Locust Street Letters
By Frank Lawrence Vernon
Philadelphia: St. Mark's Church, Locust Street.
ST. MARK'S, PHILADELPHIA.
THE THIRD SUNDAY AFTER EASTER, 1935.
MY DEAR PEOPLE:
Our Lord's appearance to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus is perhaps the most comforting to us. It comes so very near to our own experience. We must go to the Holy Places to get the thrill of the other appearances. I have never felt that I could bear that pilgrimage. And the Holy Places are so far away. But there is something about the road to Emmaus that makes it seem near and familiar. It might be the very street on which we live, or the road that runs by our house.
We all have memories of walks when we have reasoned and have been sad. There have been walks with some one when we have talked without reserve. And then there have been walks alone. We missed the communing. The reasoning was more anxious then, and the sadness more difficult to deal with. We grappled with things we could not understand. Whatever they were the thing that was hardest to understand was why we were left to struggle alone. It was hardest to become reconciled to that.
I have so often watched people on our own Locust Street, glancing at the Calvary over Saint Mark's doors. I have seen them stop and stand looking at the figure of Our Lord, and go on a few steps and then turn back and look again. I usually say an "0, Saviour of the world" for them, and ask Our Lord to save them and help them. If one could read their reasoning and fathom their secret sadness one would know the soul of Locust Street, and every street. When one catches the spirit of a street, then one gets the feeling of the street; then one loves it always, and I am quite sure loves it forever. When one has begun to love the spirit of the city streets, then one has begun to love the city.
The country roads must be loved in the same way. It is easy to love them for their beauty. But one must go deeper than that. One must really wait for the glimpse of the spirit of the roads. And that spirit is what we ourselves have put into them. This we must as a rule find alone.
We have all had our walks along country roads when we have reasoned and been sad. Those roads have left their impress upon us because we have left our impress upon them. We can shut our eyes and see them years after. Who is there who does not know that road to Emmaus? So, when we read the Gospel for Easter Monday, everything seems strangely familiar.
"And it came to pass, that Jesus himself drew near, and went with them. But their eyes were holden that they should not know Him." And He said unto them, "What manner of communications are these that ye have one to another, as ye walk and are sad?" Then they opened their hearts and told him everything. And yet they did not know Him. And Our Lord talked with them. And then evening came. Evening on a city street, or a country road, can be desperately lonely. The disciples dreaded this. They constrained Our Lord to tarry with them. And yet they did not know Him. And He took bread and blessed it, and brake, and gave it to them. And then—then their eyes were opened and they knew Him. And they remembered that their hearts had burned within them, while He talked with them by the way.
Why that is what has happened to us! The walk. And the reasoning; and the sadness; and the unrecognized Companion; and the strange heart-burning; and the longing; and the breaking of the bread at the Communion that we shall never forget. And the opening of our eyes. And we know Him.
The theologians can explain how it happened. But we knew it before they explained it. And the astounding thing about it all is that we do not have to cross oceans and continents and turn time back to the first Easter and find the old road to Emmaus. The place of meeting is here. The time is today. The road runs by our own house. The breaking of the bread takes place upon our own Altar. Our own eyes are opened. And we are saying to disciples today, "The Lord is risen indeed!"
Affectionately in Our Lord,