Project Canterbury

Locust Street Letters

By Frank Lawrence Vernon

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




The Good Friday devotions carry us on to the climax. The austere observances in the early morning at the stripped Altars, where the very emblem of redemption is veiled with black. The tense waiting of the hours before noon, with all the memories of the events recorded in the Passion Gospels. And then the first stroke of the clock at twelve, which recalls the first stroke of the hammer which drove the nail that first pierced the Sacred Body. The Watch through the Three Hours. The Seven Words. The Death. The Descent from the Cross. The Entombment. The Night. No one can either understand or endure all this without at least some share in the Mind of Christ.

The Holy Saturday with its stillness and its expectations. The cleansing absolutions. The first rays of joy on the Altars. The blessing of the fire. The first Alleluia. All this, too, would be beyond us without the Mind of Christ.

The Holy Week ceremonies are devotional devices whereby the Passion is dramatized to the end that we may sense and share the Mind of Christ. The intention of our participation in the Holy Week solemnities is that we may arm ourselves with His mind.

It is this state of being armed with the Mind of Christ which will be the permanent possession of our experiences of commemorating the Passion. Each year carries us into mysteries of human suffering, which must remain dark and forbidding unless and until they are illumined by the light of the Mind of Christ. Without that light, pain is a problem and life is a riddle. The question presses for an answer. It cannot be silenced. It may be submerged for a while. Then something happens which strikes home. We must know why. And no one can tell us. Science can explain the mechanics of the catastrophe. Philosophy can explain why it cannot explain. Pleasure fails as an anodyne. Human sympathy is powerless in its well-intentioned efforts to alleviate. We look for some one to pity and there is no man. Neither find we any to comfort. The dark waters come in even to our souls. Clouds and thick darkness cover us.

If we have been, if only in that moment we may be suddenly and unexpectedly armed with the Mind of Christ, the light will dawn. In the Mind of Christ we shall learn the secret. We shall discover the meaning of sacrifice. We shall learn that sacrifice is not passive surrender to the inevitable; that sacrifice is the strong, victorious energy which lays hold upon pain and lifts it up and makes of it a voluntary oblation. In that oblation we shall rise above it. The Cross will be our sign of triumph.

Affectionately in Our Lord,

Project Canterbury