O God of unchangeable power and eternal light: Look favorably on your whole Church, that wonderful and sacred mystery; by the effectual working of your providence, carry out in tranquility the plan of salvation; let the whole world see and know that things which were cast down are being raised up, and things which had grown old are being made new, and that all things are being brought to their perfection by him through whom all things were made, your Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.BCP pages 280, 291, 515, 528 and 540
The great collect of renewal, one of the most beautiful and powerful Anglican prayers, appears more often in the Book of Common Prayer than any other. We hear it on Good Friday, at the Easter Vigil, and at the ordinations of bishops, priests and deacons. It proclaims the mighty power of God to transform weakness, brokenness and age into perfection—holy perfection.
Its frequent repetition supports the concept that this transformation and renewal is not something locked at a certain point in time but is continuous and ongoing. Indeed, each day God calls us to transformation and renewal. It is said that the great scholar and reformer, Martin Luther, ran from his bed to wash in the baptismal font of his church each morning as a sacramental act of continuous transformation and renewal in each of God’s children.
The Church uses many sacramental signs to remind us of our continuing call to renewal and transformation. The water in the baptismal font at the door of the church, the sprinkling (or aspurging) of all the people with the holy waters of baptism, and the sacramental cycles of the Church Year all remind us that we are ever beginning again; never complete in this world.
Another sacramental symbol of renewal and transformation is the butterfly. From the earliest days of Christianity, the butterfly was associated with the celebration of Easter. The symbolism is clear enough really. Jesus was born and lived among us (the caterpillar stage), he died and was buried (the chrysalis stage), and he rose in a new and transformed state at Easter (the butterfly stage).
The butterfly is not only symbolic of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, but also of our own. We too are born, will die, and are assured of resurrection to eternal life. The butterfly is a symbol of hope in Jesus’ everlasting promise of salvation. It is also a reminder that we are called to renew and transform ourselves; always seeking to more fully live into God’s call to us as sisters and brothers of Jesus Christ.
At this time of year, there are many symbols of renewal and transformation all around us. Trees that appeared dead spring forth with leaves and newness of life. Flower bulbs long buried under the snow and frozen ground astonish us with their sudden profusion of brilliant flowers. And before long, the butterflies will be adorning the trees, bushes and flowers as well.
In these Great Fifty Days of Easter, open yourselves to experience the power of God’s renewing and transforming Spirit. Seek out ways to continue to mature and flower as a beloved child of God. Let the healing power of the Risen Christ empower you to stretch and grow in newness of life.
As Paul writes to the Church in Rome, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2)
Alleluia! Christ is risen!