Locust Street Letters
By Frank Lawrence Vernon
Philadelphia: St. Mark's Church, Locust Street.
ST. MARK'S, PHILADELPHIA.
THE THIRD SUNDAY IN ADVENT, 1935.
MY DEAR PEOPLE:
Wednesday, Friday and Saturday of this week are Ember Days, days of prayer "for those who are to be admitted into Holy Orders." The Ember Days occur "at the Four Seasons, being the Wednesday, Friday and Saturday after the First Sunday in Lent; the Feast of Pentecost; September 14 and December 13th." The The Prayer Book provides a Collect, Epistle and Gospel for the Ember Days and two prayers, one or the other to be used at the Choir Offices of Daily Morning and Evening Prayer.
The Ember Days are included in the Prayer Book Table of Fasts, "on which the Church requires such a measure of abstinence as is more especially suited to extraordinary acts and exercises of devotion." Abstinence from flesh meat fulfils this regulation.
The Collect for today is a prayer for the ministers and stewards of the mysteries, and is directly addressed to Our Lord Jesus Christ who livest and reignest with the Father, and the Holy Spirit ever, one God, world without end." The Ember Collect is also used.
The Epistle is from Saint Paul's First Epistle to the Corinthians and sets forth the Apostle's teaching that the ministers, that is servants, of Christ are the "stewards of the mysteries of God." "It is required in stewards," writes Saint Paul, "that a man be found faithful."
The Preface to the Ordinal states, "It is evident unto all men, diligently reading Holy Scriptures and ancient Authors, that from the Apostle's time there have been these Orders of Ministers in Christ's Church,—Bishops, Priests and Deacons."
"Receive the Holy Ghost for the Office and Work of a Bishop in the Church of God." These are the words of the Bishops as they lay their hands upon the head of the Elected Bishop.
"Receive the Holy Ghost for the Office and work of a Priest in the Church of God." These are the words of the Bishop when he lays Hands upon the Head of every one that receiveth the Priesthood.
The Bishops have continued as the stewards of the mysteries which they have received through unbroken succession from the Apostles, upon whom the Lord Jesus breathed, and said unto them, "Receive ye the Holy Ghost: Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained."
The mysteries of Grace and Truths are God's mysteries. The Bishops and Priests are God's stewards. They administer what God only can give. There is no function so utterly impersonal as that exercised by a Bishop or Priest in the Church of God. Because this function is so utterly impersonal, I can risk being personal, when I write to you the record of just this one day, an ordinary day shared by brother priests all over the world.
Early this morning I offered the Holy Sacrifice to the Divine Majesty, humbly beseeching Him that we, and all the whole Church, might obtain remission of our sins, and all other benefits of His Passion.
At the Altar-rail, and in two hospitals, I gave Holy Communion to waiting Christians. "The Body of Our Lord Jesus Christ, which was given for thee, preserve thy body and soul . unto everlasting life." In the afternoon, in a third hospital, and after that in a sick room, I gave to two waiting Christians the Absolution that Our Lord Jesus Christ has left power in His Church to pronounce. "By His authority committed to me, I absolve thee from all thy sins, in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost."
Tonight at Evensong I knew that my people had been visited by the Lord and Giver of the mysteries of love and grace. And I thanked Him, that I, who am not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under His table, had been allowed to serve Him as His steward.
Affectionately in Our Lord,