Locust Street Letters
By Frank Lawrence Vernon
Philadelphia: St. Mark's Church, Locust Street.
ST. MARK'S, PHILADELPHIA.
THE THIRD SUNDAY IN ADVENT, 1937.
MY DEAR PEOPLE:
The Advent Collects mark the stages of approach to the Christian Religion. Their roots lie deep in the realities of life. They leave no room for uncertainty concerning these realities. They convey, even to the casual reader who may have no intention of using them as prayers, that if one would seriously consider the Christian Religion one must begin at the beginning and continue to the end. They make it perfectly clear that spiritual realities cannot be discerned and appropriated by the unaided natural faculties.
A dim desire may move men to grope in the dark, but that dim desire comes from God that they should seek Him, if haply they might feel after Him, and find Him, though He be not far from every one of us: for in Him we live, and move, and have our being.
So the first Collect is a passionate prayer for grace to escape from darkness and win the way into light. The second Collect is a wistful prayer to rightly read the records of those who have successfully battled their way into the light. The third, the Collect for the Third Sunday in Advent, is a humble prayer for the messengers of light, that they may be enabled to prepare and make ready God's way for us, by turning whatever there may be of disobedience in our hearts to the wisdom of the just.
Wednesday, Friday and Saturday of this week will he Ember Days. Special prayers are appointed to be said for those who are to be admitted into Holy Orders. Special prayers are said daily throughout the year for those who have already been admitted into Holy Orders. In the prayer for the whole state of Christ's Church, we pray that grace may be given to all Bishops and other Ministers (that means Priests and Deacons) that they may both by their life and doctrine, set forth God's true and lively word, and rightly and duly administer His Holy Sacraments.
Grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. The grace and truth are His.
The servants who serve Him have received the Holy Ghost for the Office and Work of Bishops and Priests and Deacons in the Church of God, to serve as ministers of God from whom comes every good and perfect gift, and as stewards of mysteries which are not their own, but God's. They are bound by all the exacting conditions which direct and limit the execution of officers of trusts. They preach not themselves, but Jesus Christ. They administer not their own gifts, but the gifts of God.
They are required neither to exceed the power bestowed upon them, nor to withhold any gift committed to them. They are neither more nor less than the servants of God for Jesus sake. They possess no power beyond that which they have received for the execution of their office as ministers of grace and stewards of truth. The Christian Ministry is inexorably impersonal.
As ministers of grace they are ordained to be faithful Dispensers of the Sacraments. In the exercise of this ministry they are the servants of Him who is the giver of all grace. They minister. God gives. The Priest administers the Sacrament of Baptism. God regenerates. The Bishop administers the Sacrament of Confirmation. The Holy Ghost bestows the sevenfold gifts. The Priest administers the Sacrament of Penance. God gives the pardon. The Priest consecrates the bread and wine. The Lord Jesus gives His most precious Body and Blood to be the spiritual food to those who duly receive these Holy Mysteries.
As stewards of truth the ordained servants of God are vowed and empowered to teach the people committed to their Cure and Charge the doctrine required as necessary for eternal salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. The faithful steward continues steadfastly in the Apostles' doctrine. He speaks for the Church. "Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful." Pray for those who are to be admitted into Holy Orders.
Affectionately in Our Lord,