Locust Street Letters
By Frank Lawrence Vernon
Philadelphia: St. Mark's Church, Locust Street.
ST. MARK'S, PHILADELPHIA.
THE THIRD SUNDAY AFTER EASTER, 1930.
MY DEAR PEOPLE:
The characteristic of Christian joy is that it is centred in, and proceeds from, the Person of Our Lord. It is joy in a Person. It is joy from a Person. The joy is inseparable from the Person. It is joy in the abiding Presence of that Person. The abiding Presence is the wonder of that joy. It is a joy no man can take from the Christian, because no man can take away the Person.
The enemies of Our Lord tried to do that when they crucified Him. But on the third day He rose again.
They tried to take Him away when they introduced heresies which centred attacks on His Person. But the Catholic Church enshrined the truth concerning Him in unalterable and imperishable Creeds.
They tried to take Him away when heresies were introduced which centred upon His Eucharistic Presence. But the Catholic Church preserved Eucharistic truth and perpetuated Eucharistic devotion in an inviolable Sacramental System which exalts the Presence of Our Lord in the august solemnities of the Eucharistic Sacrifice. No man has, no man ever can, banish the Eucharistic Presence from the world. So the joy remains. In the Presence is the fulness of joy.
The enemies of Our Lord never relax their efforts. They try today to overthrow the faith and to undermine the morals and to suppress the devotions of Christians. But the victory remains with Christians. They continue to be of good cheer. They have with them the Lord who has overcome the world.
It is the Presence of Our Lord in the Church which explains the simple confidence with which she exercises Divine authority. It is because people have never understood that Our Lord really dwells in and works through His Church that they are timorous and apologetic, and very often quite antagonistic to affirmations concerning the Church, which seem to them to tend toward an undue exaltation of the Church. Of course, if a person really believes in the absence of Our Lord, he is quite logical in entertaining a low estimation of the Church. If the Church were only a human society which is making the endeavour to follow the precepts of a Person who left this world nearly two thousand years ago, it could not be other than fallible and feeble. It would be no wiser and stronger than its human constituents. It is a low conception of Our Lord's provision for man's spiritual needs which accounts for a low conception of the powers of His Church.
But if and when it is understood that the abiding Presence of Our Lord in His Church is a fact, then the height of the Church reaches to Heaven. For the Church is the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth. The Church is a Divine Organism with a human mission. She is the reservoir of Grace and the repository of truth. Grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. From Him and through His Church they come to us. So there is joy in the Church. There are no sorrows of earth which are not healed in the Church.
When the Real Presence of Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament is perceived, the Christian finds the joy that no man can take away. The Christian finds the life that is hid with Christ in God. Christ in him is his hope of glory. Wherever he lives, he lives with Our Lord. Whatever he endures, he endures with Our Lord. Neither life nor death separate him from Our Lord. So his heart rejoices always.
Affectionately in Our Lord,