Locust Street Letters
By Frank Lawrence Vernon
Philadelphia: St. Mark's Church, Locust Street.
ST. MARK'S, PHILADELPHIA.
THE SUNDAY AFTER CHRISTMAS, 1928.
MY DEAR PEOPLE:
The Church gives thanks for the Nativity of Our Lord and once more she sets forth, in order, a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among Christians, as delivered by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses. The Church gives to the faithful the only authentic life of Our Lord.
This needs to be remembered. The unwary need to be warned against the so-called histories of Our Lord's life, which are constantly appearing in book shops and in magazines. There is no authoritative history of Our Lord other than that, which is contained in the Gospels and interpreted by the Church. There are, needless to say, devotional studies of the life, approved by the Church. On the other hand there is a plague of books which bear no mark of devotion, study or approval. If such books have come to you as Christmas presents from well-meaning friends, you will be prudent, if, before reading them, you seek the counsel of some learned theologian who may fairly be reckoned as a competent authority in such matters.
The Church will lead us in the very footsteps of Our Lord's most holy life. In her Scriptures, her Creed, her Liturgy and her devotional practises, she will impart the instruction, instill the principles and inculcate the devotion, which will make us orthodox Christians. In the bright beams of the light which illumines her, we may walk in the light of truth. Christians have neither use nor time nor taste for semi-Christian, non-Christian nor anti-Christian narratives of their Lord.
Our knowledge of Our Lord is a personal knowledge of a Person. It is not a mere matter of knowing about Him. It is a matter of knowing Him. This knowledge is only possible by personal contact. The Church provides this contact in Holy Communion. The Holy Communion is the centre of the Christian life. The Altar is the meeting place with Our Lord. In the Eucharistic Mysteries, the Christian sees the unfolding of Our Lord's life. But he does more than this. He participates in that life. The Christian is at Bethlehem in the Christmas Communion. As he receives Communion frequently and constantly throughout the Christian year, he lives with Our Lord and shares His life in Nazareth and Jerusalem. He is with Our Lord in Gethsemane. He is made a partaker of His merits and death on Calvary. He shares the triumph of His Resurrection, the glory of His Ascension, and of His High Priestly intercession in Heaven.
In the Eucharistic Mysteries the Christian lives in Our Lord, and Our Lord lives in him. The Christian's body and soul become a reasonable, holy and living sacrifice. The love of Christ constrains him. Sacrifice becomes his rule of life. Perfect charity is the standard of his perfection.
He is engaged in a war on two sectors. It is a defensive war on one sector, where he is fighting the forces of the world, the flesh and the devil. It is an offensive war on the other, where by positive acts of sacrifice and service, he is seeking an advance in charity.
So he becomes an intimate disciple. He comes into the knowledge of His Master which only a disciple can acquire. He knows the life of His Lord, because he is an eyewitness of that life. In Sacraments, and prayer and in the common round of daily life, the anointing which he has received abides in him, and he needs not that any man should teach him.
Affectionately in Our Lord,