Locust Street Letters
By Frank Lawrence Vernon
Philadelphia: St. Mark's Church, Locust Street.
ST. MARK'S, PHILADELPHIA.
THE FOURTH SUNDAY IN ADVENT, 1940.
MY DEAR PEOPLE:
The Collect for the day is a prayer for help for penitents. The purpose of Advent, as we know, is a Season for deepening penitence. Penitence, thorough penitence, leads us to a realization that through our sins and wickedness we are sore let and hindered in running the race that is set before us. Under pressure of penitence we are moved to pray that Our Lord will raise up His power and come among us, and that He will, with great might, succour us, and that He will by His bountiful grace and mercy speedily help and deliver us.
Penitence is the path to hope. By the light of penitence our eyes are opened to see; our ears are opened to hear; our minds are opened to understand; our hearts are opened to desire; our wills are moved to approach the Manger, in which the Holy Child waits, Whose name is called Jesus, for He shall save His people from their sins.
The Festival of Christmas is a festival of good tidings of great joy. On Christmas Day was born the Saviour which is Christ the Lord. The measure of our penitence will be the measure of our joy. The sorrow of Advent will be turned into the joy of Christmas. The last Sunday in Advent reminds us of this.
These last days in Advent are given us in order that we may be prepared for Christmas. On Christmas morning, if we are true penitents, we shall come with haste to our Altars to adore the Babe who is the Saviour of the world. "As many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His Name."
The power to become the sons of God is God's Christmas gift. "Whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith." The joy of Christmas is the joy of victory over sin. The joy of Easter is the joy of victory over death.
In the Collect for Christmas we pray that we, being regenerate, and made God's children by adoption and grace, may daily be renewed by the Holy Spirit. In the Collect for Easter Day we pray that, whereas the Only-begotten Son Jesus Christ has overcome death, and opened unto us the gate of everlasting life, we may bring to good effect the good desires that God puts into our minds.
"I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly." This life is given to us. "Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life. He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in Him."
The indwelling life of Our Lord is the source of the interior and supernatural power, which alone is able to subdue nature. We cannot subdue natural impulses by dividing nature and by setting nature against nature. The only way to bring nature into subjection is by the introduction of super-nature. Only the supernatural can control the natural, and bring it into subjection to a higher power, which, by exercising necessary control, can direct it into right channels and thereby lead it into a more perfect and therefore a more abundant life.
We must never forget that the gift of supernatural life is the gift of God, who for us men came down from heaven and was made man, by the operation of the Holy Ghost, of the substance of the Virgin Mary His Mother: and that without spot of sin, to make us clean from all sin. It is a supernatural gift; we receive it in a supernatural way, and it produces supernatural results. The compassionate simplicity of the mystery of the gift is a startling revelation of the love of God.
A cave, a manger, a Child. A church, an Altar. The same Child!
Affectionately in Our Lord,