Locust Street Letters
By Frank Lawrence Vernon
Philadelphia: St. Mark's Church, Locust Street.
ST. MARK'S, PHILADELPHIA.
THE FOURTH SUNDAY AFTER EASTER, 1938.
MY DEAR PEOPLE:
The Collect for this Fourth Sunday after Easter is a prayer for stability. It is a Collect which is not only suitable for the season of Eastertide, but for any and all seasons. It is a Collect which teaches us how to pray for the very virtue which we recognize as a pressing necessity in the days in which we are living.
The complaint most frequently expressed concerning the present time is the prevailing instability. The conscious lack of stability is the cause of general un-certainty and anxiety. What is going to happen next? We hear the question asked on all sides. We hear it concerning affairs of Church and State. At times the tone indicates a state of mind not far from panic.
Panic is always an unreasoning state of excessive fear. Unless it is brought under control it spreads and becomes a general alarm which results in hasty action which may easily be disastrous. In time of instability the safe guides and leaders are the men and women who have discovered the secret of stability and the means by which it is kept.
Stability, like any other admirable quality, must be slowly and sometimes painfully acquired by self-discipline. It must be cultivated carefully. It may be, and is, allied with the cardinal virtues of prudence, justice, temperance and fortitude. But these virtues need to be increased by the theological virtues of Faith, Hope and Charity. The natural must be nourished by the supernatural. "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning."
The Collect for the day is a prayer for stability. It is addressed to the Father of lights, through Jesus Christ, our Lord. It teaches us how to pray, and what to ask. It teaches us the technique of the practise of stability.
We are taught first a lesson in penitence and humility. We are taught to recognize the fact that our natural wills and affections are unruly and beyond our natural power to control. Experience has taught us that over and over again. If experience has made us penitent and humble, there is every reason for hope for the acquirement of stability, and any other virtue for that matter. Once we have come to the point where we realize that only Almighty God can control our unruly wills and affections, then we begin to pray that God, who can rule them, will rule. This ruling demands from us a complete surrender of all our affections and all our wills. There must be no reservations.
We are bidden to pray first that we may be given the grace to love the thing that God commands, and to desire that which God promises. It is this love and desire which will afford evidence of conversion.
Here are the steps by which we reach the conversion. First, we must make our surrender in Holy Communion. "Here we offer and present ourselves, our souls and bodies, to be a reasonable, holy, and living sacrifice unto thee." The more agitated we are at the time, the more effective will be the surrender.
Second, we must practise the prayer of quiet. In times of interior storms, we must train ourselves to kneel, to be still, and silent, until the storm is overpast. It is possible. And it never fails to bring peace, if we persevere. Both practises must become fixed habits.
This is what will happen. We shall find that among the sundry and manifold changes of the world, our hearts will surely there be fixed, where true joys are to be found.
Affectionately in Our Lord,