Locust Street Letters
By Frank Lawrence Vernon
Philadelphia: St. Mark's Church, Locust Street.
ST. MARK'S, PHILADELPHIA.
THE EPIPHANY, 1935.
MY DEAR PEOPLE:
Today is the Festival of the Manifestation of Our Lord to the Gentiles. The word Epiphany means manifestation, light-giving. By the leading of a star the only-begotten Son was manifested to the Gentiles. "When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea, in the days when Herod was King, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him. And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold and frankincense and myrrh."
They saw the light from the place in which they lived. They had the will to follow it. They had the will to worship. They had the will to present their treasures. Their history is the history of every man who has followed the star. Over the place where we live, wherever we live; the star shines. But we must have eyes to see. What is it that makes us sensitive? What is it that leads us to the upward look? What is it that stirs the longing in the heart? What is it that gives the daring for the long pilgrimage of discovery? There are as many answers as there are pilgrims. But in this much each answer is alike. It begins with giving the best that we have to the best that we know. It goes on to a discontent because the best we have is not good enough; the best we know is not satisfying.
When we began to give the best we had to the best we knew, we began to attain the primary requisite which is integrity of intention. Integrity of intention is the essence of purity of heart. And purity of heart is the secret of spiritual vision.
When we had set ourselves to give the best that we had to the best that we knew, in the place where we lived, with the people who were nearest, then we began the battle for self-conquest, for self-sacrifice, for self-giving. Then at last our self-sufficiency forsook us. The sense of failure pierced us. For a season our destiny hung in the balance. Looking out into the night we faced remorse. And remorse meant despair. And then something(that something was a motion of God, though we did not know it at the moment) moved us to look up. There was the star! The star meant hope. Hope is the element which transforms remorseful sorrow into repentant sorrow. Repentant sorrow melts every barrier, breaks every wall, opens every prison door, shatters every shackle, and leaves the soul free and eager and strong to adventurously follow the star of hope to the end of the world.
The story of that adventure is only known to God, unto whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hid. They are hid from us. But each well knows his own. Yet for all alike there is one ending. The star which we had seen, went before us, till it stood over where the young child was. We too fell down, and worshipped, and opened our treasures, and presented our gifts. The tiny nuggets of the gold which we found in our strange, fiery trials of obedience and loyalty. The grains of the frankincense which we gathered in the secret prayers and the public acts of worship. The myrrh we found and kept, in the sorrows which taught us the value of resignation, and the needs of others for sympathy. The collecting of these treasures gives material for other stories concerning which we are silent. But we know. We do not forget. And God does not forget.
Look where you will, read what you will, search through biographies, autobiographies, memoirs, reminiscences, novels, and when you have finished you will have found nothing that compares with the amazing adventures and discoveries of those most amazing, adventurous discoverers, who have seen the star and found the Child.
Affectionately in Our Lord,