Locust Street Letters
By Frank Lawrence Vernon
Philadelphia: St. Mark's Church, Locust Street.
ST. MARK'S, PHILADELPHIA.
THE SECOND SUNDAY IN ADVENT, 1940.
MY DEAR PEOPLE:
The first lesson of the Christian Year set before us on the First Sunday in Advent is that Our Lord Jesus Christ is the only-begotten Son of God; Begotten of His Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, Very God of very God: Begotten, not made; Being of one substance with the Father; By Whom all things were made; Who for us men, and for our salvation came down from heaven."
The first lesson in the devotional use of this teaching is the lesson in prayer taught in the Collect for the First Sunday in Advent, in which we pray that we may cast away the works of darkness, and put upon us the armour of light.
This prayer is bound up with the sacramental life and with the devotional life provided by and within the Church. The Church is the source of revealed truth. The Church is more ancient than the Scriptures which were written for our learning. The Church gave us the Scriptures that we might in such wise hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that by patience and comfort of the holy Word, we may embrace, and ever hold fast, the blessed hope of everlasting life, given us in our Saviour Jesus Christ.
The Church is the custodian and interpreter of her sacred writings. The Church's sacred writings confirm the teaching affirmed by the Creeds, and shown forth in the Liturgy. In the Church's Sacramental life we are strengthened by grace to enable us to embrace, and ever hold fast the faith once delivered to the Saints.
The Church teaches. The Bible proves. The Liturgy exemplifies. The Sacraments enable. This is the armour of light which dispels the powers of darkness and illumines the path of the Christian.
Today we are to think about the Holy Scriptures, and to pray for grace to read them with devotion. The simplest and the best way to read the Bible is to follow the Church's way of reading it. The Lessons for the Christian Year, as appointed to be read, are contained in the Prayer Book. If they are followed season after season, from Advent on, they will give an ordered and complete course in Bible reading.
The prescribed public reading in the Church daily gives opportunity to hear the Epistles and Gospels read at the Altar, and the Old and New Testaments read from the lectern. It may not be possible, and probably will not be, for many to attend in Church for these public readings, but it is well to know, and comforting to remember, that every day throughout the year the Epistles and Gospels are read early in the morning; the Old and the New Testament are publicly read in the morning and evening Offices.
The selflessness of this devotion which the Church offers with unfailing regularity, when perhaps but two or three, and sometimes not even that many, are gathered together in His name, affords an impressive contrast in these days of crowd hypnotism.
The personal use of the Holy Scriptures is of the utmost importance. Without private devotional use of the Bible, public devotion will almost surely lack fervor. The amount of time set aside for private devotion can only be determined by the individual. However the time for devotion may be arranged, the reading of a few verses from the Gospel, or Epistle, or First or Second Lessons, can easily be included. This is a suggested minimum. Many of course do very much more.
Regularity is what matters. Rewards follow surely. From reading we grow into marking and learning, and inwardly digesting what we have read. We find ourselves remembering in times of panic or weakness of some kind, a word or a sentence or a verse read long ago without much meaning at the time, but suddenly necessity has set it on fire. We know what it means at last because we know at first hand.
Affectionately in Our Lord,