Locust Street Letters
By Frank Lawrence Vernon
Philadelphia: St. Mark's Church, Locust Street.
ST. MARK'S, PHILADELPHIA.
THE SECOND SUNDAY IN LENT, 1930.
MY DEAR PEOPLE:
Any person who habitually uses the Prayer Book Collects for private devotion will bear testimony to the fact that words and phrases work their way into personal prayers at times of special need. The Collects give one a prayer vocabulary. They educate one in the language of prayer. Not adults only, but children are susceptible to the Collects as examples of vocal prayer. Indeed we are all children in the practise of prayer.
We acquired our conversational English in our homes. Our vocabulary, our accent, our intonations are home products for the most part. Whatever the school may do, the home leaves the lasting impress. It is no less true of life in the household of faith. We learn our language in the family of God which is the Church. Old Doctor Lavender was a wise pastor. He taught his children to recite the Collects. They learned in the Collect Class how to pray. I do hope that people today are teaching their children to say the Collects.
We learn more than the language of prayer by using the Collects. We learn the doctrines and practises of the Christian Religion.
Take for example the Collect for today. Note that the petition is that we may be kept "both outwardly in our bodies and inwardly in our souls, that we may be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul."
The Catholic religion is mindful of both body and soul. It does not disregard the body. It sanctifies the body as the instrument with which the soul works. It teaches that the flesh must be subdued to the spirit, in order that the body may be the servant of the soul. The body has its place and share in the spiritual life. The body shares in the life of grace. This is why inward and spiritual grace is given under outward and visible signs. The body has its share in the sacramental life.
The water of Baptism is applied to the body.
The laying of hands is applied to the body in Confirmation.
The body is used in the confession of sin, and absolution is received through the body, in Penance.
The Blessed Sacrament is received by the body, that, with the soul, it may be preserved unto everlasting life.
The body is anointed with oil in the Sacrament of Unction.
The body is ministered to from the beginning to the end. God has given us our bodies and in our bodies we are working out our salvation with fear and trembling, yet in sure confidence that the grace given us is sufficient for our salvation.
The body has its share with the soul in worship. The externals of worship are not for aesthetic purposes. They have aesthetic value. But their purpose is to give the body a share in worship. Every bodily sense is used as an avenue of approach. Every art is used as a handmaid of religion. Architecture, sculpture, painting, music—these all offer their first fruits, in order that the body may have freedom to worship.
The body has its share in the work of prayer. So it is taught the postures and trained in the gestures of prayer.
All the while the body is disciplined that it may be submissive to the motions of the spirit.
Then when the great day comes, it will rise completely spiritualized. We shall adore and serve God forever in Heaven, "both outwardly in our bodies and inwardly in our souls.”
Affectionately in Our Lord,