In 1904, the acute Anglican lay liturgist J Wickham Legg wrote about "new prayers ... deficient in grammar and rhythm, and balance, and often it must be owned even in a sense of humour. The art of writing collects, it is time to impress upon every one, is a lost art."
In 1932, K D Mackenzie wrote (Liturgy and Worship) about the Orationes Communes proposed in the abortive 1928 Prayer Book: "The Collects all seem to be modern, and vary very much in character. That of a Bishop is the best, possessing all the qualities of a good Collect. That of a Matron is of almost incredible banality, and is probably the worst which has ever been admitted to an Anglican rite."
Divertingly, that Collect for a Bishop had been borrowed by 1928 from the neo-Gallican Paris Missal!
Modern Anglican compositions are always middle-class and verbose and read like something from a DPhil thesis by a not-very-clever student, designed to show how full of ideas the writer is and to cram in as many of his brilliant apercus as possible.
In the modern Latin Catholic Church, things are not as bad as in the C of E, because the post-Conciliar virtuosi of the 1960s stuck more with ancient models (although they did most lamentably mess around with many of them). The nastiest Catholic collects are those subsequently composed in English for our local English Saints. Presumably out of Ecumenical fellow-feeling, these show all the worst horrors of Anglican compositions. Naturally, the Sarum Collects which had previously been used in the Supplementa pro dioecesibus Angliae were regarded as far too simplistic for the sophisticated 1970s.
If you possess a Collins Daily Missal, and Common Worship, and 1928, you can verify ... or falsify? ... my assertions for yourselves.
Proposed BCP 1928, Collect of a Matron:
O God, who hast built up thy Church through the divers gifts and graces of thy saints: We give thee humble thanks for the example of holy women, and especially this day for thy servant N.; and we beseech thee to maintain among us the shelter of a mother's love and the protection of a mother's prayer, in the grace of thy Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Oh dear. It begins well enough, though "divers" would be better omitted as otiose. But the longwinded giving of thanks could with advantage be shortened, not to mention the strange use of servant where handmaid would be preferable, and that latter part prating about a mother's love and prayer is both cringeworthy and maudlin, though it does smuggle into the Proposed Book a petition for the intercession of a saint.
The Collect in the 1928 Proposed BCP for the Nativity and Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary is also most clumsy; it appears to begin as a free rendering of the ancient Marian collect Supplicationem servorum tuorum Deus miserator exaudi, but then shies away from daring to say "Virgin Mother of God", coyly substituting "Mother of the Lord" as any damn Arian might, and then concludes, not by imploring "that at her intercession we may be delivered by thee from threatening dangers" (as does the original), but by drifting into clumsy pointlessness, for what on earth is meant by "we may indeed be made nigh unto [thy dear Son]", when as Christians that is precisely what we are since baptism?
Behold the stupid mess made of this prayer:
O Merciful God, hear the prayers of thy servants who commemorate the (Nativity/Conception) of the Mother of the Lord: and grant that by the incarnation of thy dear Son we may indeed be made nigh unto him; who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, one God, world without end. Amen.
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