Locust Street Letters
By Frank Lawrence Vernon
Philadelphia: St. Mark's Church, Locust Street.
ST. MARK'S, PHILADELPHIA.
MY DEAR PEOPLE:
Last Sunday we thought of Lent as a time for spiritual exercise. Lent is also a time for rest. Exercise and rest at the same time? How can that be? Well, the Lent rest means a rest from worry. You will at once say to yourself, what I have often said to myself: “It is all very fine to say do not worry. If one has something to worry about, one can’t help worrying.”
Lent is a time for rest. “Why? How? When? Where?” We will think it over today. I began to think about it last week while I was reading the Gospel of Saint Mark, in the Sixth Chapter and at the thirtieth and thirty-first verses. “And the apostles gathered themselves together unto Jesus, and told Him all things, both what they had done, and what they had taught. And He said unto them, Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place and rest awhile.” The Greek word translated “rest,” means to stop doing what one has been busy with. Awhile—only for a while. Perhaps only for fifteen minutes or half an hour. Just for awhile. It won’t do any harm to knock off for a while. But what for? What shall we do in that fifteen or thirty minutes?
First we shall do well to tell Our Lord what we have been doing, and what we. have been saying lately. If what we have been doing and saying has been right, then the telling will be praying. If it has been wrong, the telling will be confessing. We ought to do a great deal of both kinds of telling in Lent.
If we do either or both with some degree of thoroughness, we shall be strongly impelled to depart into a desert place privately. We shall want very much to be alone. We cannot manage that for long. But we will manage it for a little while. Perhaps for fifteen or thirty minutes. Perhaps for only five. But we shall feel the need of being alone for some minutes at least every day. We shall be very glad to stop what we are so busy about. And we shall be grateful for exterior quiet and interior stillness. In this quiet and stillness we shall, after a while, begin to be conscious of the Presence of Our Lord. It will be a wordless experience. But it will be amazingly clarifying. A sense of steadiness and proportion and balance will drift in. Erratic tendencies will fall away. Emotional impulses will subside. We shall be quiet. If we think, we shall think more clearly than we usually do, and God will be the centre of our thoughts. This will be Mental Prayer. If we allow our feelings and desires to go Godward, that will be Affective Prayer. If we are without thoughts and desires, save the single thought and desire to have every thought captivated and every desire directed, that will be Simple Prayer. The result in each case will be rest.
And yet the rest will not be an idle one. It will be a spiritual exercise. This spiritual exercise of resting in God will take the place of the feverish exercise which rests in self. We can never take anything away from ourselves, without providing the substitute of something better. That is always futile and perilous. But to pass from the restlessness of self to rest in God is an infinite gain.
This is the rest that is to be found in Lent.
Affectionately in Our Lord,