Locust Street Letters
By Frank Lawrence Vernon
Philadelphia: St. Mark's Church, Locust Street.
ST. MARK'S, PHILADELPHIA.
THE FOURTH SUNDAY IN ADVENT, 1942.
MY DEAR PEOPLE:
The Collect for today is a prayer of penitence and of supplication. Penitence reveals the sins and wickedness and the hindrances which are the result. "We are sore let and hindered in running the race that is set before us." We have no power in ourselves to help ourselves.
When we are convinced of this we have learned the first lesson in penitence. We have gained the first benefit. Pride has been uprooted. No place for self-satisfaction remains. We take our place in the vast company of sinners whom God alone can save. The hindrance in running the race that is set before us is removed. We are still sinners, but we are sinners who have advanced to the stage of penitence.
With penitence comes the first ray of hope. We lift up our eyes and we stretch out our hands and we cry, "Raise up Thy power, and come among us, and with great might succour us." The grievous memories of past sins remain to stir up our wills, but hope is now the moving virtue which enables us to seek the help and deliverance of God's bountiful grace and mercy. We are prepared for Bethlehem.
On the day which is the Festival of the Saviour's Nativity, we shall be celebrating with joy the historical fact of His coming in the flesh. But this is only the beginning. It is not the ending. It is the beginning of Our Saviour's coming in grace to each individual soul. The soul of each of us is to be a little Bethlehem. The heart of each of us is to be a prepared Manger.
In our Christmas Communion we receive Our Lord and give Him all our poverty affords. It is indeed a poor offering, but it is all that we have. But it will be sufficient to give the Holy Child shelter and a place to lay His head. This is the Communion intention at Christmas, "That He may dwell in us."
The coming of the Saviour to each one of us individually, to dwell in us, in grace, is the great event for us in this year of Our Lord One Thousand Nine Hundred and forty-two.
We remember beautiful Bethlehem as it was on that first Christmas Day. And we remember that the wonder and the beauty of that first Bethlehem is extended and multiplied beyond reckoning in this coming Christmas Day. All through the holy day we shall repeat the thanksgiving, "We most heartily thank Thee, for that thou dost vouchsafe to feed us who have duly received these holy mysteries, with the spiritual food of the most precious Body and Blood of Thy Son Our Saviour Jesus Christ; and dost assure us thereby of thy favor and goodness toward us; and that we are very members incorporate in the mystical body of Thy Son, which is the blessed company of all faithful people: and are also heirs through hope of Thy everlasting Kingdom, by the merits of His most precious death and passion. And we humbly beseech Thee, O heavenly Father, so to assist us with Thy grace, that we may continue in that holy fellowship, and do all such good works as Thou hast prepared for us to walk in; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to Whom with thee and the Holy Ghost, be all honor and glory, world without end."
As we commemorate Our Lord's Nativity and offer to Him all honor and glory, we shall show forth our praise, by offering to Him the surrender of ourselves, our souls and bodies to be a reasonable, holy, and living sacrifice, that we may actually have share with the shepherds and the wise men, in the ageless Bethlehem, which is ever old, yet always new.
Affectionately in Our Lord,