Project Canterbury

Locust Street Letters

By Frank Lawrence Vernon

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




Easter joy is the joy of triumph. It is different from any other joy. The triumph is the turning of sorrow into joy. It is this triumphant transmutation that makes it different. It is this sublimation of sorrow that gives it its unique quality. Joy that has been joy from the beginning we can understand, because we know its cause. But joy that owes its origin to sublimated sorrow never ceases to be a mystery.

Since ordinary joys are so quickly extinguished by subsequent sorrows, we can never quite depend upon their stability. This uncertainty sometimes superinduces a tendency to chronic apprehensiveness, a suspicious fear that somewhere there lurks the impending sorrow that will eclipse the fleeting joy. Experience may have developed a timorous acceptance of joy. "Is it too good to be true? Will it last?" And so it often happens that as life goes on the sorrows seem to have left the permanent lines in the face, and the marks of joy seem to have been obliterated. There is something wrong. There is something lacking. What is it?

When one sees a face that indicates tranquility, a face that has retained the undimmed sparkle of joy, one is grateful for it. I do not mean the face of a person in action who is consciously forcing a conventional gaiety. That is never convincing and may be somewhat ghastly. I mean a face in repose. The face of person who is not self-conscious. The face of a person who is not aware of notice. The face of a person who is quite off guard. The tranquility of such a person arrests our attention. The sparkle of joy carries conviction. We say to ourselves, "this person is really tranquil; this person is really happy." Perhaps we know the person, perhaps we have been interested to learn something about on or her. Then we remember or we discover that as a matter of fact the person has known very deep sorrow. Then we ask ourselves what can be the secret of the tranquility and of the joy that sorrow has never disturbed nor dimmed. To hat question the first answer is obvious. The sorrow has been turned into joy. Yes, but how? If we can discover that we shall have discovered the secret of the triumphant life.

We may look where we will, and as long as we will, but we shall never find, and no man has ever yet found, the secret by the light of nature. It is only revealed in the supernatural light of Eastertide. In that light is seen the radiant arm of the risen Redeemer of the world. Radiant, yet in His hands and feet are tail prints; in His side a spear wound, and on His head the lacerations of a crown of thorns. There He stands vibrantly alive, who three days before was crucified, pronounced dead by His enemies; buried in a sealed tomb, and guarded by armed soldiers.

He had died for our sins and risen for our justification. By His sacrifice He had taken away the sins of the world; by His death He had destroyed death, and by His rising to life again He had restored everlasting life. He and He alone possesses and imparts the secret of the triumphant life. The secret of the turning bf sorrow into joy is His. It is His gift to those who seek it. His Church is the laboratory of God in which the Divine alchemy is demonstrated. The glorious Company of the Apostles, the goodly fellowship of the Prophets, the noble army of martyrs, the lowly company of penitents, the hosts of comforted mourners; these are His witnesses. They crowd the ages; they encircle the world; their voices ring to Heaven with deathless Alleluias.

Was there ever such a triumph? Was there ever such a witness? When? Where? From those who have had eyes to see, and ears to hear, and the will for truth, there has come one undivided testimony. "Thou art the King of Glory, O Christ."

Affectionately in Our Lord,

Project Canterbury