Project Canterbury

Locust Street Letters

By Frank Lawrence Vernon

Philadelphia: St. Mark's Church, Locust Street.




The Church speaks to us today of the Holy Scriptures, written for our learning and comfort and hope, in words that shall not pass away.

The Church's ministry of the word is the means which the God of hope uses to fill the faithful with all joy and peace in believing. The faithful find it all. It sometimes seems strange that it is possible for the god of this world to blind the minds of men. Sometimes it seems as though the plain truths of God are impenetrably hidden from plain men who might so easily and so willingly understand.

The ministry of preaching is much emphasized today. But what does it accomplish? The Monday reports of the Sunday sermons, as they appear in the newspapers convey the impression of a confusion of tongues. It may be a confusion of reportorial minds. But in either case one gathers the impression of futility. Much of quiet, effective work, no doubt, is being done. But one hears little of it. The normal has no news value. I do not forget that it pleases God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. But the point which presses upon my mind, at the moment is, that there is a more insistent and convincing means of conveying the contents of the Scriptures to the world.

The Liturgy and the Offices and the seasonal devotions of the Church are far, far more arresting and impressive and illuminating than sermons. It is a fact within observation and without dispute, that more people are won and taught by the Liturgy than by sermons. This is true all over the world. Wherever you find a cathedral, a church or a chapel in which the priests make it their chief concern to serve God unremittingly at the Altar and in Choir, you will find a people rooted and grounded in faith. You will see, and you will see at its best, the Church's ministry of the word.

The reason is not hard to see. At the Altar, in Choir, at the Lectern, it is the Church's voice that you hear. The priest speaks the words of the Church and not his own. His individuality is happily lost. He is caught up into and he is merged with the Church.

The Altar is at the Centre. The mystery there is the mystery of Calvary. The Church there shows forth the Lord's death till He comes. From the preparation at the foot of the Altar and on through Introit. Kyrie, Collect, Epistle, Gospel, Creed, Sanctus, Benedictus, Consecration, Agnus, Communion, Gloria, Post Communion, Blessing and last Gospel, you will find redemption in action from Bethlehem to Heaven.

In the Offices you will hear in Psalms and Lessons, the Bible from beginning to end. And this, mark you, on every day throughout the year.

In the Seasonal Devotions, you will find the Sacred Drama which literally makes every year a year of Our Lord.

It is impossible to follow the Church from Advent to Advent without a growing knowledge of the holy Word.

Affectionately in Our Lord,

Project Canterbury