Locust Street Letters
By Frank Lawrence Vernon
Philadelphia: St. Mark's Church, Locust Street.
ST. MARK'S, PHILADELPHIA.
THE CIRCUMCISION, 1939.
MY DEAR PEOPLE:
The Church, year by year, commemorates the events of the life of Our Lord. She sets before us the complete series from Christmas to Ascension. We must never lose sight of the unity of the Christian Year. No event can be overlooked; no season can be unobserved.
The Church will, as we follow on, instruct us in her Scriptures, enable us in her Sacraments, edify us in her ceremonies, and will thereby enlist every faculty for reception that we possess in order that we may at length perceive within ourselves the fruits of His redemption. For the Church not only sets before us the events of Our Lord's life, She identifies us in Sacramental union with Him.
Today we are bidden to remember the shepherds. They had heard the voices of Angels And after the Angels had gone from them into heaven, they must have waited spellbound, gazing up into the midnight sky. And then they spoke. "Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the baby lying in a Manger."
We remember the shepherds after they have left the Manger. They went out into the night. When morning came they made known abroad the saying that was told them concerning the Child. So the tidings were spread by the shepherds.
Then we are left, after the shepherds have gone, with the Blessed Mother. In her presence we, with Saint Joseph, keep silence. Mary is keeping all these things, and pondering them in her heart. Out on the hillside we hear the voices of the shepherds returning to their flocks. As they go they glorify and praise God, for all the things they had heard and seen.
Then the most wonderful announcement of all is made. The Holy Name. "When eight days were accomplished for the circumcising of the Child, His name was called Jesus, which was so named of the Angel, before He was conceived in the womb." "Being found in fashion as a man, God hath highly exalted Him, and given Him a name which is above every name: that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, ad things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."
Today we are observing the solemnities of the eighth day. Since Christmas we have commemorated Saint Stephen, Deacon and Martyr; Saint John, Apostle and Evangelist and the Holy Innocents. On these Commemorations the Collect for Christmas Day and the Proper Preface have preserved unbroken the continuity of the Octave. In the cycle of devotion, while the chronological order is preserved, Saints appear on their days and we are reminded that we are joined with Angels and Archangels, and with all the company of heaven in the commemoration of the Sacred Mysteries.
From season to season, mystery will follow mystery, until we shall have reached the climax; the Ascension of Our Lord into Heaven. On Christmas Day the Son of God came down to earth. On Ascension Day He returned to Heaven. Christmas Day is the day of condescension. Ascension Day is the day of glory.
On Christmas Day we adore Our Lord in the Manger. On Ascension Day we adore Him on the threshold of Heaven. On Christmas Day the Son of God goes forth to war. On Ascension Day He returns as the triumphant Redeemer of the world. On that day the Epistle will remind us that this same Jesus which is taken up from us into Heaven shall so come in like manner as we have seen Him go into Heaven.
The ceremonial Commemoration of the mystery of redemption is massive, majestic and beautiful beyond any earthly beauty. It enlists and uses all the arts and affords them their one opportunity of full expression. The teaching value is effective to the highest degree. We learn the Christian Faith as we can in no other way. Yet we are constantly reminded and never allowed to forget that these outward signs manifest an inward and spiritual reality that must be embraced and held fast by faithful and habitual use of Sacraments and prayer and faith by which we arrive at the state of Holy Communion, by virtue of the state we are made one body with the CHild in the Manger, the Saviour on the Cross, and the Ascended Lord in Heaven.
Affectionately in Our Lord,