Locust Street Letters
By Frank Lawrence Vernon
Philadelphia: St. Mark's Church, Locust Street.
ST. MARK'S, PHILADELPHIA.
THE SECOND SUNDAY IN LENT, 1938.
MY DEAR PEOPLE:
The Epistle for this Second Sunday in Lent gives us two assurances. The first is that God hath called us, and this means every one of us, unto holiness. The second is that God hath given unto us His Holy Spirit.
What does the word holiness mean? It means the state of being consecrated to God, that is set apart for God, dedicated to God. "Ye are not your own," says Saint Paul, "ye are bought with a price." From the moment of Baptism we ceased to be our own. We were delivered over to the absolute ownership of Him who bought us at the price of His own blood. Our lives were given over to the uncontrolled power of our Owner. The sign of the Cross on our foreheads is the token of our Lord's ownership of our souls and bodies.
To be holy is to be wholly for God. "It doth not yet appear what we shall be." All that appears to us is our imperfection. But our imperfections do not terminate God's ownership. We are His in spite of them.
We shall not always be imperfect. "We know that when He shall appear, we shall be like Him." Who will make us like Him? The Holy Spirit. "God hath given unto us His Holy Spirit." We may remind ourselves of the question and answer in the Office of Instruction. What do we mean when we say in the Creed that we believe the Church is Holy? We mean that the Church is Holy because the Holy Spirit dwells in the Church, and sanctifies—makes holy—its members.
After Baptism we were brought to the Bishop to be Confirmed by Him. The Bishop prayed for us. "Almighty and everliving God, who hast vouchsafed to regenerate these thy servants by Water and the Holy Ghost, and hast given unto them forgiveness of all their sins; strengthen them, we beseech thee, O Lord, with the Holy Ghost, the Comforter (the Strengthener) and daily increase in them thy manifold gifts of grace: the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and ghostly strength, the spirit of knowledge and true godliness; and fill them, O Lord, with the spirit of thy holy fear, now and ever." Then laid he his hands upon us, and we received the Holy Ghost.
These gifts of the Holy Ghost, assisted by the grace given to us in Holy Communion, in which we receive the spiritual food of the most precious Body and Blood of our Saviour Jesus Christ, are to daily increase in us more and more, that they may yield in us the fruits of the spirit; love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance. In the continual practise of penitence the Holy Spirit gives us sufficient light to discern whatever in us is hindering the development of the gifts, and in absolution God of His great mercy removes the hindrances of the sins which by our frailty we have committed, which we humbly confess, with a firm purpose of forsaking, with a steadfast faith in God's promises, and in the power which He has left in His Church, by giving power and commandment to His Ministers, to declare and pronounce to His people, being penitent, the Absolution and Remission of their sins. This power to pronounce Absolution is also the gift of the Holy Ghost.
At Ordination the Bishop shall lay hands severally upon the Head of every one that receiveth the Order of Priesthood, the Receivers humbly kneeling, and the Bishop saying, "Receive the Holy Ghost for the Office and Work of a Priest in the Church of God, now committed unto thee by the Imposition of our hands. Whose sins thou dost forgive, they are forgiven, and whose sins thou dost retain, they are retained. And be thou a faithful Dispenser of the Word of God, and of His holy Sacraments; In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen."
Once more we may turn to the Offices of Instruction, to recall a question and answer concerning the Holy Ghost. "What do you chiefly learn in these Articles of your Belief? Thirdly (I learn to believe) in God the Holy Ghost, who sanctifieth me, and all the people of God."
God hath called us unto holiness, and hath given unto us His Holy Spirit.
Affectionately in Our Lord,