Collect for the Feast of St. Philip and St. James (May1), 1 May 2022 Anno Domini, the Anglican Orthodox Communion Worldwide
Saint Philip and Sa int James, Apostles.
O ALMIGHTY God, whom truly to know is everlasting life; Grant us perfectly to know thy Son Jesus Christ to be the way, the truth, and the life; that, following the steps of thy holy Apostles, Saint Philip and Saint James, we may stedfastly walk in the way that leadeth to eternal life; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
In today’s Gospel. taken from the Gospel of St. John 14:1-4, Philip asks the question which is answered from the biblical truth repeated in our Prayer of Collect for the day: “Lord, we know not whither thou goest, and how can we know the way?” The disciples, though the Lord had been the center of their universe, and they had followed Christ these three years, still had no perfect knowledge of who He truly was. True, they knew Him to be the Son of God, but what did that fully mean in this physical realm in which they followed? Why must He die such an ignominious death on the cross? How could they follow Him thereafter seeing as He would no longer be with them in such a personal way?
Of course, the answer could not be fully comprehended until He had paid the last full measure of devotion for us in shedding His precious blood at Golgotha. And even still, His mighty power to rise from the tomb was unknown until the early morning of the first day of the week following His death and burial. So, what was the way to follow about which Philip inquires? The answer is given by our Lord in Scripture and reiterated here in today’s Collect: “O ALMIGHTY God, whom truly to know is everlasting life; Grant us perfectly to know thy Son Jesus Christ to be the way, the truth, and the life;” How do we truly know Jesus? Do not the devils themselves believe and tremble? “Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.” James 2:19 (KJV)
Yes, the devils and demons of Satan do, indeed, believe and tremble – but that belief does not result in any change in their nature as demons. They were damned from the moment they were cast down with their Master, the great Red Dragon of Revelations 12:3. A sound knowledge of the Lord will compel our love and commitment to Him and His Way. He is the Way, and knowing Him in a heart-to-heart relationship will result in works of righteousness unlike that of the devils who believe and ignore, and, unfortunately, some professing Christians as well. Even the works we consider righteous are but filthy rags without the component of believing faith: “But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?” James 2:20 (KJV)
How do we follow our crucified Lord? By being true to our profession as Christians; by following Him, not just along the dusty venues of desert and mountain, but also to the Tomb of self, and the resurrection to follow – for HE IS THE WAY! Sheep are social creatures – they congregate together just as the Church must do, but they do so BEHIND the Bishop and Captain of their souls (Jesus Christ). He is the Good Shepherd who knows the Way. We need not wonder where the Way leads just as the trusting sheep never challenge the shepherd concerning direction or destination. We simply follow Him in all His Ways and let the world suffer its own damnation.
This Collect was added to the Prayer Book by Archbishop Cranmer, but the last line was later added by Bishop John Cosin of Durham: “we may stedfastly walk in the way that leadeth to eternal life; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord.” ‘Steadfastly’ is a powerful word. Are we steadfast in following the Good Shepherd, or do we allow our focus to be distracted by the green grass of the diverging trail?
The Collects are a precious treasure of the Church of England as it was established under threat of fire and sword. It consolidates Bible truths to focus our attention on the day’s biblical texts and the sermon to follow. Such a focus is too often absent from other worship services which may lack reverence and dignity required before the Lord our God.