Locust Street Letters
By Frank Lawrence Vernon
Philadelphia: St. Mark's Church, Locust Street.
ST. MARK'S, PHILADELPHIA.
THE THIRD SUNDAY IN ADVENT, 1936.
MY DEAR PEOPLE:
The words “ministers and stewards of mysteries” occur in the Collect and Epistle for today. The word “minister” means a servant. The word “steward” means one who administers under the authority of his master that for which he must render account. The word “mysteries” means, as it is used here, the spiritual truths revealed by God to those who are prepared to receive them. This is the standard set before us by Saint Paul. “Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God.” This is the first point for our meditation today.
The next point is made clear by the words which occur in the Collect: “Grant that the ministers and stewards of thy mysteries, may likewise so prepare and make ready thy way by turning the hearts of the disobedient to the wisdom of the just,” as Saint John the Baptist prepared the way for Our Lord’s first coming.
The two points may be summed up in two Statements:
(1) The Orders of Ministers in Christ’s Church, Bishops, Priests and Deacons, must always remember that they are the subordinate ministrants of gifts beyond their human power to bestow. They are stewards of mysteries beyond their human right to minimize.
(2) We, clergy and laity alike, must always remember that unless we are prepared by repentance, that is the turning of our disobedient hearts to the wisdom of the just, we are incapable of receiving the gifts and discerning the mysteries.
So, as we pray at Embertide, we find ourselves meekly kneeling on our knees, each according to our vocations and ministries; Bishops, Priests, Deacons, Ordinands, Communicants whose august honor it is to carry the Lord Christ enshrined in their hearts, praying for that flawless humility which banishes self-consciousness and cries, “I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.” “I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me,” cries the Bishop. “I lay my hands anointed with Divine power and Apostolic authority upon the heads of men, and Christ in me perpetuates the Christian Ministry. I lay my hands anointed with Divine power and Apostolic authority upon the heads of Baptized Christians, and they receive the Holy Ghost.”
“I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me,” cries the priest. “By His power committed to me in the Laying on of Apostolic Hands, I Baptize, and souls are made regenerate with the Holy Spirit, and received as members of Christ, children of God, and are incorporated into the Holy Church. I, by Christ’s authority committed to me, absolve penitents from all their sins, and whomsoever I loose on earth is loosed in Heaven. I take the bread, give thanks and break it. I repeat the words of my Lord’s Institution, ‘This is my Body.’ I take the cup, give thanks and repeat the words, ‘This is my blood.’ I offer the Sacrifice that we and all the whole Church may obtain remission of our sins, and all other benefits of His Passion. I administer to the Faithful the Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and their bodies and souls are preserved unto everlasting life.”
“I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me,” cries the Christian. “I am filled with my Lord’s grace and heavenly benediction. I am made one body with Him, that He may dwell in me, and I in Him. I can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth me. By the virtue of His indwelling life I can overcome the temptations of the world, the flesh, and the devil. By His grace I can follow where He has gone before. By His grace I can continually mortify my corrupt affections. By my Communion with Him, I can, unafraid, be buried with Him and pass through the grave and gate of death. By the power of His resurrection, I can pass to my joyful resurrection.”
Are we “low church”? Yes, as low as the last and the least and the worst of us in the abasement of our penitence. Are we “high Church”? Yes, as high as Our Lord Christ, who with the Holy Ghost, is most high in the glory of God the Father.
Affectionately in Our Lord,