Locust Street Letters
By Frank Lawrence Vernon
Philadelphia: St. Mark's Church, Locust Street.
ST. MARK'S, PHILADELPHIA.
PASSION SUNDAY, 1943.
MY DEAR PEOPLE:
The full title of this Sunday is The Fifth Sunday in Lent, commonly called Passion Sunday. The day and the week are days of preparation for entering into Holy Week.
The preparation consists in the consideration of the meaning of the Passion to Our Lord, and of the meaning of the Passion to us. The scriptural records convey the facts concerning the Passion. We are enabled to discern the steps of Our Lord's life through the Passion and by Sacrament and prayer to meditate upon and to share in the sorrows.
Our Lord suffered for us men and for our salvation. It is for us to suffer with Him if we would perceive within ourselves the fruits of His redemption. We can only understand the Cross by taking up our own Cross and following Our Lord as He directs. We cannot be detached observers. We cannot be less than sharers. The Cross must be an experience, the greatest experience, in our lives.
We shall not shrink from this experience if we remember that it cannot be avoided by indifference nor neglect. The only question is whether we shall suffer with Christ or without Him. Of one thing we may be sure, whichever way we choose. "He that loveth his life shall lose it. He that loseth his life for my sake shall find it." It is all or nothing. All with Christ. Nothing without Him.
The Passion is the means of redemption and the hope of glory. It is the one oblation, once offered: the full, perfect and sufficient sacrifice, oblation, and satisfaction for the sins of the whole world.
The first step in the way of preparation opened to us in Passion Week is to offer ourselves, our souls and bodies, to be a reasonable, holy and living sacrifice to Our Lord. Then we shall be ready to take up our Cross in Holy Week.
Our second step will be to meditate upon the sufferings of Our Lord. One loving thought a day will do. We shall do well to begin with Bethlehem. "He came unto His own and His own received Him not." Then we may review with devotion the hidden life in Nazareth. The Public Ministry—The Baptism—Fasting and Temptation. The Betrayal. The Agony and Bloody Sweat. The Cross. The Passion. The Seven Words. The Precious Death. The Burial. All this we shall have in our minds as we prepare for and finally enter into Holy Week. The memory of the life-long sacrifice will stir up within us the spirit of penitence, reparation and expiation.
Our third step will take us into a deeper sense of the meaning of the words in the Catechism. "Why was the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper ordained?" "For the continual remembrance of the sacrifice of the death of Christ and of the benefits which we receive thereby." "What is the outward part of the Lord's Supper?" "Bread and Wine which the Lord hath commanded to be received." "What is the inward part or thing signified?" "The Body and Blood of Christ, which are spiritually taken and received by the faithful in the Lord's Supper."
We shall hear the voice of the Church throughout the world giving voice to our fervent aspirations, "Wherefore, O Lord and Heavenly Father, according to the institution of thy dearly beloved Son our Saviour Jesus Christ, we thy humble servants, do celebrate and make here, before Thy Divine Majesty, with these Thy holy gifts, which we now offer unto Thee, the memorial Thy Son hath commanded us to make."
Our final step will be to offer Our Lord whatever we have suffered in the past, whatever we are suffering in the present, whatever we may suffer in the future, to be received by Him in union with His Passion.
Affectionately in Our Lord,