Locust Street Letters
By Frank Lawrence Vernon
Philadelphia: St. Mark's Church, Locust Street.
ST. MARK'S, PHILADELPHIA.
THE SUNDAY AFTER ASCENSION DAY, 1941.
MY DEAR PEOPLE:
We are commemorating the Ascension of Our Lord into Heaven. This historic fact is recorded in the Gospel for Ascension Day. "He led them out as far as Bethany, and He lifted up His hands and blessed them. And it came to pass, while he blessed them, He was parted from them, and carried up into heaven."
In the Proper Preface the Church offers thanks, through Jesus Christ our Lord; "Who after His most glorious Resurrection, manifestly appeared to all His Apostles, and in their sight ascended up into heaven, to prepare a place for us; that where He is, thither we might also ascend, and reign with Him in glory."
In the Collect for Ascension Day we pray, "that like as we do believe thy only-begotten Son our Lord Jesus Christ to have ascended into the heavens: so we may also in heart and mind thither ascend, and with Him continually dwell."
The Church has guided us through a pilgrimage which began at a Manger in a stable and now reaches the climax. He Who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven, ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of the Father. Our Lord said to His disciples, "I came forth from the Father, and am come into the world: again I leave the world, and go to the Father." The disciples answered, "Lo now speakest thou plainly. By this we believe that thou camest forth from God."
We pray in the Collect for this Sunday in the Octave of the Ascension, "O God, the King of Glory, Who hast exalted thine only Son Jesus Christ with great triumph unto thy Kingdom in Heaven; we beseech thee, leave us not comfortless; but send to us thine Holy Ghost to comfort us, and exalt us unto the same place whither our Saviour Christ is gone before, Who liveth and reigneth with thee and the same Holy Ghost, one God, world without end."
We pray for the sending of the Holy Ghost to strengthen us and exalt us unto the same place whither our Saviour Christ is gone before. The Ascension of Our Lord is not an isolated fact. It is intimately bound up with our actual lives. We are to be identified with Our Lord in His life from Bethlehem on. We are to have His life in us. He is to live in us. We are to live in Him.
When we were baptized we were incorporated into His mystical Body, His holy Church. We were buried with Christ in His death, that we might also be partakers of His Resurrection.
When we receive the most precious Body and Blood of Our Lord in Holy Communion we are made one body with Him, that He may dwell in us, and we in Him. We are made joint heirs with Him: if it so be that we suffer with Him, that we may be glorified together. God so orders our lives, and fortifies us with grace, that each of us, in the way that He orders our lives, do actually receive the benefits procured unto us by the blessed passion and precious death, the mighty Resurrection and glorious Ascension of Our Lord.
It is our Lord's will that we should be exalted unto the same place whither He is gone before.
After the disciples had seen. our Lord taken up and after the cloud had received Him out of their sight, they continued to worship Him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy; and were continually in the temple, praising and blessing God.
So it is with us. In the Eucharistic Mysteries in heart and mind we have in remembrance the glorious Ascension. We give most hearty thanks for the innumerable benefits procured unto us by the same. Then we return each to our own Jerusalem with great joy.
Our Jerusalem is not an heavenly place. It is an earthly place, with all the trials and cares of earth. We have no illusions about this. But we have one thing which the world can neither give nor take away. We have great joy. We know that our ascended Lord has overcome the world.
Affectionately in Our Lord,