Locust Street Letters
By Frank Lawrence Vernon
Philadelphia: St. Mark's Church, Locust Street.
ST. MARK'S, PHILADELPHIA.
THE TWENTY-SECOND SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY, 1928.
MY DEAR PEOPLE:
"Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more: death hath no more dominion over Him.
For in that He died, He died unto sin once: but in that He liveth, He liveth unto God.
Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin: but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord."
Here is the simplest explanation of the Christian practice of invoking Saints and praying for the dead. Prayer is the language of life in God. Our Lord Jesus Christ has restored unto us everlasting life.
Death cannot destroy the power to pray.
The doctrine of the Communion of Saints is an article in the Creed. It cannot be taken out of the Creed. It cannot be used apart from the Creed. It is inseparable from the parts of the Creed that precede and follow it.
The Communion of Saints is one of the realities of the Christian Life. It is an experience which is bound up with other experiences. It is an every day affair in the Kingdom of God. Back of it lies the union of each soul with God and the unity of all souls in union with God.
The Font is the place of the beginning of the life which is the substance of the union. The Altar is the place of fulfillment. The Baptized person is a member of Christ, a child of God, and an inheritor of. the Kingdom of Heaven. He has become one of the family of God.
At the Altar Christians are made one body with Christ, that He may dwell in them, and they in Him.
In Holy Communion Christians are established in an holy fellowship with Christians in the Church throughout the world, and with Angels and Archangels and all the Company of Heaven. It is the indwelling Christ who makes Christians one, in this world and in the next, in time and in eternity.
God the Holy Ghost inspires and lightens with Celestial fire. He makes intercession for us and he moves the energy of intercession in us. He causes us to know and to desire and to pray. He creates the cycle of prayer. The prayer of the Great High Priest, Our Lord Jesus Christ, becomes the common possession of the members of His Body. The Blessed Virgin Mary prays. The Saints pray. The holy souls pray. We who are on earth pray. And the prayer is one. The unity is flawless.
The Holy Ghost teaches us how to pray and what to pray. He is always widening the range of our prayer. As we grow in the practice of prayer, we learn to adventure out beyond the narrow bounds of local environment. We reach out to the ends of the world and up to the heights of Heaven. We learn to sense the needs of those whom we have never seen, in this world and the next. So our list of the living and the dead lengthens.
And as we pray, our needs in turn are sensed by the Saints in Heaven. And one by one our names are added to the prayer lists of the Saints. And they pray for us. And we come to be conscious of their prayers, and they conscious of our desire for their prayers.
This is why Christians pray for the dead and invoke the Saints.
Affectionately in Our Lord,