Locust Street Letters
By Frank Lawrence Vernon
Philadelphia: St. Mark's Church, Locust Street.
ST. MARK'S, PHILADELPHIA.
PALM SUNDAY, 1935.
MY DEAR PEOPLE:
Today the royal banner goes forward toward Calvary. The Cross shines forth in mystic glow. We who follow are given palms of victory to carry and to cherish. We are commencing the solemnities of Holy Week. We shall be retracing, in heart and mind, the blessed steps of Our Lord's most holy life along the Way of Sorrows. A ray of light on Maundy Thursday will dispel the shadows for a day. Then the darkness of Good Friday will envelop us. We shall be watching beside the Cross on the day of Atonement.
To all this we go forward today carrying palms. Palms symbolize victory. It is important for us to remember that the victory has been won. The events that we commemorate happened years ago. We commemorate them, we preserve them in memory by the celebration of the solemnities traditional in the Christian Church. We are witnessing to our faith as Christians in Jesus Christ who suffered death upon the Cross for our redemption. We believe that He made there (by the oblation of Himself once offered) a full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction, for the sins of the whole world.
We offer our witness in penitence and faith. We pray God to grant us true repentance, and unfeigned belief in his holy Gospel. We pray for His Holy Spirit, that those things may please Him which we do at this present; and that the rest of our lives may be pure and holy; so that at the last we may come to His eternal joy; through Jesus Christ our Lord. This is the mind and heart to be carried and kept throughout the ceremonial observances of Holy Week. No degree of ceremonial observance will be adequate without this mind and heart. No simplicity of ceremonial observance will be lacking where the mind which was in Christ Jesus is in the Christians who look to Him for redemption through His Blood. Shining through the penitence there must be the faith that believes that by His own blood He entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us
What we are trying to do in Holy Week is this. We are trying to deepen our personal penitence. We are trying to stir up our personal faith. We are trying to accept and use the hard things in life as means of identifying ourselves with Our Lord in his passion and death. We are trying to accept our temptations as means for the denying of ourselves. We are trying to accept our sorrows as means for the taking up of the Cross .which Our Lord has made, measured, and weighed for us. We are trying to accept life as we find it as a means of following Our Lord. We are trying to offer to Our Lord, repentance, reparation and resignation.
In doing this our aim is to forget ourselves and to remember Our Lord. The Archbishop of York said in his Gifford lectures, "the true aim of the soul is not its own salvation; to make that the chief aim is to ensure perdition; for it is to fix the soul on itself as centre. The true aim of the soul is to glorify God; in pursuing that aim it will attain to salvation unawares. No one who is convinced of his own salvation is as yet safe, let alone saved'. Salvation is the state of him who has ceased to be interested whether he is saved or not, providing that what takes the place of that supreme self-interest is not a lower form of self-interest, but the glory of God."
Our Lord has obtained eternal redemption for us. What we have to do is to receive it through repentance and faith. And to receive it here and now. We can do this with all certainty.
It is true that we must work out our salvation with fear and trembling. This is only the fulfilment of our penitence. But we may be convinced beyond peril of being confounded that our salvation is God's will. What we must do is to make His will our will. We must do this for God's sake, that we may, for his glory, fulfill the purpose for which He created and redeemed us.
Affectionately in Our Lord,