Locust Street Letters
By Frank Lawrence Vernon
Philadelphia: St. Mark's Church, Locust Street.
ST. MARK'S, PHILADELPHIA.
THE SECOND SUNDAY AFTER THE EPIPHANY, 1929.
MY DEAR PEOPLE:
The miracle recorded in today’s Gospel reveals Our Lord as the Master of matter as well as of spirit.
It teaches us that our bodily life as well as our spiritual life is to be brought under subjection to Our Lord, in order that He may not destroy it, but fulfill it.
In the Eucharistic Mysteries we see both these aspects of the miracle.
“For in the night in which He was betrayed, He took bread: and when He had given thanks, He brake it, and gave it to His disciples, saying, Take, eat, this is my Body, which is given for you; Do this in remembrance of me. Likewise, after supper, He took the Cup: and when He had given thanks, He gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of this; for this is my Blood of the New Testament, which is shed for you, and for many, for the remission of sins; Do this, as oft as ye shall drink it, in remembrance of me.”
In the prayer of humble access we pray, “Grant us therefore, gracious Lord, so to eat the flesh of thy dear Son Jesus Christ, and to drink his Blood, that our sinful bodies may be made clean by His Body, and our souls washed through His most precious Blood, and that we may evermore dwell in Him, and He in us.”
When we receive the Blessed Sacrament, the Priest says “The Body of Our Lord Jesus Christ, which was given for thee, preserve thy body and soul unto everlasting life.” “The Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ, which was shed for thee, preserve thy body and soul unto everlasting life.”
When we return thanks for Holy Communion, we say “Almighty and everliving God, we most heartily thank Thee, for that Thou dost vouchsafe to feed us who have received these holy mysteries, with the spiritual food of the most precious Body and Blood of thy Son our Saviour Jesus Christ.”
We are always grateful for having the Liturgy in the vernacular. It makes it possible for the newly instructed to understand what it means. And life long participation in the Liturgy serves to saturate one’s devotional life with the age long Eucharistic teaching of the Catholic Church. If the words of our own language mean anything, and if these words quoted from the Prayer Book are not deliberately subjected to wilful misreading and violent misinterpretation, they are satisfactorily plain to the practising Christian, who, taking the Anglican Communion at its word, approaches our Altars, seeking the most holy Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
First of all then, in the Eucharistic Mysteries, Our Lord changes the bread and wine so that they become His Body and Blood.
“Christ was the Word that spake it;
He took the bread and brake it;
And what the Word did make it;
That I believe and take it.”
Second, the communicants present to the Lord their selves, their souls and bodies to be a reasonable, holy, and living sacrifice, humbly beseeching Him, that they may be filled with His grace and heavenly benediction, and made one body with Him, that He may dwell in them and they in Him.
The effect of Communion upon the Christian is the changing of the water of the natural into the wine of the supernatural. The elemental energies are transmuted at their source. They are not destroyed but fulfilled. The Christian is rescued from being conformed to this world, and becomes transformed by the renewing of his mind.
Affectionately in Our Lord,