Locust Street Letters
By Frank Lawrence Vernon
Philadelphia: St. Mark's Church, Locust Street.
ST. MARK'S, PHILADELPHIA.
THE FOURTH SUNDAY AFTER EASTER, 1941.
MY DEAR PEOPLE:
The Collect for today teaches us to offer our unruly wills and affections to God that He may so order them that we may love the thing which He commands, and desire that which He promises.
The Collect is an example of what is called Affective Prayer. The experts in the science and art of prayer define this kind of prayer as an act of the soul in penitence recognizing and lamenting its unruly will and affections as being the result of its sins, and seeking in surrender the power of God to bring both will and affections into captivity to the law of God, that being delivered from disorder it may find in God the peace which passes understanding.
"In thy will is our peace," is the aspiration of affective prayer. It is true that affective prayer is an art which the saints have cultivated to such a degree of perfection as to seem too far beyond ordinary souls to be within reach. Yet the Collect encourages us to attempt to practise it.
We begin the attempt with the confession that our unruliness is due to sinfulness. We know this. We confess it. The only thing and the best thing we can do is to offer our wills and affections to God that He may save us from ourselves. So far from being too high for us it finds its source deep down in the disorders which distress us. Out of that very distress arises vehement desire for peace.
Experience has' taught us that there is no peace anywhere until we have begun to love the things which God commands, and to desire that which He promises.
This kind of prayer brings great reward of interior peace. But it requires great self-discipline. Our wills do not become ruly at once. Our affections do not become orderly without resolute effort. We must learn how to become patient with ourselves.
In learning this kind of patience we must be prepared for long waiting. However, it is after all a simple process. Only a long succession of acts of self control. We must learn to refrain from action when our wills goad us to act. We must learn to refrain from speech when our feelings urge us to speak. The acts of restraint will reap the habit of restraint.
In due and not unreasonably long time the habit will reap a character. But this can only be accomplished by grace. For grace we seek the Sacraments. Failures, and there will be many of them, must be occasions for deeper penitence. Each absolution will bring us one degree nearer complete deliverance. Each Communion will increase within us the supply of supernatural life which will rebuke the winds and the waves of interior disorders, and we shall become more and more quickly responsive to our Lord's word—peace be still.
We shall by this time find the practise of affective prayer becoming an unspeakable comfort. By ejaculatory prayers at moments of pressure out in the world, wherever we happen to be, we shall have instant help.
"O, Lamb of God that takest away the sins of the world, Grant us thy peace." This is a convenient prayer for hurried occasions. If one can make time for a visit to a Church, then there is nothing more to be desired. We are safe from being disturbed. There we find Our Lord waiting. No matter how troubled we are, we know that He understands. We need only to kneel and wait until we are quiet. Then go out and on with our life. The peace of the Lord will be with us.
Then whatever the sundry and manifold changes of the world may be, our hearts will surely then be fixed where true joys are to be found.
Affectionately in Our Lord,