Locust Street Letters
By Frank Lawrence Vernon
Philadelphia: St. Mark's Church, Locust Street.
ST. MARK'S, PHILADELPHIA.
THE THIRD SUNDAY IN ADVENT, 1940
MY DEAR PEOPLE:
Last Sunday our attention was drawn to the Holy Scriptures. This Sunday the Collect and Epistle direct our thoughts to the "ministers and stewards of the Mysteries of God."
A minister is a servant who brings a master's gift. A steward is an agent of an owner. We shall pray this week on the Ember Days for those who are to be admitted into Holy Orders that God will give His grace to all those who are to be called to any office and administration in His Church.
The Epistle exhorts us to so account of the persons ordained as of the ministers and stewards of the Mysteries of God. What does the word mystery mean? What is meant by the Mysteries of God?
A mystery is a revelation of God imparted to those who after due preparation are capable of receiving it. It is a revelation of grace and truth. Of grace by which we are made members of Christ, children of God, and inheritors of the Kingdom of Heaven. It may be a revelation of truth by which we are brought into the knowledge of God.
Grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. The mysteries are the mysteries of Our Lord Jesus Christ, by Whom they came to us. The test of the true steward is that he be found faithful in the exercise of his office in safe-guarding and distributing the mysteries of his Master. The faithful steward al ways remembers that the gifts he bears are not his own.
The Collect teaches us that the ministers and stewards are also messengers whose office it is to prepare and make ready Our Lord's way to convey His mysteries by turning the hearts of the disobedient to the wisdom of the just.
Here is the point at which we turn to examine our hearts in the Advent season of preparation. Our Advent examination of conscience is necessary for our Christmas reception of grace and truth. It is possible for us to resist grace and truth. It is possible for us to resist God. Our Lord did not many mighty works in Nazareth because of their unbelief. On the other hand faith found instant reward. "If thou canst believe," was (and is) the requirement. "Thy faith hath saved thee," was the reward.
The Collect emphasizes spiritual obedience as the quality of heart to be cultivated first of all. Spiritual disobedience is spiritual infidelity. It is not productive of the wisdom of the just. So we pray that our hearts may be turned from disobedience, that we may have honest and good hearts, fertile soil for the seeds of truth, to grow and bring forth fruit in due season.
This is our spiritual offering which makes mighty works possible. It is a thrilling moment in the Liturgy when a congregation, after praying that their sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving may be accepted by God, offer their uplifted hearts to the Lord, and present themselves, their souls and bodies, to be a reasonable, holy, and living sacrifice.
This marks the supreme moment of human appeal in the Divine Mysteries, which leaps from earth to Heaven, is caught up by the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and embraced by the Everlasting Arms of God, while angels rejoice, and Saints give thanks, and men on earth are filled with grace and heavenly benediction.
If we make ourselves living parts in this great human oblation, and if as we offer our own lives, with every weakness and aspiration, with every secret grief and hope for consolation; if we remember that every person with us in Church is lifting up a human heart like our own, then we cannot be insensible to the electric thrill of the bond which makes us one. "Lord, hear our prayer, and let our cry come unto Thee."
Affectionately in Our Lord,