Locust Street Letters
By Frank Lawrence Vernon
Philadelphia: St. Mark's Church, Locust Street.
ST. MARK'S, PHILADELPHIA.
THE FOURTH SUNDAY IN LENT, 1928.
MY DEAR PEOPLE:
The Gospel for the day lends its name. Refreshment Sunday marks Mid-Lent. But there is something deeper than that about it. Lent begins with the penitential discipline of Ash Wednesday. That discipline continues for forty days. In the middle of the forty days there comes a moment of refreshment. Then after a momentary gleam of light which changes the violet hues to the color of rose, the shadows deepen and the darkness sets in upon what seems to be the end, and then there will come the dawn and the full flood of Easter light. These liturgical transitions are true to the realities of the life which is hid with Christ in God. And they are invariable and constant. In life as we find it, in experiences as they come, the sequence of discipline, refreshment, climax and triumph is dependable. The discipline is real. The refreshment is certain. The climax is effective. The triumph is lasting. It makes every thing so very much easier, when the course is charted, and one knows what to expect.
Take any common experience that may fall to the lot of any of us. It will always be the same.
For example, take an experience of temptation. The first stage is one of sudden and sharp conflict. The foes press on from every side. The mind is assailed by a barrage of suggestion. The emotions undergo a storm of high explosives. The will alone is still and tense and alert. Every move must be carefully calculated. More nerve wracking yet, is the rigid stability. The will becomes like a block of steel. And all the while every ounce of energy is being taxed. Sacramental supplies are rushed to the firing line. Penance brings up the remedies for poisonous wounds. Communion brings up the restoratives. And the battle rages. And angels guard and saints pray. And God preserves. Then comes the lull. The noise dies down. The air clears. There is a respite for refreshment. It is not long, but it is enough. Then everything begins with redoubled fury. One is swept on into agony and darkness and desolation. Then rest. And then resurrection. The battle is won.
Or take an experience of suffering. Again the Christian knows the way through and out. There is the first facing of the reality. There is the measuring of the cross. The testing of its weight. The Christian reckons it all. He has recourse to Sacramental aid. He stoops and takes and lifts his cross. He settles it on his shoulders. He steps firmly out on the Via Dolorosa. His eyes are looking straight on, to the hill. Midway he faints and falls, and is relieved. Refreshment comes. And then on and up. The consummation of Calvary. The rest of an holy Sabbath. A resurrection. And the joy that no man taketh away.
It is always the same. The Christian Religion explains the Cross. But it does not explain it away. The Cross stands massively in the foreground. It shines forth with mystic glow. It is the sign of triumph. By this sign Christians conquer. The Way of the Cross is the Way of Life. The Way of Penitence is the Way of Peace. The Way of Temptation is the Way of Virtue. The Way of Pain is the Way of Purgation. The Way of Sorrows is the Way of Illumination. The Way of Love is the Way of Union. Of this you may be solidly sure. Refreshment always comes midway. Victory always comes at the end.
Affectionately in Our Lord,