Locust Street Letters
By Frank Lawrence Vernon
Philadelphia: St. Mark's Church, Locust Street.
ST. MARK'S, PHILADELPHIA.
PASSION SUNDAY, 1937.
MY DEAR PEOPLE:
Today we enter into Passiontide. This week we meditate on the meaning of Our Lord's suffering, in order that we may the more intelligently and devoutly commemorate the final events of Holy Week.
The Passion of Our Saviour was God's remedy for sin. There was no other remedy than the blood of Him who entered in once into the holy place, and obtained eternal redemption for us. Only the blood of Christ, who through the eternal spirit offered himself without spot to God, could purge our conscience from dead works to serve the living God. For this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance. In these words the Epistle for the day lays the foundations of our belief.
Our Saviour Jesus Christ suffered death upon the Cross for our redemption and made there (by his one oblation of himself once offered) "a full, perfect, alai sufficient sacrifice, oblation and satisfaction, for the sins of the whole world." In these words the Divine Liturgy teaches what Holy Scripture confirms.
"In the night in which He was betrayed, He took Bread; and when He had given thanks, He brake it, and gave it to His disciples, saying, Take eat, this is My Body, which is given for you; Do this in remembrance of me. Likewise after supper, He took the Cup; and when He had given thanks, He gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of this; for this is My Blood of the New Testament, which is shed for you, and for many for the remission of sins; Do this, as oft as ye shall drink it, in remembrance of me."
In these words the Divine Liturgy links the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper with the sacrifice of the death of Christ. The Sacrifice of the Altar is one with the Sacrifice of the Cross. Therefore in the Divine Liturgy we pray; "We earnestly desire thy fatherly goodness, mercifully to accept this our sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving; most humbly beseeching thee to grant that by the merits and death of thy Son Jesus Christ, and through faith in His blood, we, and all thy whole Church, may obtain remission of our sins, and all other benefits of His passion."
In the sermons of Passion Week and Holy Week, we shall be led to contemplate the Passion and Death of Our Saviour. In the offering of the Sacrifice of the Altar we shall be given the privilege of participating in the Sacrifice of the Cross. This is the climax of devotion to the Passion, for which preaching can never be more than a preparation. If preaching is less than that it is nothing.
The doctrine of the forgiveness of sins is a Divine Mystery, received by faith. This is why the forgiveness of sins is included in the Creed as an article of belief. It is an aid to faith to consider this mystery in connection with the mysteries which made Divine forgiveness of human sin possible; 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 and Ascension.
And we must remember the coming of the Holy Ghost, who makes repentance possible; repentance—that searching, surgical operation which awakens, changes and reverses the mind, which corrects mental maladjustments and turns the mind to hate what is evil and to love what is good; to desire pardon, to embrace penance and to desire space for amendment and to lead a better life.
When the penitent meditates upon the Passion, he is comforted by the words of Saint John, "If any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous, and He is the Propitiation for our sins."
Affectionately in Our Lord,