Locust Street Letters
By Frank Lawrence Vernon
Philadelphia: St. Mark's Church, Locust Street.
ST. MARK'S, PHILADELPHIA.
THE FIRST SUNDAY AFTER THE EPIPHANY, 1935
MY DEAR PEOPLE:
The Childhood of Our Lord is the subject for our meditations at this season. The Nativity: The Circumcision: The Presentation in the Temple: Epiphany: The Flight into Egypt: The Return to Nazareth: The Finding of the Child, at the age of twelve, in the Temple. Then follow the hidden years in Nazareth.
The Blessed Mother kept all this in her heart and pondered and prayed and waited. We must try in our humble way to follow her example. We may do it very simply. First by making a fixed rule to be present in Church on every Sunday and day of obligation, unless prevented by illness or distance, to assist in the offering of the holy sacrifice. The words of the Liturgy, The Collect, Epistle, Gospel, will provide material for reflection, sufficient to fill the day with a sense of its significance. And I am sure that there is a real reward for those who make a practise of attending Matins and Evensong. The Psalms, Lessons, Canticles, Creed and Collects leave indelible impressions upon the mind and open the lips with a new vocabulary.
A few moments set apart each day: An Our Father and the Collect for the Second Sunday in Advent: A reading of the Gospel in which the narration of the event is given: A few moments for marking, learning and inwardly digesting, under the guidance of the Holy Ghost: The Collect for the day. The time given will depend upon the circumstances which of necessity regulate and limit the daily life, and the aptitude for meditation. One should begin simply, and avoid attempting too much. Some will do more, some less, but we can all do something. We can saturate our minds with vivid memories. We can make each event real. And we can train ourselves, year after year, to make Our Lord the centre of our lives.
There are so many difficulties in the way of involuntary distractions. We do not need to be told what the distractions in the world are. We know them only too well.
And I am afraid that it is possible to find distractions even in church. It is so easy to become absorbed in matters which are of secondary importance. It is so easy to mistake the means for the end. To do this is to become superficial. We all need constantly to be on our guard against this. I am sure that we clergy do, and I imagine that you doubtless have been conscious of the temptation at times, for it is common to us all. The only safeguard and the only remedy is to religiously follow the seasons of the Christian Year by concentrating our thoughts upon the events commemorated by the seasons. We must live the Creed through from Advent to Advent. We must make the year a real year of Our Lord. The nearer we approach the ideal, so much the nearer we approach to the simplicity which will make our outward sense respond to faith's befriending to make our inward vision clear.
The externals of worship at Christmas and Epiphany are hauntingly beautiful, but what would they amount to if they did not stand over where the Young Child is? The Young Child is Emmanuel, God with us. The Young Child is called Jesus, because He shall save us from our sins. Each event in the life of the Young Child is of vital interest to us. Our eternal destiny is in His tiny hands. His are the everlasting arms underneath us. At the Festival of His Nativity we see them outstretched in the Manger. On the day of the Commemoration of his crucifixion we shall see them outstretched upon the Cross. Without Him we cannot live. Without Him we dare not die. We live in and by the life He lived. We may identify each scene and each action of his glorious, redeeming life with the humble, hidden experiences of our own lives which need to be redeemed.
This is not a pious fancy. It is a living reality. The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and dwells among us, and in the Eucharistic Mystery dwells in us, and we in Him.
We dare to die in the confidence of a certain faith; in the comfort of a reasonable, religious, and holy hope in the power of the Body and Blood of Him who died and rose again, to preserve our bodies and souls unto everlasting life. We dare to trust that by the merits of his death, and through faith in his blood, we shall obtain remission of our sins, and all other benefits of his passion.
This is the victory which overcomes the world, and all that is in it, even our faith.
Affectionately in Our Lord,