Yesterday's collect, during vespers last night, struck me as a bit curious:
God of love, bring us back to you.
Send your Spirit to make us strong in faith and active in good works.
Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.
It's the first phrase that raises the question: what does it mean for God to 'bring us back' to Himself? I wouldn't dispute that we are separated from Him, in more than one way, but the phrase implies a previous state of union to which we are being recalled.
a) The last time we were personally in a state of grace?
b) The sacramental moment when we were washed free of sin in baptism?
c) The state of original justice in Paradise (as represented by our first parents)?
Other possibilities might be discerned. All three of these merely raise further questions.
If (a) or (b), it strikes me as somewhat individualistic, as well as cases of 'aiming low'. Is our only prayer to simply recover that transient state of grace once again, only to lose it a moment later? Even our baptismal purity did not imply impeccability: if regained, it would simply and inevitably be lost once again. Ought we to pray for something greater, i.e. the possession of a permament state of union which cannot be lost? But this permanent state of grace is certainly something we never possessed, otherwise we would still be in it. Hence, it is not something to which we can be called 'back'.
If (c), the collective and corporate aspect of Lenten penitence is maintained, but other theological concerns arise. The state of original justice is obviously something which could never be attained in this earthly life. But, should we attain the object of our eternal hope, it would certainly be something far greater than that original state, if the famed felix culpa means anything. The beatific vision constitutes a permanent possession of happiness which Adam never possessed. So to what state, I wonder, are here petitioning God to be recalled into?