Locust Street Letters
By Frank Lawrence Vernon
Philadelphia: St. Mark's Church, Locust Street.
ST. MARK'S, PHILADELPHIA.
THE SECOND SUNDAY IN ADVENT, 1937.
MY DEAR PEOPLE:
The Holy Scriptures were written for our learning. They were written "not by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost."
The sacred writings are the documentary evidences of the teaching of the Church. The Church antedates the Bible. The Church received the revelation first; then recorded that revelation; then preserved it in perpetual custody, and interprets it. The Church is the divinely appointed custodian and interpreter of the Bible. "No prophecy of the Scripture is of any private interpretation." The Church and the Bible cannot be separated.
The Christian Year is the Church's Bible Class. If we follow faithfully we shall find the most illuminating and the most satisfying method of learning the contents and meaning of the Bible. We shall find an orderly and thorough system which inculcates, fosters and assists in the reading, marking, learning and inwardly digesting of the contents of Holy Scripture.
First of all the Church, by the Sacrament of Baptism, gives to us regeneration; the new birth; without which we cannot see the Kingdom of God, and infuses the Virtues of Faith, Hope and Charity. The Church gives to us in the Sacrament of Confirmation, the Seven Gifts of the Holy Ghost, which gifts enable spiritual discernment to discern spiritual things.
In the Sacrament of Penance, whatever impairs spiritual vision or impedes spiritual progress, is removed In the Sacrament of Holy Communion the soul is stablished in the unity of the Mystical Body of Christ, is strengthened and refreshed and made to enjoy the fruits of redemption. This Sacramental life is provided for continually, every day in the year, supplying the needs of all sorts and conditions of men.
The Church, having prepared us by giving us increase of grace to. hear meekly God's Word, and to receive it with pure affection, and to bring forth the fruits of the Spirit, presents to us in an unvarying cycle of commemorative days and seasons the mystery of the Holy Incarnation, the Holy Nativity and Circumcision, the Baptism, Fasting and Temptation, the Agony and Bloody Sweat, the Cross and Passion; the precious Death and Burial; the glorious Resurrection of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, and the Coming of the Holy Ghost and the Mystery of the Holy Trinity. She employs an ordered sequence of festivals and fasts which extend through the entire year. She designates specially appointed days for the commemoration of Saints and Angels.
For each of these days a special portion of Holy Scripture, of an Epistle and Gospel is appointed to be read, and a Collect is appointed as a prayer appropriate for the commemoration. The Collect, Epistle and Gospel are a part of the Eucharistic worship, offered at the Altar.
In the Offices of Matins and Evensong, which are recited daily, Canticles and Psalms are appointed to be said or sung, and portions of Holy Scripture; taken one from the Old Testament, one from the New Testament; are appointed to be read. These daily recitations of the Psalms ensure a monthly recitation of the entire Psalter. The daily Lessons ensure systematic, selective reading of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation each year.
The seasons of the Christian Year present the contents of the truths recorded in the Scriptures in a manner calculated to make use of each bodily sense as an organ of reception and an instrument of response. For this purpose the Church makes use of every art for which God has given to man a talent to cultivate. The Church penetrates through each sense; sight, hearing, smell, touch; through the body into the soul.
The Church uses architecture, painting, sculpture, music, vestment, vesture, posture. All things come of Thee, O Lord, and of thine own have we given Thee." This is the philosophy of religious ceremonial. The ceremonies are not ends in themselves. They are means to an end. The end is to glorify God and to convey to man the comfort of His Holy Word, that man may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which He has given us in our Saviour Jesus Christ.
Affectionately in Our Lord,