Locust Street Letters
By Frank Lawrence Vernon
Philadelphia: St. Mark's Church, Locust Street.
ST. MARK'S, PHILADELPHIA.
THE FOURTH SUNDAY AFTER EASTER, 1934.
MY DEAR PEOPLE:
The Collect for today is a prayer for the continuance of Easter joy. It is a revelation of the quality of all Christian joy. And it is a revelation of its secret. It wastes no time on the emotions. It goes straight down, deep below the surface, and never stops until it touches the root.
The root of Christian joy is in the will; the will to love the things that God commands; the will to desire the things that God promises. To His superior will all the inferior, unruly wills, and the affections must be subdued and set in order. When the superior will has subdued all things to itself, then, in spite of all the sundry and manifold changes of the world, the heart is surely fixed where true joys are to be found. After that, the changes of the world make no difference. The heart is fixed. The joys are found.
This was the joy that came to the disciples when they saw Our Lord after He had risen from the dead. And all through the Forty Days of Eastertide their joy increased. Our Lord instructed them in the things pertaining to the Kingdom of Heaven on earth, His Church. He explained to them the nature and the scope of their mission and the extent of their apostolic power. He gave them explicit commands as to what to teach, and what to do, and where to go. He promised to be with them and their successors unto the end of the world. He promised them that the Holy Ghost would come down upon them and endue them with power from on high.
As they listened their wills were stirred and their hearts were quickened. The commandments and the promises shone out before them as the only things in the whole world to be loved and desired. They became saturated with such joy that it did not even desert them, as we shall see, when later on He was parted from them. They could return to Jerusalem with great joy, and continue praising and blessing God. And that was a real test.
That joy was really a lasting joy that really did defy the changes of the world. Each one of the disciples had a hard road before him. An incredibly hard road. The world would have nothing much in it of human comfort for them, and nothing at all of wordly reward, and anything and everything of human enmity and hate and persecution and death. Out of the enmity they would fashion apostolic fellowship. Out of the hate they would extract an apostolic charity. Out of the persecution they would stablish apostolic glory. Out of the death they would blaze a witness that would give to the very word death the new and triumphant name of Martyrdom. They made good use of Eastertide. They fixed surely their hearts where true joys are to be found. They could well afford to lightly regard the sundry and manifold changes of the world. For they themselves would change the world.
We ourselves must make good use of Eastertide. The Lent discipline of unruly wills and affections must now begin to yield its results. The deepened love of obedience to the Commandments of God should be the first result. The supreme desire for that which God has promised should be the second result. Fearless disregard for the sundry and manifold changes of the world should be the third. Firm fixing of the heart upon the true joys should be the fourth.
This is to be done, we must remember, not by shutting our eyes to the significance of secular events, nor by keying up our emotions to a religious enjoyment rooted in the senses. It is to be done by maintaining habitually disciplined wills, and definitely ordered affections, not for the purpose of destroying either, but for the purpose of releasing them from destructive distractions, and of directing them in full strength straight toward the joys that are really worth while and that really last. To be able to do this is to be able to face the present without dismay and the future without disquietude.
Affectionately in Our Lord,