Liturgy (Longmans, Green and Company 1912), pp. 248–252.
3. Edward McNamara ZENIT liturgy questions, 28 August 2012
4. Edward Foley, A Commentary on the Order of Mass of the Roman Missal (Liturgical Press 2011 ISBN 9780814662472), p. 141