Project Canterbury

Locust Street Letters

By Frank Lawrence Vernon

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




The devotional life of the Christian Year has led us on and up to the Mystery of the Holy Trinity. Each of the seasons from Advent on has brought its teaching and special devotions. The familiar language of Creed, Collects, Prefaces, Sanctus, Gloria in Excelsis and Gloria Patri has given us the vocabulary of Christian devotion. The devout observance of the Christian Year is the most effective approach to the Knowledge of God. The teaching informs the mind; the discipline trains the will; the devotion enkindles the heart. By Sacrament, meditation and prayer the whole being is led into the knowledge and love of God. It is the knowledge of love. Personal knowledge is just that. It cannot be less. It could not be more. Personal knowledge can only be gained by personal contact. We can only really know a person by living with that person. We can only know God by living with God. This is why God came to live with us. He came that we might know Him. He was made flesh and dwelt among us that we might know Him, the only true God. He came to teach us that we love Him by keeping His Commandments. It is the first and great Commandment that we love God with all the heart, and with all the soul, and with all the mind. Out of this love grows the knowledge. There is no indirect approach. There is no short cut.

But the direct approach is the easiest approach. The way of love is the shortest way. Our deepest needs drive us to it. We need the Father who created us. We need the Son who redeemed us. We need the Holy Ghost who sanctifies us. It is in some deep experience of the Providence of the Father, that we cry “only God could have done this.” It is in some deep experience of redemption by the Son, that we cry, “only God could have done this.” It is in some deep experience of the leading of the Holy Ghost, that we cry, “only God could have done this.” In each of these experiences we recognize the Father as God, and the Son as God, and the Holy Ghost as God. There is no confounding the Persons, nor dividing the Substance. The Father is God. The Son is God. The Holy Ghost is God. And yet they are not three Gods, but One God. Here on earth, in the temptations which are involved in our period of probation, we may work our way up into a knowledge which even the Angels cannot have. They know Him in bliss. We know Him in bitterness. They know Him in the light. We know Him in the dark. There is a passionate, piercing knowledge which is all our own. And because it is all our own, we may be content with it.

“Blessed are the pure in heart,” said Our Lord, “for they shall see God.” There must be nothing in our hearts that is alien to God. There must be no foreign substance lodged in the delicate organism of the soul to impair or impede its functioning. There must be no lurking poison to deaden the spiritual sensibilities or to dull the powers of spiritual perception. Cleansing must always precede illumination. And the expulsive force of charity is the supreme cleansing energy. Charity purges out base desire. Charity quickens the spiritual sensibilities and clarifies the spiritual vision. The Beatific Vision is the reward that awaits those who love God.

Affectionately in Our Lord,

Project Canterbury