Project Canterbury

Locust Street Letters

By Frank Lawrence Vernon

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




Yesterday was the Feast of the Purification of Saint Mary the Virgin. We have a notable Chapel in Saint Mark’s dedicated to Saint Mary the Virgin. The traditional name for such a Chapel is Lady Chapel. So our Chapel is known as the Lady Chapel. We use it devotionally daily. Many visitors are attracted by the beauty of this Chapel and come desiring to see it as a work of art. It is that. But it is very much more. It is a work of religious art. One can appreciate religious art more discerningly, if one knows something of the religion of which it is the expression.

No better guide book for a visit to the Lady Chapel can be found than the Book of Common Prayer. Let us each take a Prayer Book and go in together.

This Chapel is called a Lady Chapel. Who is the Lady? The Blessed Virgin Mary. What does the Prayer Book say about the Blessed Virgin Mary? On page 7 we read “When thou tookest upon thee to deliver man: thou didst humble thyself to be born of a Virgin.” On page 22 we read “All generations shall call me blessed.” On page 11 we read “Jesus Christ his only Son Our Lord: Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, Born of the Virgin Mary.” On page 58 we find a prayer which contains the statement that Almighty God hast given His only-begotten Son to take our nature upon him, and to be born of a pure virgin. On page 61 we read that “She brought forth her firstborn son.” On page 67 we read that an angel said “That which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.” On page 198 we read that the angel Gabriel was sent to a virgin, “and the virgin’s name was Mary.” And the angel said, “Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.” The angel, we read, also said to Mary, “The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee.” On page 225 we read that Our Lord “was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary.” On page 233 we read that Our Lord, “by the operation of the Holy Ghost, was made very man, of the substance of the Virgin Mary his mother.”

This gives one a great deal to think about. It gives many a great deal to pray about. And it explains why Christians refer to the Blessed Virgin Mary as Our Lady. And it explains why so many of our churches contain a Lady Chapel. Some times these Chapels are very richly fashioned. Some times they are very simple. However that may be, we must always think more of the Lady than we do of the Chapel. We miss the whole point if we do not think of the Lady before we look at the Chapel. The Lady Chapel is devoted to the honor of Our Lady, to help us to devoutly honor her.

Knowing what we do about her from what we “have read in the Bible and the Prayer Book, it is not difficult to understand why we should honor her. All generations shall call her blessed, for He that is mighty hath magnified hex.

We worship the Holy One who magnified her. We honor above all creatures her whom He magnified. Every visit to the Lady Chapel should be a visit to Our Lady.

Affectionately in Our Lord,

Project Canterbury