Project Canterbury

Locust Street Letters

By Frank Lawrence Vernon

Philadelphia: St. Mark's Church, Locust Street.




“And dwelt among us.” This is the Christmas note which is sustained in the Eucharistic Mysteries throughout the year. “That He may dwell in us, and we in Him.” “That we may evermore dwell in Him, and He in us.” This is the meaning of the Christmas Communion and every Communion. Evermore is the word to keep in mind.

It looks like a familiar statement as one reads it. And it is familiar. We have read it over and over again. We have heard it every time we have gone to Mass. And yet in the ordinary process of spiritual growth, the full realization of the actuality of it is the last thing we fully attain to. In the charted course of the spiritual life, union is the goal. Purgation prepares for it. Illumination reveals it. Union is the final possession. Yet without some degree of union there could be no purgation and no union. Long, long before we can even desire, much less aspire, to dwell in Him, He comes to dwell in us. Long before we are ready to realize, He comes and dwells in the place where we live. He dwells where we are in order to be where we are. Bethlehem is a little place. Nazareth is a humble place. The lake is a treacherously tempestuous place. Gethsemane is a dark place. Calvary is a fearsome place. The sepulchre is a sad place. Anywhere we go, everywhere we go, there He is. Always there. And always where and when we would least expect to find Him. He is where Saints are. But we are not surprised at that. But He is where sinners are. And that is the surprise which astounds us. There is one more surprise after that. He is where we are. The day we discover that will go down in our annals as our first real Christmas.

This discovery will be made sometimes very gradually after a dark passage through an experience of sustained penitence from which we emerge into a kindly light to which our eyes become accustomed. Sometimes it is made by stunning impact under the fierce light of a mid-day sun. A sharp crisis in which bonds are snapped and a life is liberated from a world which passes away to be seen no more again forever. Whatever it is and however it happens, when it is over and done with, we see no man save Jesus only.

Then we know. We cry out as others have before us. “It is the Lord.” But by that time we have come to understand that He has been with us all the time, and all the way.

We must train our minds to realize and discipline them to remember this. Because it requires training and demands discipline. Even when we rise to the heights of a good Communion we are almost overwhelmingly inclined to regard it as a momentary wonder which ends when we leave the Communion rail.

As we go back to our place in the nave, and as we go out from the Church to the street, we must say over and over again. the word “evermore.” We must accustom our minds to the idea that Communion is a state. It is meant to last. It is the normal state. If sin breaks the union, we must fly to Penance and go back to re-make the Communion. It all begins in Bethlehem. It will all end in Heaven.

Affectionately in Our Lord,

Project Canterbury