Locust Street Letters
By Frank Lawrence Vernon
Philadelphia: St. Mark's Church, Locust Street.
ST. MARK'S, PHILADELPHIA.
EASTER DAY, 1935.
MY DEAR PEOPLE:
Our Lord rose from the dead the third day after His death. His Body disappeared from the tomb. His grave clothes were found in the tomb, in such a position as to indicate that He had passed out of them without disturbing their position. The tomb was empty. The grave clothes were left collapsed. Our Lord had risen.
He appeared to His disciples on occasions recorded in the Gospels, visible and tangible in flesh and bones, recognizable by the prints of the nails in hands and feet and by the wound made by the spear in His side. He walked and ate with His disciples, and remained with them for forty days, during which He instructed them in things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.
These are the facts to which the Church has been bearing witness from the first Easter to this Easter. There is no fact in the history of the world so incontestably proven, stablished, authenticated, so impressively witnessed for twenty centuries by the most uniquely triumphant organism the world has ever seen, the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, whose Alleluias ring to Heaven throughout the world on the Festival of the Resurrection. The triumphant affirmation of Christians is heard with increasing volume as the years go on, "The third day He rose from the dead. I believe in the resurrection of the body." The number of Christians increases every year, assembled at the Altars of the Risen Lord, meekly kneeling to receive the Body and Blood of Christ, given to the faithful to preserve their bodies and souls unto everlasting life.
Their joy is the joy that the world can neither give nor take away. Their assurance is beyond anything that science, philosophy, or natural theology has ever pretended to offer, or successfully attempted to dislodge. From the Altars of the Lord of Life, and from nowhere else on earth, the one Voice is heard announcing what no other voice on earth has ever presumed to utter, "Whoso eateth my Flesh and drinketh my Blood hath everlasting life and I will raise him up at the last day."
"Christ is risen from the dead: and become the firstfruits of them that slept. For since by man came death: by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die: even so in Christ shall all be made alive."
"In Christ." That is the point. In Christ we have our redemption. In Christ we have our resurrection. In our redemption we are to reckon ourselves to be dead unto sin. In our resurrection alive unto God through Jesus Christ Our Lord. "This is life eternal that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent.
Eternal life is ours here and now. It is not an expectation but a reality. It was given to us in Baptism. It is nourished in Holy Communion. It is working within us now. Its present work within us is the destruction and the purging out of the old leaven of malice and wickedness. Ever act of penitence is an evidence of that Life. Every thought of holiness is an evidence of that Life. Every moral victory won is an evidence of that Life. Every impulse to prayer is an evidence of that Life. Every attraction to the Sacramental Presence is an evidence of that Life. Its present work within us at this stage of our existence is to subdue the flesh to the spirit. As the flesh becomes subdued to the spirit it becomes refined, sensitized to the motions of the spirit. The flesh is to be spiritualized, that it may become wholly responsive and obedient to the spirit. This work will require all our attention and energy. It will mean the overcoming of our first enemy which is sin. It will also mean the preparation of our bodies for the overcoming of the last enemy, which is death.
The sting of death is sin. The Life within us must first remove that sting. This corruptible must put on incorruption before this mortal shall put on immortality. Then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. This double victory is the gift of God through our Lord Jesus Christ. So the miserere of Lent is followed by the Alleluia of Easter.
Affectionately in Our Lord,