The Ceremony attending the Collect in the Divine Service
Ongoing Instructions and explanations of the Divine Service
The Collect is the first general prayer offered in the Divine Service. It comes from the Latin collēcta, and signifies that the people gathered or collected together for worship (from colligō, "to gather") now also, as it were, gather their prayers and thoughts into one. So it is a moment of high ceremony. It can be observed in our video (from the 8:35 to 9:35 minute markers).
The celebrant, who had been facing the altar for the Gloria in Excelsis, now turns toward the congregation by his right. The reason he turns by his right is to acknowledge his deacon standing at his right, or, as is usually the case in our circles, to acknowledge the ‘place’ of the deacon when no deacon is actually present. For the Salutation, the celebrant parts his hands while intoning or saying, “The Lord be with you.” He does not bow toward the people while he does this, as it is essentially a prayer that the Lord Jesus would be on the hearts and in the minds of the collected faithful as their prayers and thoughts are here merged into this Collect. They respond, “and with thy Spirit,” which is also a prayer, specifically that the Holy Spirit would direct the celebrant here as he offers the prayer for all of them. The recent adaptation and mis-translation of the Latin et cum Spiritu tuo does not capture this important detail. While the congregants respond, they may also part their hands as a gesture that indicates that they are praying here for the celebrant.
The celebrant then turns back toward the altar, this time by his left, again subtly acknowledging the place of the deacon. Now, facing the altar, he parts his hands again for the chanting or saying of the Collect. The older rubric directs that the celebrant’s hands be parted with palms toward each other, as if to frame the missal stand, although it is also common to see the parted hands with palms toward the altar (as is the case in our video).
It is preferable to chant the Collect, since singing generally is a more beautiful sound than speaking, and also because this provides a safeguard against over-emphasis or dramatization of the words. Even in a spoken mass, it is helpful to remember this principle.
There are some variations in the rubrics. Piepkorn indicates that at the end of the Gloria in Excelsis the deacon and subdeacon form a line behind the celebrant, and after the salutation they move to the Epistle corner, still in line, for the Collect. This corresponds to the old practice of reading the Collect from the Epistle corner rather than the center. The Epistle side of the chancel subtly designates the gathered congregation, while the Gospel side subtly designates the world toward which the Gospel itself is directed.
Variations in the rubrics, however, always stay within the general rule that all things should be done reverently. It is the house of God and the gate of heaven. Christ is present with his heavenly mercy; by reverently attending, we acknowledge that his holy Word and Sacrament are his eternal and precious gifts to us.