Locust Street Letters
By Frank Lawrence Vernon
Philadelphia: St. Mark's Church, Locust Street.
ST. MARK'S, PHILADELPHIA.
THE SUNDAY AFTER CHRISTMAS, 1929.
MY DEAR PEOPLE:
Here is the prophecy. “Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.”
Here is the fulfilment. “The angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth. To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the Virgin’s name was Mary. And the angel came in unto her, and said, `Hail thou that art highly favored, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women. Behold thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shall call his name Jesus.’ And Mary said, `Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.’ And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger. And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.”
Here is the Gift. Emmanuel, God with us. Here is the foundation of the Christian Religion. Here is the explanation of everything. This explains the Church and the Sacraments and the Christian and his prayers and his worship and his standards of living and his rule of life. There is no use in looking for a short cut. There is no use in resorting to plausible minimizing or in having recourse to pleasing devotional practises if the roots lie only at the surface. The centre of the Christian Religion is Our Lord Jesus Christ who is truly God, perfectly Man, one Person, in whom are two distinct natures, God and Man.
The driving energy, the consuming fire, the absorbing passion of Catholic devotion is personal love for a personal Lord. It is because of Him, it is for Him that we love Church and Sacraments and worship and obedience to His counsels and precepts.
The Catholic Religion all becomes instantly so simple, once we have grasped this fact. And it becomes so obviously sane and wholesome and genuine. The failure to grasp it brings disaster. It brings a caricature of Catholicism.
The dogmas of the Church are beyond doubt, dispute and discussion, because the Head of the Church is Our Lord Jesus Christ whose words are unalterably and eternally true, by whom Truth came.
The Sacraments of the Church are the channels of Divine Grace, because they are ordained by Our Lord Jesus Christ by whom Grace came. His priests baptize and absolve and sacrifice and bless because they are His priests, sent by Him to do this very thing.
The Christian is a Christian because Christ dwells in him and lives in him and through him and for him.
The worship of the Catholic Church claims for its use the first fruits of the arts and the materials for the arts, because that worship is offered to Our Lord Jesus Christ, who with the Father and the Holy Ghost is One God.
The Catholic Church does speak with authority. She speaks with magnificently imperious finality. And she gives the peace of certitude to her children.
The Catholic Church does act with power. She forgives sins because she has the power to do it. And she gives her children the peace of absolution.
The Catholic Church does offer worship with regal splendor. Because her Sanctuary is the throne room of the King of Kings.
But to understand her, one must begin at the beginning. And Our Lord is the beginning. And he is the ending. The First and the Last.
Affectionately in Our Lord,