Locust Street Letters
By Frank Lawrence Vernon
Philadelphia: St. Mark's Church, Locust Street.
ST. MARK'S, PHILADELPHIA.
THE FIFTH SUNDAY AFTER EASTER, 1936. ROGATION SUNDAY.
MY DEAR PEOPLE:
Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday before Ascension Day are called Rogation Days because they are days on which special prayers are said for fruitful seasons. The great day of this week is of course Ascension Day. We cannot and we would not fail in the grateful observance of this Festival.
Think of what it meant to Our Lord. Think of what it means to us. On Christmas Day we worshipped Our Lord Jesus Christ, who was “born as at this time for us, who by the operation of the Holy Ghost, was made very man, of the substance of the Virgin Mary His Mother; and that without spot of sin, to make as clean from all sin.”
At the Epiphany we worshipped “Jesus Christ our Lord; who in substance of our mortal flesh, manifested forth his glory; that he might bring us out of darkness into his own glorious light.” In Holy Communion, in the Liturgy, in our prayers, we tried as best we could to follow the blessed steps of His most holy life. In heart and mind we lived with Him in Nazareth: We followed Him to the wilderness: We followed Him through His public ministry: We followed Him through the events of Holy Week; the Institution of the Sacrament of His Body and Blood; the Agony in the Garden; the Betrayal; the Judgment and Condemnation; the Crucifixion and the Death.
We followed Him to the Garden of the Resurrection and through the Forty Days of Eastertide. We followed Him in penitence, because it was for us men and for our salvation that He came and lived and suffered and died. We followed Him in hope, because it was for our justification that He rose again.
How can we refrain from following Him to the Mount on the day that commemorates His Ascension into heaven to sit on the right hand of the Father? We worshipped Him when he descended. We must worship Him when He ascends. Christmas Day revealed His condescension. Ascension Day reveals His glory. “Thou art the King of Glory, O Christ. Thou sittest at the right hand of God, in the glory of the Father.”
Ascension Day is a supremely satisfying day. It celebrates the triumph of the Divine Saviour. The Son of God returns triumphantly from war. He has conquered Satan, sin and death. He has redeemed man. He has delivered him from the spirit of bondage to fear, and restored to him the spirit of adoption, whereby he may cry, Abba Father. He has made it possible for man to affirm confidently, “we are debtors not to the flesh to live after the flesh.” He has made it possible for man, through the spirit, to mortify the deeds of the body. He has freed man from the law of sin and death. He has opened for man the door of repentance whereby he is made capable of receiving forgiveness of sins.
He has opened for man the channels of the infinite reservoir of grace whereby man may be regenerated, washed, sanctified, justified, transformed into a new creature. He has overcome death, and opened unto man the gate of everlasting life. He has won for man the inestimable gifts of the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting.
He has built for man His Church, One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic; against which the gates of hell shall not prevail. He has established that Church to be the ark of salvation, the treasury of truth, the refuge for sinners, and the home of saints. Within that Church penitents and saints live in mystic, sweet Communion with the faithful departed, with angels and archangels, and all the Company of Heaven, as one whole family in heaven and earth, fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, that all may grow up into Him in all things, which is the head, even Christ.
For all this and more than we can desire or deserve we owe Our Lord praise and thanks on the Festival of His Ascension into Heaven.
Affectionately in Our Lord,