Locust Street Letters
By Frank Lawrence Vernon
Philadelphia: St. Mark's Church, Locust Street.
ST. MARK'S, PHILADELPHIA.
THE SUNDAY AFTER ASCENSION DAY, 1934.
MY DEAR PEOPLE:
"Christ did truly rise again from death, and took again His body, with flesh, bones and all things pertaining to man's nature; wherewith He ascended into Heaven, and there sitteth, until He return to judge all men at the last day." So the Fourth Article of Religion simply summarizes the wonders of The Great Forty Days.
"It is very meet, right, and our bounden duty, that we should at all times, and in all places, give thanks unto thee, O Lord, Holy Father, Almighty, Everlasting God, through thy most dearly beloved Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who, after His most glorious Resurrection, manifestly appeared to all His Apostles, and in their sight ascended up into heaven, to prepare a place for us; that where He is, thither we might also ascend, and reign with Him in glory." So the Liturgy offers the Eucharistic intention.
"While they beheld, He was taken up; and a cloud received Him out of their sight."
"And it came to pass, while He blessed them, He was parted from them, and carried up into heaven." So the Scriptures confirm the Church's teaching.
"I believe—on the third day He rose again according to the Scriptures; and ascended into heaven, And sitteth on the right hand of the Father." So the Christian confesses the Faith, taught by the Church, and confirmed by the Bible.
"Seeing that we have a great High Priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need." So the Holy Ghost instructs us to lift up our hearts and minds, to comfort us, and exalt us unto the same place whither Our Saviour Christ is gone before.
"Grant us therefore, gracious Lord, so to eat the flesh of thy dear Son Jesus Christ, and to drink His blood—that we may evermore dwell in Him, and He in us." So for the faithful communicant at Ascensiontide, the twenty centuries that lie behind and all the time that lies ahead, are caught up into timelessness and merged into eternity. The measured. space of earth and the immeasurable space of the universe are merged and focussed at a point. At that meeting point are the disciples who witnessed the Ascension, the multitude of Christians, whom no man can number who have followed them, together with Angels and Archangels and all the company of heaven, singing the Sanctus that never ceases. And the Alleluias ring through the world and sky and heaven. And we reach the journey's end.
The first disciples worshipped Him as He was being carried up into Heaven. You can picture them standing and gazing up into heaven, rapt in wonder and adoration. You can recall the picture of Our Lord when He came. The Manger in the dim light. The straw. The Blessed Virgin. Saint Joseph. The Shepherds. The Wise Men.
The manger and the mountain. The moonlight and the mid-day sun. The straw and the cloud. The figures in the cave and the angels in the sky. The sleeping Child and the ascending Conqueror.
What does it mean? What happened? "He made himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the Cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted Him, and given Him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth: And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."
That is what happened. And what does it mean? It means that humility is stronger than pride. That sacrifice is stronger than sin. That good is stronger than evil. That the- Redeemer is stronger than the destroyer. That life is stronger than death. That love conquers everything. That the Saving Victim has opened wide the gate of heaven to man below.
Affectionately in Our Lord,