Locust Street Letters
By Frank Lawrence Vernon
Philadelphia: St. Mark's Church, Locust Street.
ST. MARK'S, PHILADELPHIA.
PASSION SUNDAY, 1941.
MY DEAR PEOPLE:
On this Sunday we stand on the threshold of the doorway which opens into the antechamber of the places in which we shall commemorate the sacred Passion and sacrificial death of Our Saviour. Passion Week is a week of preparation for Holy Week. We must know the doctrine of the Passion before we can intelligently commemorate the events of the Passion.
These events are summarized in the Nicene Creed. We believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, 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: Who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven, And was made man: And was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate; He suffered and was buried.
A shorter summary is contained in the Apostles' Creed. We believe in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord: Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, Born of the Virgin Mary: Suffered under Pontius Pilate, Was crucified; dead, and buried.
These are the facts known by us all. We are not able to forget them. The central act of worship was instituted by our Saviour on the night in which He was betrayed "for the continual remembrance of the sacrifice of the death of Christ, and of the benefits which we receive thereby."
In the offering of the Eucharistic Sacrifice, at the central and supreme act the Church prays, "All glory be to thee, Almighty God, our heavenly Father, for that thou, of thy tender mercy, didst give thine only Son Jesus Christ to suffer death upon the Cross for our redemption." "And we earnestly desire thy fatherly goodness, mercifully to accept this our sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving; most humbly beseeching thee to grant that, by the merits and death of thy Son Jesus Christ, and through faith in His blood, we, and all thy whale Church, may obtain remission of our sins, and all other benefits of His passion."
The points of preparation for Passiontide are indicated in these words, "by the merits and death of thy Son Jesus Christ." "And through faith in His Blood." Our Lord's merits. Our Faith. Meditation on the merits. Faith in the Blood. These working directions cannot fail to lead us to cultivate the fruits of redemption.
The Cross is the only medicine of the world. The death of Our Saviour upon the Cross has made the full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction for the sins of the whole world. The death of Christ is the one true sacrifice for sin. "The only offering perfect in God's eyes." "Between our sins and their reward, we set the Passion of thy Son, our Lord."
How are we to make practical use of Passiontide? The answer to this question is found in the Ash Wednesday Collect. We must pray that God, who hates nothing that He has made, and who forgives the sins of all those who are penitent; may create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we worthily lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain of the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness.
A new and contrite heart is the gift of God. We must ask Him for the gift. But we could not ask Him for a contrite heart if He had not already given it. We have only to use it.
We use it, as the Prayer Book directs. "The way and means thereto is to examine our lives and conversations by the rule of God's commandments." We use it by seeking and receiving all the means of grace which God has instituted for us in His Church. We use it by steadfastly believing the promises of God made to us in each Sacrament.
With this preparation we may kneel at the foot of the Cross on Good Friday, and cry with sure confidence with all Christians everywhere, "O Saviour of the world, Who by Thy Cross and precious Blood hath redeemed us, Save us and help us, we humbly beseech Thee, O Lord."
Affectionately in Our Lord,