Locust Street Letters
By Frank Lawrence Vernon
Philadelphia: St. Mark's Church, Locust Street.
ST. MARK'S, PHILADELPHIA.
THE FIRST SUNDAY AFTER THE EPIPHANY, 1937.
MY DEAR PEOPLE:
"That was the true light which lighteth every man that cometh into the world."
"When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea, in the days of Herod the King, behold there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem. And, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was. And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his Mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh."
So the light of Him who is Light of Light, filled with light those who sought Him, journeyed far to find Him, and having found Him, worshipped Him, and opened their treasures to present unto Him gifts. Their gifts were symbolic. Gold was the symbol of their recognition of Him as King. Incense was the symbol of their recognition of Him as God. Myrrh was the symbol of their recognition of Him as Saviour. The full knowledge of the significance of their gifts would dawn upon them later. Meanwhile a spiritual intuition had led them to a spiritual experience which reason would subsequently confirm.
The Epiphany Preface explains the devotional intention of the Festival. We give thanks to the "Holy Father, Almighty, Everlasting God, Through Jesus Christ our Lord; who in substance of our mortal flesh, manifested forth His glory; that He might bring us out of darkness into His own glorious light." We are giving thanks for the light given to lighten the Gentile world. We are giving thanks for the light which has been given to us as individuals. The light is given to every man that cometh into the world.
The star appears once in a life time at least. It will go before the soul that has the will to follow. It will lead the soul that has the will to follow to the place where the Child is to be found. To the soul that has the will to worship, there will be given some treasure to offer. The length of the journey will vary. It will be long for one and short for another. But the Manger will be the common goal. The Child will be the reward for all alike.
The history of each spiritual journey will be the record of a conversion, or of an awakening. If it is a conversion it will begin with some deep experience in a land far distant from the place where the Child is. The experience may be penitential. It may have its beginning in some deep sorrow. It may be that a longing for a knowledge of the truth will stir the mind to a restless activity which will cause the soul to be restless until it finds rest in God.
There are many paths leading to the highway of God. The three that I have noted are the common ones. They lead the will or the heart or the mind and before the end include most, perhaps all, of the varieties of religious experience. To the soul that perseveres in any one of them will be given the reward of some definite spiritual treasure. That treasure will be the soul's offering to God at the journey's end. Gold, or frankincense or myrrh.
The history of the journey may be the story of an awakening. It is less exciting; less venturesome; but none the less satisfying. It is after all the normal experience. It all happens within the Church. The awakening is gradual, as all awakening to the mysteries of life should be. First will come the training in the practise of the spiritual life. The faithful practise of the Sacraments. The diligent practise of prayer. The intelligent practise of worship. The energy centres in the will. The emotions are not disturbed. The mind is gradually illumined. The soul grows accustomed to walking about the heavenly city, telling the towers, and marking well the bulwarks, as children learn to know a city until it becomes familiar. Then the day comes when the city is loved as home. The soul sees the holy city. And the Lamb who is the light of it.
Affectionately in Our Lord,