Locust Street Letters
By Frank Lawrence Vernon
Philadelphia: St. Mark's Church, Locust Street.
ST. MARK'S, PHILADELPHIA.
THE FIRST SUNDAY AFTER THE EPIPHANY, 1938.
MY DEAR PEOPLE:
We are celebrating the Festival of the Epiphany, or the Manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles.
We have been commemorating a series of manifestations. We remember first of all the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The Angel Gabriel was sent from God to a virgin: and the virgin's name was Mary. "Behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shall call his name Jesus." We remember the manifestation to Joseph. "Fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins."
We remember the manifestation to Elisabeth. "Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?" We remember the manifestation to the shepherds. "Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour which is Christ the Lord."
We remember the manifestation to Simeon. "There was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon: and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Ghost was upon him. And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord's Christ. And he came by the spirit into the temple: and when the parents brought in the Child Jesus" to do for Him after the custom of the law, then took He Him up in his arms, and blessed God, and said, 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 remember the manifestation to Anna. "She coming that instant gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spoke of Him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem."
Today we remember the manifestation to the Magi. "Behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, saying, "Where is He that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen His star in the east and are come to worship Him. And when they came 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 they all, each in their several vocations, saw the light. Saint John wrote concerning that light, "That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world." The Gospel, the good news for us is wrapped up in that word everyman. To everyman there comes at least once in a lifetime some manifestation of that light. It is always adapted to the capacities of each, within the limitations of each, an interior illumination sufficient to direct a way, an exterior manifestation, a scene, a word, a memory, to inspire action. "The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the spirit."
It may come to a passerby on Locust Street through a casual glance at the figure of Our Lord reigning in glory on the Cross. It may come through a casual visit to the Church and an impulse to remain to pray. It may come through a single attendance at a service on a Great Festival. It may come through a verse in a hymn, or a sentence in a sermon. But however it comes, and whenever it comes, the test of the validity of the experience is the finding of Our Lord; the test of the reality is obedience to the call to worship and to offer the best one has.
Having gone thus far, by no means can the Light received remain an un-shared possession, for it belongs to every man that cometh into the world, unto its uttermost ends. An offering for Missions may flash a light somewhere, for some one, whose spiritual experience will duplicate, and possibly far exceed our own.
Affectionately in Our Lord,