Locust Street Letters
By Frank Lawrence Vernon
Philadelphia: St. Mark's Church, Locust Street.
ST. MARK'S, PHILADELPHIA.
THE THIRD SUNDAY AFTER EASTER, 1937.
MY DEAR PEOPLE:
The disciples, with bodily sight, saw Our Lord during the forty days after His resurrection. He had promised them that after Pentecost they would see Him with spiritual vision. The bodily sight would be withdrawn at the Ascension. The spiritual sight would remain to cause their hearts to rejoice with a joy that no man could take from them.
This satisfying spiritual sight of Our Lord has been the joy of Christians ever since. Centuries of experience have proved the reality of joy in the abiding presence of Our Lord. Centuries of worldly blindness and indifference have failed to take from Christians the fulness of joy found nowhere else but in their Lord's presence. Our Lord promised a special blessing to those who, not having enjoyed the bodily sight of Him, have believed in and enjoyed His spiritual presence.
This is the blessing in which we share. It follows that our devotion to Our Lord is a living devotion to a living Lord really present. We worship a present, not an absent, Lord. He is present in the Sacrament of His Body and Blood. By the Body and Blood of Christ our souls are strengthened and refreshed.
Therefore when the Church calls us to the Eucharistic Mysteries, she repeats the words of her Head, "Come unto Me, all ye that travail and are heavy laden, and I will refresh you." Seeing no man save Jesus only in this Mystery, the Church prays for the gifts to be obtained from Jesus only. "That we may worthily receive the most precious Body and Blood of thy Son Jesus Christ, be filled with Thy grace and heavenly benediction, and made one body with Him, that He may dwell in us, and we in Him. Grant us therefore, gracious Lord, so to eat the flesh of Thy dear Son Jesus Christ, and to drink His Blood, that our sinful bodies may be made clean by His Body, and our souls washed through His most precious Blood, and that we may evermore dwell in Him, and He in us." Christians go to the altar remembering the Lord's promise, "I will see you again." And that joy no man taketh from them.
Christians feed upon their Lord in their hearts by faith with thanksgiving. They know that the Lord is in their hearts. They know that He dwells in them. They know that at any moment of the day or night they may make acts of spiritual communion refreshing their minds with thankful remembrance and renewing their strength by the magnifying of Christ's life in their bodies. Whatever may be the difficulties which surround them, however painful the knowledge of their natural weakness may be, they are inspired by the confidence that they can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth them.
Earth born clouds may envelop them, but the darkness will not daunt them. Darkness does not mean separation. The remembrance of the promise cheers them. "Ye now therefore have sorrow! But I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice and your joy no man taketh from you."
This perpetual communion finds its utterance in prayer. Prayer is the language of communion. It has a vocabulary all its own. There is no speech like it to be found anywhere else. The Lord's Prayer, the Our Father, is the treasury of prayer, in which all treasures of devotion have been found. The Divine Liturgy, the Offices, the Litanies, the vocal prayers of devotion, supplication, thanksgiving, intercession, ascend unceasingly from earth to heaven through Jesus Christ, the only Mediator and Advocate, the heavenly High Priest who ever liveth to make intercession for us.
Earth responds to heaven's Sursum Corda and lifts up the hearts of saints and sinners, the holy aspirations, the sighs of penitence, the grateful thanksgivings, the inarticulate griefs, the hopes and fears, the trustful silences which are considered by some masters in the science of prayer to be the deepest of all acts of prayer. Only God knows the secrets of the prayers offered to Him daily. But one thing we all know, the voice never fails, "Ye now therefore have sorrow; but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you."
Affectionately in Our Lord,