Locust Street Letters
By Frank Lawrence Vernon
Philadelphia: St. Mark's Church, Locust Street.
ST. MARK'S, PHILADELPHIA.
THE SUNDAY AFTER ASCENSION, 1928.
MY DEAR PEOPLE:
Think today of three groups of men who looked up to heaven and saw angels and found God.
This is the first. "And there were in the same country Shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone upon them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you: ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes lying in a manger."
This is the second. "And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them, in white apparel; which also said, ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up from you into heaven? This same Jesus which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen Him go into heaven."
Now think of a third group. This group includes you. It is in the early morning. The place is a Church. There is the Altar. The two tapers shine like tiny stars. In the midst stands the Crucifix. The Tabernacle door catches the morning light and reflects the red glow of the Sacrament lamp. On either side the lilies make a garden for God. The priest and acolyte enter. They stand at the foot of the Altar. The subdued tone of the preparation is faintly heard. "I will go unto the Altar of God. Even unto the God of my joy and gladness. Give sentence with me, O God." The forty-third psalm is recited, with its Gloria. The Confiteor follows. The priest ascends the steps and begins the Eucharistic Mysteries. Kyrie, Collect, Epistle, Gospel, Creed, Offertory, Prayer for the Church follow in swift succession. The Congregation sends confession to the Throne of Mercy. The precatory absolution prepares for the Sursum Corda. All hearts are lifted up unto the Lord. With all the Company of heaven, priest and people offer the Sanctus. Now all are gazing up into heaven, in expectancy of the coming of the Lord. "Blessed is He that cometh in the Name of the Lord. Hosanna in the Highest." The great moment comes. The Canon of the Mass begins. "This is my Body." The bell rings the announcement. The Host is elevated. "This is my Blood." The bell rings. The Chalice is raised and the Precious Blood is lifted up. "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 whole Church, may obtain remission of our sins, and all other benefits of his passion." The cry for mercy goes up to the Lamb of God.
The people kneel at the Altar rail. The Lord Jesus comes to each and makes His dwelling place in each heart. The blessing follows. The priest departs. The Lord remains in the hearts of His children.
I do not think that you and I need envy the Shepherds of Bethlehem, or the witnesses of the Ascension. Do you?
Affectionately in Our Lord,