Locust Street Letters
By Frank Lawrence Vernon
Philadelphia: St. Mark's Church, Locust Street.
ST. MARK'S, PHILADELPHIA.
THE SECOND SUNDAY AFTER THE EPIPHANY, 1937
MY DEAR PEOPLE:
When Our Lord was forty days old the Blessed Virgin presented Him in the Temple. According to the law of Moses every Jewish mother was required to fulfil the rites of purification and to present her child to the Lord. If the child was a son, the presentation was made forty-one days after birth. If the child was a daughter, the presentation was made eighty-one days after birth. Also a sacrificial offering was required.
In fulfilment of this law The Divine Saviour was presented by the Virgin Mother. In this Presentation, He who is offered, offers Himself. In this Purification, she who fulfils the law of purification is immaculate. She whom all generations shall call blessed, magnifies the Lord, and her spirit rejoices in God her Saviour.
Simeon, who waited for the consolation of Israel, was led into the Temple by the Holy Ghost, that he might see the Lord's Christ. It was given to him to take Our Lord up into his arms. It had been revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost that he should not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ. He had lived to see his heart's desire. At last he could say, Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: for mine eyes have seen thy salvation, which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; a light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.
We have only one week left to us for quiet meditation upon the Infancy of Our Lord. The seasons of the Christian Year will follow in swift sequence, and already we are within the week which will be followed by the Sundays which will prepare us for Lent, the Passion and the Crucifixion. It is necessary that we should be prepared for that preparation. Bethlehem is the starting place.
Christmas to those to whom it is merely a social season is gone, not to be thought of again for a whole year. While it lasted it radiated an atmosphere of good will of men toward men, an atmosphere of kindness and joy. That was good as far as it went. There is every reason why it should last. Christians should unceasingly cultivate the spirit of kindness and joy. Both are marks of holiness. Both are the signs of saints. But the difference between the kindness and joy of the saints, as compared with the kindness and joy of the non-Christian world, is to be discovered in the roots rather than in the fruits.
The root of Christmas kindness is the love of God who so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, to the end that all that believe in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
The root of Christmas good-will is the good-will of God toward man.
The root of Christmas joy is the rejoicing of the spirit in God the Saviour.
The spirit of Christmas is expressed in the Preface. "Because thou didst give Jesus Christ, thine only Son, to be born as at this time for us; who by the operation of the Holy Ghost, was made very man, of the substance of the Virgin Mary His Mother; and that without spot of sin, to make us clean from all sin."
Remembering this we follow the Holy Child, through childhood and manhood, all the way to Calvary. It is only by doing this that we shall understand how Christ Jesus, having come into the world, saved sinners.
We shall see in each act of His the sacrificial significance. We shall see the sacrificial act in the Manger. We shall see the sacrificial act in the Temple at the Presentation. We shall see the sacrificial act in Nazareth. We shall see it in Gethsemane. We shall see it on Calvary. We shall see it on our own altars where is continued the perpetual memory of His precious death and sacrifice. When at last we arrive at Easter and the Ascension we shall see the triumph of that sacrifice. Then we shall remember that it began in Bethlehem.
Affectionately in Our Lord,