Locust Street Letters
By Frank Lawrence Vernon
Philadelphia: St. Mark's Church, Locust Street.
ST. MARK'S, PHILADELPHIA.
THE SECOND SUNDAY IN ADVENT, 1936.
MY DEAR PEOPLE:
There can be no uncertainty about the message for the Second Sunday in Advent. The Collect, Epistle and Gospel direct us to cultivate the devotional use of the Scriptures.
The Collect is a prayer that “we may in such wise hear them, read, mark, learn and inwardly digest them; that by patience and comfort of thy holy Word, we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which thou hast given us in our Saviour Jesus Christ.”
The Epistle tells us that “whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.”
The Gospel gives us Our Lord’s own words, “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.”
One of the questions asked by the Bishop at the Ordination of Priests is, “Are you persuaded that the Holy Scriptures contain all Doctrine required as necessary for eternal salvation through faith in Jesus Christ? And are you determined, out of the said Scriptures, to instruct the people committed to your charge; and to teach nothing, as necessary to eternal salvation, but that which you shall be persuaded may be concluded and proved by the scriptures?” The answer of the Priest is, “I am so persuaded, and have so determined by God’s grace.”
Two things must be remembered as guides to Bible reading. The first is, “that no prophecy of scripture is of any private interpretation.”
“The Church teaches and defines, while the Bible confirms and illustrates, everything that is necessary to be believed. Nothing may be held that contradicts Catholic doctrine, and nothing may be required to be believed as necessary to salvation that is not contained in the Scriptures.” (Hall—Authority, Ecclesiastical and Biblical.)
The second thing to be remembered is “The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”
Spiritual discernment requires spiritual gifts. Spiritual gifts are conferred through the Sacraments.
Baptism conveys the Virtues of Faith, Hope, Charity.
Confirmation conveys the Gifts of Wisdom, Knowledge, Counsel, Understanding, Ghostly Strength, True Godliness, Holy Fear.
The subsequent Sacramental life of the Church removes interior hindrances to discernment in the Sacrament of Penance and advances the soul in grace, in Holy Communion, enabling it to stir up the gifts received and by the exercise of the gifts to make progress in spiritual discernment.
The Church provides that each Baptized person shall be duly instructed in all things that a Christian ought to know and believe to his soul’s health. What the Church teaches by the spoken word, she confirms by the written word of the scriptures, of which she is custodian and interpreter.
The Church by her Liturgy teaches the faithful to commemorate the facts of the Faith and to render the sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving. At the same time she educates in the science and art of prayer, encouraging perseverance in the practice of prayer, advancing each soul, in proportion to its capacity and conformity to its vocation, along the ascent in the prayer life; vocal, mental, affective, simple, contemplative. In her Scriptures she teaches that “there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit, and that the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every ‘man to profit withal.”
With this background of careful instruction the Church saturates the minds of the faithful with the words of Holy Scripture, and bids each form and develop the daily habit of reading, marking, learning and inwardly digesting some spiritual truth contained in Holy Scripture. I do not for a moment expect that there will be a rigid uniformity in practice, but I expect without fear of disappointment, that all of us alike, through patience and comfort of the Scriptures, will embrace, and ever hold fast, the blessed hope of everlasting life.
Affectionately in Our Lord,