Locust Street Letters
By Frank Lawrence Vernon
Philadelphia: St. Mark's Church, Locust Street.
ST. MARK'S, PHILADELPHIA.
THE THIRD SUNDAY IN ADVENT, 1942.
MY DEAR PEOPLE:
We pray in the Collect for the Third Sunday in Advent for the ministers and stewards of God's mysteries, that they may so prepare and make ready His way, by turning the hearts of the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, that at His second coming to judge the world we may be found an acceptable people in His sight.
Three words are to be noted in the Collect: Ministers, Stewards, Mysteries. (1) A minister is one who serves a master. (2) A steward is one who administers a master's property. (3) The mysteries of God are the spiritual truths revealed by Our Lord, by Whom came grace and truth.
Wednesday, Friday and Saturday of this week are days appointed for prayer for those who are to be admitted into Holy Orders, that they may serve as ministers and stewards of the mysteries of God. What is meant by the words Holy Orders? The Preface to the Ordinal answers this question.
"It is evident unto all men, diligently reading Holy Scriptures and ancient Authors, that from the Apostles' time 'there have been these Orders of Ministers in Christ's Church—Bishops, Priests and Deacons. Which Offices were evermore had in such reverend estimation, that no man might presume to execute any of them, except he were first called, tried, examined, and known to have such qualities as are requisite for the same; and also by public Prayer, with Imposition of Hands, were approved and admitted thereunto by lawful Authority."
There are three points for Embertide meditation which may be profitable for general use.
The first is that God is the Giver of all good gifts. There is no limit to His love, wisdom and power.
The second point is that the ministers or servants of God are overshadowed by Him Whom they serve.
The third point is that the gifts administered by God's Stewards are God's, not their own.
Since God is the Giver of all good gifts there is no human need for which God has not provided. His mercy and His power are inexhaustible. The things that are impossible with man are possible with God. Redemption, the means of grace, the hope of glory, are within His power to give to all who ask. We ask in penitence. We do not trust in our own righteousness, but in His manifold and great mercies. Yet even in the depths of penitence we are to remember that faith must accompany repentance, else repentance would become mere remorse. Repentance and faith must be maintained in true balance.
This is what we seek in Advent. With this preparation we may ask without fear of presumption. After we have asked, God will never fail to give the good things which for our unworthiness we dare not, and for our blindness, we cannot ask.
This is within the experience of the last and the least of us. Out of this experience we have been led to look to the Church as the Divine organism which supplies from a reservoir of grace the gifts to be found in no human organization on earth.
The second point is the impressive selflessness required of the ministers of grace. Like the first messenger they live that their master may increase. They must decrease. They do not hesitate to exercise their office. They bear costly spiritual gifts with sure confidence, because their confidence is in the Lord Who sends them and not in themselves.
The third point explains the magnifying of the Office of Ministers and Stewards of God's mysteries. They magnify the Lord in magnifying their office. They in their own persons are nothing, have nothing, desire nothing. They lose themselves in their office. They no longer live. Christ lives in them. Christ lives with them. Christ lives for them. Christ lives through them. Apart from Him they can do nothing. This is the priestly model.
Affectionately in Our Lord,