Locust Street Letters
By Frank Lawrence Vernon
Philadelphia: St. Mark's Church, Locust Street.
ST. MARK'S, PHILADELPHIA.
THE FIRST SUNDAY AFTER THE EPIPHANY, 1934.
MY DEAR PEOPLE:
On this Sunday in the Octave of the Epiphany we continue to give thanks, "Through Jesus Christ our Lord; who, in substance of our mortal flesh, manifested forth His glory; that He might bring us out of darkness into His own glorious light." With the Three Wise Men we offer to the Holy Child our adoration and our offerings. We present the gold of consecration, the frankincense of devotion, the myrrh of mortification.
In order that we may show forth God's praise, not only with our lips, but in our lives, by giving up ourselves to His service, and by walking before Him in holiness and righteousness all our days, we pray, in the Collect for today, that we "may both perceive and know what things we ought to do, and also may have grace and power faithfully to fulfil the same." The obvious lesson of the day is, that having -given thanks for the light, we must remember our responsibility for walking in that light. The gift is God's. The responsibility is ours.
Walking means measured, constant progress. God does not expect us to perform prodigies of speed, but He does expect constancy. The Oxford Dictionary defines constancy as meaning, "firmness, endurance, faithfulness, unchangingness." So I offer you these words as key words for meditation for the Epiphany Season. The friends to whom I write these letters, and who receive them so kindly, are instructed Christians, who are accustomed to follow the liturgical life of the Church. The seasonal devotions bring year after year the light of the true fight which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.
The words of Scripture, Creed and Liturgy acquire for us deeper significance as we firmly, enduringly, faithfully, unchangingly persevere in the practise of the precepts of the Christian life. The very vicissitudes, from which none of us are exempt, only serve to deepen penitence, to intensify the prayer life, to increase moral earnestness, and so to bring us consciously closer to God. The life of Christ is. God's school of instruction. We gain our instruction in the spiritual life by living in the light that we have, and by following that light, day by day, firmly, "enduringly, faithfully and unchangingly. There is no short cut. We must begin at the Manger. We must firmly perform the common duties. We must enduringly undergo the temptations. We must faithfully walk worthy of the vocation wherewith we are called. And when at the end the way of the Cross lies before us, we must go to the top of the hill unchangingly. We cannot ask when and why. We only ask how.
So we pray that we may both perceive and know what things we ought to do. The only way to do is to do each thing simply and as it comes. We must leave the past with Our Saviour. We must leave the present with the Holy Ghost. We must leave the future with our Father whose providence will never fail. We must leave everything to the Holy and Undivided Trinity. And the peace of God which passeth all understanding shall keep our hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
The power of perception by which we know what things we ought to do must be educated before it can function accurately and dependably. It must be developed by constant exercise. In this exercise the succession of small decisions make the great decisions possible. The missing of a single right reaction will throw the mechanism out of gear. The minor and hidden infidelities lay the train for the major infidelity which occasions the complete spiritual and moral collapse. Everything depends upon the faithful fulfilment of the seemingly unimportant and trivial demands made upon us. The Collect for today is a Collect for every day. I would not risk a day without it.
Affectionately in Our Lord,