Locust Street Letters
By Frank Lawrence Vernon
Philadelphia: St. Mark's Church, Locust Street.
ST. MARK'S, PHILADELPHIA.
PALM SUNDAY, 1938.
MY DEAR PEOPLE:
"This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith."
Today the Church commemorates the entry of Our Lord into Jerusalem. We may read the first nine verses of the twenty-first Chapter of the Gospel of Saint Matthew: the first ten verses of the eleventh Chapter of Saint Mark: the verses twenty-nine to thirty-eight of the nineteenth Chapter of Saint Luke: the verses twelve and thirteen of the twelfth Chapter of Saint John. We can shut our eyes and see the two processions meeting, the one coming from Bethany, the other coming from Jerusalem.
When we come to Church it is all so vividly presented. We see the palms, we hear the Hosannas echoing down the years, we see the procession unlike any other in the Christian Year. It would seem almost festal were it not for the violet veiled crucifix. That tells the story. The Son of God rides on in majesty. But He rides on to die. He rides on and there are shouts of welcome. "Blessed is He that cometh." There are palms of victory in clenched hands. The procession moves unfalteringly. The ensign steadily leads the way. But the ensign is veiled in royal purple. The Son of God rides on—to die.
Presently the procession returns to enter the gates of the Sanctuary. The palms are laid aside. The "continual remembrance of the sacrifice of the death of Christ, and of the benefits which we receive thereby," the "perpetual memory of that His most precious death and sacrifice," is offered and presented before our eyes, as it has been offered down through the centuries, and will be offered until His coming again.
The Church, venerable yet ever young, offers with unwearied voice her ancient supplication: "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." The Lord is in His holy temple. The Lord who rode into Jerusalem on that first Palm Sunday; the Lord who suffered, and died, and rose again, is present with His people; to offer as Priest and Victim, the sacrifice for the sins of the whole world.
Time and space are as nothing. "For a thousand years in Thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night." Was ever a procession like the procession of the palms? It began on the road from Bethany to Jerusalem centuries ago, yet it passes through Philadelphia in the century in which we are living. And we are here to sing Hosanna.
Was ever such a victory won. Is it any wonder that we carry palm branches to the places where we live, to be devoutly cherished as symbols of sure and certain hope, through the year and through whatever the year may have in store for us? Come what may, the victory will be ours. We have the substance in us which ensures victory. "This is the victory which overcometh the world, even our faith."
"Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril or sword? Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."
Affectionately in Our Lord,