Locust Street Letters
By Frank Lawrence Vernon
Philadelphia: St. Mark's Church, Locust Street.
ST. MARK'S, PHILADELPHIA.
THE FOURTH SUNDAY AFTER EASTER, 1936.
MY DEAR PEOPLE:
On these Sundays in Eastertide we have been meditating upon the appearances of Our Lord after His resurrection. We have been thinking of the disciples’ joy in the personal presence of Our Lord. “He shewed unto them His hands and His side. Then were the disciples glad when they saw the Lord.”
The Gospel for today takes us back to one of Our Lord’s conversations with the disciples before the Crucifixion and Resurrection. Our Lord is preparing them for the day when his personal presence would be taken from them at His Ascension. He was teaching them that this withdrawal of his physical presence would be expedient for them. “If I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you.” “When he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth.”
With the coming of the Comforter the disciples would know the spiritual presence of Our Lord as they had not known it before. In this spiritual presence their hearts would rejoice, and that joy no man could take from them. We shall recall when we meditate on the Ascension that even then, before Pentecost, they could return to Jerusalem with great joy, believing in the promise of the abiding, spiritual presence of their Lord. After the coming of the Holy Ghost, the Comforter, their joy was full.
From that day to this the disciples of Our Lord have rejoiced in the real presence of Our Lord. The manifestation of the presence has been made known in the Breaking of Bread. The Real Presence of Our Lord in the Sacrament of His Body and Blood has been and ever will be the central reality of Christian worship and the supreme joy of Christian life. “What is the outward part or sign of the, Lord’s Supper? Bread and Wine, which the Lord has commanded to be received. What is the inward part, or thing signified? The Body and Blood of Christ, which are spiritually taken and received by the faithful in the Lord’s Supper. What are the benefits whereof we are partakers thereby? The strengthening and refreshing of our souls by the Body and Blood of Christ, as our bodies. are by the Bread and Wine.” Signum. Res. Virtus. Sign. Thing. Power. These-are the key-words of Eucharistic Faith and Worship. In one language or another these words have been kept, guarded and treasured by every community of Christians who have continued steadfastly in the Apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.
As we approach Ascension Day and Pentecost, we must pray for the quickening of sacramental sensibilities to discern the Lord’s Body. We must pray for the deepening of sacramental devotion, that in the Sacramental Presence of Our Lord we may find the fulness of joy. It is not an absent Christ whom we worship. It is not an absent Christ who reminds us of a future joy. It is a Present Christ whom we worship. It is a Present Christ who causes our hearts to rejoice in this present time.
“Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” “I am He that liveth, and was dead: and behold, I am alive for evermore.” This is the lasting joy of Eastertide. This is the joy of all the year and all the years. Our Lord is alive for evermore. Our Lord is always with us. The first disciples were sustained by this joy through persecutions. This same joy has sustained disciples who have been and are enduring persecution.
We in our country of religious freedom have been spared that. Yet in our normal lives we find in our experiences of temptation, sorrow, sickness, anxiety, perplexity, our hearts failing us for fear. Anyone who has formed the habit of regular and frequent Communion knows well how unfailingly Our Lord keeps his promise. “Come unto me, all ye that travail and are heavy laden, and I will refresh you.”
Affectionately in Our Lord,