Project Canterbury

Locust Street Letters

By Frank Lawrence Vernon

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




The Epistle for the day gives the subject for meditation. A daily reading will keep it in our minds for the week. Passion week prepares us for Holy Week. We might read the entire Epistle to the Hebrews. There are only thirteen chapters. One chapter today and two each day would complete the reading before Palm Sunday. The result would be a deepened personal apprehension of the significance of the events of Holy Week.

Good Friday is our day of Atonement. It is the day upon which Our Saviour shed His Blood for us and offered Himself without spot to God, to purge our conscience from dead works to serve the living God. We shall be contemplating our Redeemer as He suffers death upon the Cross, and there, by the one oblation of Himself makes a full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, oblation and satisfaction for the sins of the whole world. It is vitally necessary that we should come to the Cross with the right understanding that the Holy Spirit makes possible for each of us. Remembrance of sins, sincerity of repentance, consciousness of helplessness, trust in the Crucified Advocate, are the requirements for following Our Lord in His Passion. These requirements are not only possible of attainment, they are inescapable. They are so insistent that they can only be disregarded by suicidal defiance. It is so easy to come to the Cross. It is so desolating to pass by. And pass where? Into nothing. Stark, terrifying nothing. On Passion Sunday the world is given the choice. Will it follow the Penitent Thief or Judas?

To us who eagerly follow to Calvary there is given the peace we so deeply desire. We constantly offer to God the penitents' lament. "We acknowledge and bewail our manifold sins and wickedness, which we, from time to time, most grievously have committed, by thought, word, and deed. The remembrance of them is grievous unto us; the burden of them is intolerable." Can the grievous remembrance ever be blotted out? Can the intolerable burden ever be relieved? That is the question.

Suppose a person turns to the world for an answer. This is the terrible answer the world has to give:

"The moving finger writes, and having writ
Moves on! not all thy piety nor wit
Can lure it back to cancel half a line,
Nor all thy tears wash out a word of it."

In the devastating darkness that settles upon the soul that heeds that cynical sentence of despair, the voice of Passiontide is heard. "I, even I, am He that blotteth out thy transgressions, for mine own sake, and I will not remember thy sins." The Moving Finger writes, and having writ moves on to the Cross from which will drop the Blood which cancels the lines and washes out the words which defied piety and wit and tears. "The blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth us from all sin." It works forgiveness for the unforgivable, cleansing for the indelible, repair for the irreparable, cure for the incurable, recall for the unrecallable.

For the Moving Finger is the Finger of God. It points to the Cross shining forth in mystic glow and illuminating the world which without the Cross must die heartbroken. For the Cross is the medicine of the world. It is the revelation of amazing Divine Love. And it is more than amazing. It is compelling. It demands love in return. It accomplishes for man what man can not accomplish. Yet it leaves for man something to accomplish. Truly Our Lord suffered for us. Truly we must suffer with Him. Certainly He was crucified for us. No less certainly we must be crucified with Him. He died for us. We must die with Him. He is our substitute. Yet we must be identified with Him. Our undying gratitude will be satisfied with nothing less.

So in Passiontide we grasp our familiar sorrows and cease to shun them as strange afflictions. Together with our sins we bring them to the Cross. The sorrows will leave on our bodies the marks of the Lord Jesus. The sins will leave no marks at all.

Affectionately in Our Lord,

Project Canterbury