Project Canterbury

Locust Street Letters

By Frank Lawrence Vernon

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




Passiontide is here. The violet veils hang like mists about the Cross and hide from view the things that are made for beauty and for glory. The mourning is for all the world to see. There is no concealment. We preach Christ crucified. We glory in the Cross.

For the Cross is the Altar of Redemption. Our Lord is both Priest and Victim. Upon that Altar He offered Himself, and by that offering He obtained eternal redemption for us. By His spotless offering, He purges our consciences from dead works to serve the living God.

Passion Week prepares us for Holy Week. The lessons of the Passion are not new to Christians. Passiontide comes once a year. And each year Christians observe its solemnities. For non-Christians the season has no significance. The Christian Festivals attract the world in a superficial way. It suits the world’s convenience to borrow the occasions of Christmas and Easter for social and commercial purposes. But Passiontide has not much in it to attract. It brings a message far too sombre. The Church serves the world well by making Passiontide sombre. It serves it better by the piercing crescendo in the note of stark pain which will reach its culmination in Holy Week. “Is it nothing to you, all ye that pass by,” Our Lord cries. “Behold and see if there is any suffering like unto my suffering.” “All this suffering,” the Church cries, “is the price of sin.” The world scoffs. To this scoffing the Church gives answer. This is the answer. Sin costs suffering. It is an unchanging law of cause and effect. It is inexorable. It is inevitable. It is inescapable. The Church speaks sternly, “Sin if you will, then suffer you must.” Then in the next breath she cries, “Your suffering will be sterile until you discover the Cross. The Cross will render your suffering redemptive. Here is your choice. Suffer without the Cross and you are lost. Suffer with the Cross and you are saved. Your choice is not, to suffer or not to suffer. That lies beyond your power to control or prevent. Your choice is the Cross or not the Cross. Which do you choose?”

The world without the Cross is a place of nameless horrors. The books which make an adventure of sin rarely contain the last chapter. The plays which make an entertainment of sin rarely put on the last act. That last chapter and that last act are more than the world dares to consider or view.

If the Church did not come to the rescue, if the Church did not impressively mark the Way of Sorrows in Passion Week and lead the procession along that Sacred Way in Holy Week, the world would go mad.

With all the solemnities of Passion Week there is a persistent promise of hope. The Man of Sorrows is the High Priest of good things to come. The Way of Sorrows is the Way of Glory. It leads through pain to peace.

The pilgrim penitents who pass along that way are a friendly company. He who will join them may.

The pilgrim penitents are a courageous company. For they perceive that nothing happens without mystery. And they know that all things work together for good to them that love God.

The penitent pilgrims are a victorious company, because they unite the sorrows of the world with the wonders of the Cross, and by His Passion they are redeemed.

Affectionately in Our Lord,

Project Canterbury