Locust Street Letters
By Frank Lawrence Vernon
Philadelphia: St. Mark's Church, Locust Street.
ST. MARK'S, PHILADELPHIA.
THE FIRST SUNDAY AFTER THE EPIPHANY, 1943.
MY DEAR PEOPLE:
"When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea, in the days of Herod the King, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, saying, where is He that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen His Star in the east and are come to worship Him."
"The Star which they had seen in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was. When they saw the Star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. And when they were come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His Mother, and fell down and worshipped Him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto Him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh."
The Church is commemorating the Festival of the Epiphany, or the Manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles. We have learned how the manifestation came to the Jewish Shepherds by an angel. The Gentile Wise Men were led by a Star. The manifestations were made in such a manner that the Shepherds and the Wise Men saw the Light and were moved to make their response as they were led.
The Shepherds responded, "Let us now go even unto Bethlehem and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us." The Wise Men responded, "Where is He that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen His Star in the east, and are come to worship Him."
The Church guides us in making our response by leading us in the holy doctrine which she teaches. The Light shines out to those who are far off and to those who are nigh. In some manner that Light lights every man that cometh into the world. At least once, sufficient light is given for the one step which is enough for each. The night may be dark, and the soul may be far from home, but the light leads on.
In the end the pilgrims of the night meet in the place where the young Child is. At the end those who have followed the light, fall down, and worship Him, and open their treasures and present unto Him their gifts. They offer their praise to Him Who, in substance of our mortal flesh, manifested forth His glory; that He might bring us out of darkness into His own glorious light.
They offer their gifts in the Eucharistic Sacrifice: "We offer and present unto thee, O Lord, ourselves, our souls, and bodies, to be a reasonable, holy, and living sacrifice unto, Thee." We pray, as the Collect directs us, that we may both perceive and know what things we ought to do, and also may have grace and power faithfully to fulfil the same.
Each day is a little Epiphany for us. The events in each day may seem of small significance to others, but they are of vital importance to us. The small things are the steps which carry us on. If we are faithful to the small things we shall train ourselves without anxiety to perceive and know what we ought to do in the great things. Habitual exercise of the will will develop the grace and power which God will give us for right action. We have no power in ourselves to do this. We must pray to God and ask that it may be given to us each hour of the day.
The Holy Ghost is our Guide. The Holy Ghost is our Comforter, our Strengthener. The Sacrament of Confirmation gives us the help we need under every impact of every trial through every hour from the time we get up in the morning, until we go to bed at night. Everything works out well with God. Everything goes wrong without Him.
When we meditate upon the Epiphany manifestation, we shall be helped by saying the Confirmation prayer said by the Bishop, changing the pronouns. "Strengthen me, I beseech Thee, O Lord, with the Holy Ghost, the Comforter, and daily increase in me Thy manifold gifts of grace: the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and ghostly strength, the spirit of knowledge and true godliness; and fill me, O Lord, with the spirit of Thy holy fear, now and forever. Amen."
Affectionately in Our Lord,