Locust Street Letters
By Frank Lawrence Vernon
Philadelphia: St. Mark's Church, Locust Street.
ST. MARK'S, PHILADELPHIA.
THE FIRST SUNDAY AFTER EASTER, 1937.
MY DEAR PEOPLE:
We are celebrating the Forty Days of Eastertide. Therefore let us keep the Feast. It is no less our duty to keep the forty days of the Feast than it was our duty to keep the forty days of the Fast.
In Lent we were chiefly concerned with the duties of repentance. In Eastertide we are chiefly concerned with the duties of faith. There must be a true balance of repentance and faith. There must be the repentance whereby we forsake sin. There must be the faith whereby we steadfastly believe the promises of God. We must diligently cultivate faith in the forgiveness of the sins for which we offered repentance in Lent. We who watched beside our Saviour's death with sorrow, must with joy witness to our Lord's resurrection.
Easter triumph is the triumph of God, who hath taken away the sin of the world, destroyed death, and restored to us everlasting life. The forty days of Eastertide must be devoted to the practise of the technique of thanksgiving.
As Eastertide advances, its glories increase. The festival carries us on, nearer and nearer, with rapturous joy, until at the Ascension we are lifted up to Heaven itself, and to the place prepared for us. Whitsuntide will lift us up to the Holy Ghost, the giver of the clear light and true knowledge of God.
Finally on Trinity Sunday the gates of Heaven will be opened wide, and we shall have the preparation for, and the foretaste of, the Beatific Vision: With Angels, and Archangels, and with all the Company of Heaven, we shall laud and magnify the glorious Name of God, praising Him and saying, Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of Hosts, Heaven and earth are full of thy glory; glory be to Thee, O Lord Most High. The forty days of Eastertide will be busy days. We cannot afford to miss one of them. We must learn our lessons in the science, and we must practise the art of the worship for which we were created.
We shall need to refresh our memories by reading the records of Our Lord's appearances to His disciples, and of their companionship with Him during their forty days, and after. The thing that we note is that they were glad when they saw Him. They were not thinking about the wonder of His resurrection, nor about their own. They were thinking about Him, and about being with Him. They were rejoicing in the recovery of the former companionship. To be with Him again was everything. Later on they understood that He would be in them, and they in Him, and that He would be with them always.
So when the time for His Ascension came, they were able to return to Jerusalem with great joy. The resurrection joy continued because they continued to live in Him, convinced that He had not left them and would not leave them nor forsake them. When, after Pentecost, they began to teach, they taught that the Christian life is life in Christ. For them life everlasting meant everlasting life in Christ. Immortality without their life in Christ did not occur to them. If it had it would have been a barren, bleak, intolerable prospect in which they would have seen no joy. It was their Lord's joy that remained in them and made their joy full.
So it is with us. The joy of Easter is joy in Him. The everlasting life of Easter is everlasting life in Him. He in us and we in Him. Here, and now, and forever. We do not need to look back over counted centuries, nor forward to uncounted centuries. Our everlasting life in Him has begun. It is ours now. It is renewed in each Communion.
While we are in this world our present prayer is, "Suffer me not to be separated from thee." When the time comes to leave this world, our last prayer will be, "Bid me come to thee, that with thy saints I may praise thee, forever and ever."
Affectionately in Our Lord,