Locust Street Letters
By Frank Lawrence Vernon
Philadelphia: St. Mark's Church, Locust Street.
ST. MARK'S, PHILADELPHIA.
THE SECOND SUNDAY IN ADVENT, 1941.
MY DEAR PEOPLE:
The Collect for the Second Sunday in Advent is the prayer of preparation for the reading of the Holy Scriptures provided by the Church for our use in order that we may in such wise hear them, read, mark, learn and inwardly digest them, that by patience and comfort of God’s 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 books. Therefore the Church existed before the books. The Church and the Bible cannot be separated. The Church is the teacher. The Bible confirms what the Church teaches.
The Sacred Scriptures have impressive place in the Church’s worship. The Church Year provides for the reading of the Bible from beginning to end. The reading of the Bible has its appointed places in the ceremonies of the Church.
From all this we are made aware of the fact that the Bible is devoutly read to devout hearers in the course of the Church’s Liturgical worship. It is read to the whole body of believers as interpreted by the whole Church under the direction of the Holy Spirit. Therefore no prophecy of the Scripture is of any private interpretation.
The Epistle for this Second Sunday in Advent sets forth the declaration and the prayer of Saint Paul concerning the Church’s Holy Scripture. “Whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.” This is the declaration.
The prayer of Saint Paul is, “Now the God of patience and consolation grant you to be likeminded one toward another according to Christ Jesus: that ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Each year as we begin to commemorate the Christian Mysteries, the Church gives to us the Scriptures to serve as our guide book. The Gospels and Epistles we hear read to us in the Eucharistic Mysteries at the Altar. In the Choir Offices of Matins and Evensong we take our part in the recitation of the Psalms and Canticles.
The order of Scripture appointed to be read at these Offices leads us through the Old Testament and the New. The Collects appointed for each day gather together the devotional aspirations aroused by the solemnities which we have witnessed and in which we have taken part, in the form of an appropriate prayer for daily use. This is the Church’s daily ministry of the word, not only on Sundays but on every day of the year. The Church Year is literally a year of Our Lord.
What I have written is concerned with the public devotional reading of the Scriptures. The private devotional reading should not be neglected. Indeed we should make it part of our rule of life to read some portion of the Bible daily. The time we give to this devotion will be limited by the required duties of our workday lives. The amount read will be left to our own decision. A verse, or a few verses, or a chapter, whatever we can arrange for, will serve the purpose so long as we read devoutly, that is with the intention of making the reading an act of devotion.
It is never wise or helpful to attempt too much. It is far better to do a little and do it well, than to attempt much and to do it badly.
Before beginning the reading we need help. We must remember that. So we need a prayer to say. The Collect for this Second Sunday in Advent is the right prayer.
If we persevere in this devotion we shall without a shadow of doubt be taught the secret of extracting patience out of trouble, comfort out of weakness, and hope out of discouragement.
Affectionately in Our Lord,