Locust Street Letters
By Frank Lawrence Vernon
Philadelphia: St. Mark's Church, Locust Street.
ST. MARK'S, PHILADELPHIA.
THE THIRD SUNDAY AFTER THE EPIPHANY, 1935.
MT DEAR PEOPLE:
The Gospel for today records the first miracle of Our Lord. "There was a marriage in Cana of Galilee; and the Mother of Jesus was there; and both Jesus was called, and his disciples, to the marriage."
The exhortation in the Form of Solemnization of Matrimony reminds the man and woman who are about to enter the honorable estate of matrimony that it is a holy estate, which Christ adorned and beautified with his presence and first miracle that he wrought in Cana of Galilee.
The Prayer Book provides a Collect, Epistle, and Gospel for the offering of the Eucharistic Sacrifice for the benefit of those about to be married. Our Lord adorns and beautifies the marriage with His Sacramental Presence. The contracting parties offer themselves, their souls and bodies to be a reasonable, holy and living sacrifice, humbly beseeching God, that they receiving the most Precious Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, may be filled with all grace and heavenly benediction, that so assisted with Divine grace, they may continue in the holy fellowship of the Communion of Saints, and that in the special fellowship to which they are about to enter by a solemn life vow, indissoluble except by death, they may do all such good works as God has prepared for them to walk in.
Then they proceed, as very members incorporate in the mystical body of Christ, to plight their troth, each to the other, in the sight of God, and in the face of man. There is no vow, governing human relationships, so explicit, so deliberate, so solemn, so irrevocably binding, as is the vow taken in Holy Matrimony. The personal honor of each of the contracting parties is at stake and stands by fidelity to the keeping of the vow, or falls by failure to keep it.
A flagrantly guilty party may necessitate the justifiable separation of the innocent consort, as a means of protection from gross indignity, cruelty and abuse. Upon the guilty party will lie the burden of the guilt, before God and man. To the innocent party is given the guidance and protection of the Church, the comfort of the Sacraments, and the consolations of religion.
Fidelity to the vow of Baptism will ensure unswerving loyalty to the obedience due to the holy Church into which the baptized are incorporated. That vow presented the question, "Wilt thou then obediently keep God's holy will and commandments, and walk in the same all the days of thy life?" That vow required the answer, "I will by God's help." And that vow also is irrevocably binding. Grace to keep it will be given to the man or woman suffering under a life-long injustice, who faithfully, patiently and bravely, offers soul and body to be a reasonable, holy and living sacrifice in Holy Communion. A new and unexpected life of good works will be made clear. In that life of dedicated obedience, which will necessitate self-sacrifice, will be found final satisfaction and the peace which passes understanding.
Holy Matrimony is one of the Sacraments of the Church. It has its outward and visible sign. It confers its inward and spiritual grace. In the lives of those who are called by God to Holy Matrimony, there is a necessary Sacramental sequence. Baptism is the beginning. Baptism includes among its benefits the capacity for receiving the other Sacraments.
The Sacrament of Matrimony, like all other Sacraments, is a Sacrament for the baptized. The Christian life is a supernatural life. It requires supernatural grace. If we fail to use the grace given us, God has given us the Sacrament of Penance for our recovery, and the Sacrament of Holy Communion for our renewal. If we would succeed in the Christian life we must use the means of grace which make success possible. We cannot expect to succeed if we neglect them.
It is of the utmost importance that in the bringing up of children, they be taught the simple, practical, working rule of the Sacramental life. It is by far the safest, sanest rule of life for children. An emotional religion is not wholesome for children. It is not wholesome for anyone. A child should be taught, so soon as it is able to learn, what it means to have been baptized, what it means to be confirmed, how to go to Confession, what the Blessed Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ is and how to receive It.
Affectionately in Our Lord,