Locust Street Letters
By Frank Lawrence Vernon
Philadelphia: St. Mark's Church, Locust Street.
ST. MARK'S, PHILADELPHIA.
THE FOURTH SUNDAY IN ADVENT, 1931.
MY DEAR PEOPLE:
“That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth and height! and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.” This is Saint Paul’s prayer for us all. If we grasp its significance and its scope we shall be prepared for the thing which came to pass in Bethlehem. And we shall understand that the thing which came to pass in Bethlehem will come to pass in our hearts in our Christmas Communions. In that happy moment when we receive the Body of Our Lord, we shall be admonished to feed on Him in our hearts by faith with thanksgiving. The joyful mystery which awaits us is the coming of the Lord to dwell in our hearts.
The Communicant to be devout needs only to be simple and humble and penitent. If he lacks contrition let him ask God and God will give it. The fruits of contrition will follow, confession, satisfaction and amendment. The heart will be only a stable at best. But it can be a clean stable. The manger can be fresh and fragrant. That much at least we can arrange for. Our Lord does not demand a palace or even an inn. He knows we have neither. But He will come to the stable. He will be content with the best that we have. The root and the ground of the matter is the love of God. God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son. This is the fact and this is the wonder.
There are so many who lose sight of the fact and miss the wonder, through sheer pressure of domestic and social and commercial circumstances, each right enough and inescapable, but out of place if it dims the significance of the great festival of the Nativity of Our Lord. Sometimes I wonder which is the worse, the old Puritan’s studied non-observance of Christmas, or the modern pagan’s curiously modern variant of the Yuletide of our heathen forefathers. Yuletide had at least a religious significance to the old heathen. To the modern heathen the word is merely commercial journalese. I would not write unkindly of them. I do not forget the virtues of the Puritan. I respect the old pagan. I love the modern pagan enough to wish that he may get and keep Christmas. The greens and the lights and the presents and the parties are all delightfully appropriate. The laughter of little children and everything that makes “The Night Before Christmas” a classic, Santa Claus, the stockings and the tree. Yes, we want to make the most and the best of all that, especially the children. They lead us back to the reality of the day. They lead us to the Child whose day it is. The Child who is God Incarnate. The Child who comes to us in the Eucharistic Mysteries. Christmas is Christ’s Mass. This is the centre and the soul of the day.
The Christmas Communion makes our Christmas.
We have five days left to prepare our souls. Five days of penitence, and expectation.
Then will come Christmas Eve. The day and the night before Communion. We should be absolved and in a state of grace. Nothing must be allowed to distract our minds or interfere with our plans for the chief business of Christmas Day, which is to receive Holy Communion.
Affectionately in Our Lord,