Category — Birth of the Lord
The things which Mr. Groeneveld has said have given me reflection on a point which he presented in an informal talk recently on the way in which the Church should go.
The sign of the First Coming was that the Lord would be born in a manger, wrapped in swaddling clothes, because there was no room for them in the inn. We are told that He could have been born in a palace, in a cradle with precious stones, but there would then have been no correspondence. The palace and the precious stones draw the mind to the Nova Hierosolyma with its precious stones, and to the contrast between the First and Second Coming.
The direction of the Church depends on how we view the present state of the Church, to come to the simple primitive things represented by the manger and the swaddling clothes, or immediately to direct the eyes to the glory of Hierosolyma. If we see the Nova Hierosolyma as just around the corner, or if we see the First Coming of the Lord as a coming in glory, with all the universals and all the magnificent things of the Church, our direction of the thinking is entirely different than if we believe that the state is such that we must come to the primitive simplicity represented by the Lord in a manger.
To try to look immediately to Nova Hierosolyma or anything universal containing all the goods and truths of the Church would be to skip over the essential of the First Coming into an imaginary Second Coming. For we might speak of the First Coming and make it a thing of glory such as described in the Second Coming.
To go to the Second Coming or to the Lord appearing in glory, and not go through the things involved in the First Coming would have a similar effect as to return to the paradise of the Most Ancient Church and transfer that to the Second Coming. If we don’t come to the simple primitive things of the First Coming, the Church will take a wrong direction, and come into phantasies of all kinds. What can we think of the state signified by the Lord as an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger? The swaddling clothes are the bindings of a new innocence, in which man is as an infant, scarcely able to speak. What are those simple truths of a new innocence by which the Church can be saved? To see this we have to see it in contrast to the opposite. The opposite is illustrated particularly by a false idea of the priesthood. In ordination into the priesthood there is a promise of the Holy Spirit. There is some doubt whether that ought to be in the Liturgy. What does ordination really mean? Just as baptism is a sign and memorial that man must be regenerated, so ordination is a sign and memorial that if man is regenerated in the work of the priesthood, he will receive the Holy Spirit. Ordination must not be regarded as anything more than that. The Holy Spirit proceeds in the clergy, but nothing is more rare than for a priest to speak from the Holy Spirit. For the priesthood to imagine that they are in the fulfillment of that promise because they are priests leads to the greatest of phantasies. The danger is that a priest will think that his many scientifics are truths. A scientific becomes a truth only when genuinely applied to state. A living application to state in a genuine way makes the scientifics to be truths. If applied wrongly to the state, they become falsities. So it was with the Priests, Scribes and Pharisees signified by the inn. They had great knowledge, but applied it wrongly to the state, because they desired a Messiah who would rule the world.
With the priests there is the danger of wishing to be god of gods. The whole nature of his function is such as to make him able to exalt himself in this way. Does he recognize this in himself? Is his primary concern to fight against that thing? By overcoming that, and by coming to a new innocence he comes to that meant by the swaddling clothes. By recognizing the terrible pride and vanity that rules in every priest, and shunning it, he comes to that new innocence. In that connection, a minister raises his hand and says, “In the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ” at the beginning of a sermon. A young man doing that is apt to think it is a sign he is in the Holy Spirit, or he feels that he is. Now we are told that a priest must preach according to the Doctrine of his Church from the Word. If he belongs to a Church which he believes to be a living Church, and that there is genuine Doctrine in the Church (and otherwise he should not belong to that Church) and when he says “The Name of the Lord” , he should think of that Doctrine, and not ascribe the Holy Spirit to himself. That Doctrine is the Name of the Lord, and his preaching should be according to it, for we are told that the Nome represents the Word and the genuine Doctrine of the Church out of the Word. There is the danger that a man might ascribe the Holy Spirit to himself on account of his office. That is the Catholic evil, that has in it the inmost love of self and its pride. Such things have been very dominant in the Church, and we must bind ourselves to come to a new innocence by shunning those terrible evils. We should be willing to be bound by the first truths of repentance, to the first things of the truths of innocence, like a baby bound in swaddling clothes.
In the beginning of the Lord’s New Church which is Nova Hierosolyma there were living states of perception. There were living applications of the scientifics of the Word to the state of the Church. But also many scientifics were developed that were not seen in genuine light. Thus there came a great mass of knowledges represented by the rich man at whose door was Lazarus. We have a fantastic wealth of knowledges which has nothing of genuine wealth in it.
There has been that phantasy particularly on the part of the priesthood, particularly where there is not that feeling of repentance and recognition of actual evil and a consequent humbling of oneself before the genuine spirit of the Word and of the Doctrine of the Church.
Another danger is to look to what is called charity, or to look to the good in another. To talk of charity without qualification is a dangerous thing. We are told that good before repentance is spurious good. Now if we sау to look to the good in a man, to the things of love, and do not make a distinction between good before repentance and after, we commingle things of heaven with those of hell and call it all charity or love. There must be a judgment. There is nothing of charity when we commingle our own good before repentance with the good of our neighbour before repentance. There has to be judgment, and this has to be made in the greatest spirit of humility and prayer to the Lord for enlightenment, that we may be conjoined only to the things of charity which are the result of a broken heart, the shunning of evils as sins against the Lord.
The false idea about what ordination does also creeps in about baptism. Because a person has joined the Church by baptism, some think he is in the things represented by the baptism, whereas it is only a sign and memorial.
The only way for the Church to come is to leave all this wealth of knowledge about the Word and the Doctrine, which for the most part is fantastic, and come to the simple laws of repentance, looking and praying to the Lord that there may be given a new innocence. Otherwise the Church will be destroyed, and the Church itself transferred to others.
(during the discussion of Rev. Pitcairn’s speech, he said): I spoke of coming to a new innocence. Mr. Barnitz spoke as if I had often spoken of this before. But the innocence I referred to is a thing that came to me during these meetings aid is not to be confused with things I have said about innocence at previous times. There are different degrees of innocence. There is that innocence when a person first comes to the Church. Also every state of the Church must begin with a new infantile state. That you had in the beginning of the Academy; and that you had come into existence when the Doctrine of the Church was as it were born.
I have a feeling that there is now a new state. In 1947 I felt that the Lord was as it were descending into the natural, which was involved in the things seen in that Assembly, but that that was not manifest in the Church, I compared it to the ministry of John the Baptist when the Lord was in the world but had not yet manifested Himself. Therefore if there is as it were the Lord for the first time become visible in a new way in the Church, then we see for the first time what is involved in the birth of the Lord. And it was in this connection I used the word innocence.
Mr. Barnitz spoke about the sensual. Every infantile state has its basis in the sensual, but the sensual which is represented by the seeing as it were of the Lord in the manger is a very different sensual than that of previous states of new birth. It is very difficult to give an idea of what one feels is the birth of the Lord, because it is something so tender and has so little form to it. Therefore my remarks were directed largely to those things that might prevent us from oozing to see what it is. My remarks about giving up one’s wealth of scientifics was not directed against one, but against all, particularly all the priests. My point there was that we should acknowledge that for the most part we have only scientifics, and only a remnant of living truths seen in application to a genuine state. We might compare this with a person coming to the New Church. They may have a great knowledge of the Old and New Testaments. That knowledge still remains, but they realize that it has not been opened, and therefore in relation to their new state they have hardly any truths.
It is the acknowledgment of having no living cognitions that is important. You have people who come to the New Church and who say that they have always known that, and have always acknowledged that, but if they feel that way it means that they are bringing the new things into their old state and mixing then.
And that is the point. If we begin to perceive what the Coming of the Lord is, then we realize we have no cognitions. Just as with the Jews. They had a great knowledge of the Law and about the Coming of the Messiah, but when the Lord actually came those things had to be left in the form in which they had existed with them to come to an entirely new idea of the Messiah, for instance the shepherds had a tradition of the Church about the Coming of the Messiah, which they believed with a certain innocence. But that former innocence in their cognitions had to be left to come to a new innocence represented by seeing the Lord in the manger.
We have to acknowledge that there are those things in us which are represented by Herod when he slew the infants of Bethlehem, and we must acknowledge that we have those former states of innocence which are slain by the evils in man till he comes to the state in which there are only certain remains which can come and receive the Lord as an infant. I cannot express at this time what I actually feel and see as the actual birth of the Lord. It is in too primitive a form. But we must see that pride and vanities and ambitions are things that must be fought against, and that these are the things which like Herod have destroyed the former states of innocence, in fact in relation to interior things. It speaks of Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted because they were not. There must be grief at the loss of innocence, before coming to see the primitive new beginnings which I believe are beginning to be vaguely visible in the Church.
For me the whole relationship is in relation to the human in which we are born and the relation to the Divine Human. In the beginning the Divine Human is as it were not present in the human of man. Still, in the beginning there is a relationship between his internal and his external. But the whole question is then, and now I speak only on the side of the human of man, that in the beginning there is a certain human in which the internal can be present. But that state comes to its fullness. And then the simplicity is that he feels that in the more interior he is lacking everything. Now, that lacking everything in relation to his thinking and willing, lacking everything in relation to the internal, that again he has to go to it till at last his human is in relationship with his internal, till really the internal in which the Lord has been present, in a certain way, comes into his human itself, that is for me the birth of the Lord. Because then you feel that your whole human from the rational to the outside, that everything is nothing in relation to what the real Divine Human is. And that is the first thing. And then for me in that relationship the birth of the Lord is a feeling of anything in the human of man that it is nothing, that he feels that there is nothing of him, that he feels of himself that he is lacking everything. Now in that state he is not in such a state that he is in glory, but he feels just the opposite, and that the thing is that he see what the real thing is which has to come into his human, and that a real thing of the Divine Human has to be present in him. Now that is for me the First Coming of the Lord.
But for me in relation to the state of the Church, they must go first through those states to see that the Divine Human has to come in them. But the danger is that in relation to the planes in which they are in willing and thinking, that in a certain way the willing and thinking remains where they are, because they have had a feeling in that, and they make out of the feeling the reasonings. But if the other thing is opened, then that would be stopped; they would see the locking of everything in it. And that is a going open of the pure human things in relation to the internal, that for the first time the internal will be seen, because in the beginning only the external, in a certain way, but not the internal, is seen.
Now for me the whole direction of the Church is that they must see what the real internal is in their own human, that they see the Divine Human as their own human. Now, that is for me a leaving of different planes in which man is. And there must be a leaving. That in the beginning was a difference here in relation to Durban. But that thing of leaving is a real thing, for otherwise you never come into contact with the internal. Never. Now that real thing in relation to a society is a very difficult thing; you can never bring a man from one thing over another; that all depends on him. But that the whole direction is seen, that the individual man, in everything in which he lives, that in relation to the internal he is not in connection with it, and that he has to come that the real internal comes into the human, and that never before any real thing existed, (only you can say that it existed representatively, but not the real thing,) that is for me the question. And then it is not a question of Doctrine and Life, but has more in it; because when they speak of Doctrine and Life it is always in such a relation as if the Doctrine has nothing in it. There must be something else. There must be a leaving of the human itself. And that is for me the question in relation to the priesthood, that they have a feeling as it were of the human itself what they have to leave, to see and point out that human. Just as I heard from Philip Odhner on the Nineteenth of June, that is the thing) they must feel if they come to the Church, and if they want to be regenerated, that there must be struggle, and a real struggle. They must not think, Yes, we are in the Church, now we are all right. That gives always a wrong idea. That makes always a plane which later comes to obstruction, to rebellion.
Now the work of the priesthood, the direction in relation to those things, that has not to do with simplicity, and the fewness of things, but it has to do in the few things to see that in relation to the human internal is wrong because if their idea of an interior human is still present and remains present, then at last the outmost things in which they first had a feeling become nothing and will be perverted. Now this feeling, and what the real approaching, openness, is, to see that plane as a general where the universals are, in that relation I see as a universal, and I think that everything of thinking and willing in the plane, in which man is, is a universal. Now everything in that must be seen in relation to the internal in which they have to come because they think they are in that internal, that it is present. That is for me the whole thing. They think they are in the internal, but they must feel that they are in an external, and that they prevent themselves that the internal can come down, and that the Lord can be born.
Now for me the whole state of the Church must pass through all those things unless the real internal can be present, and then we have the most universal in relation to the coming and development of the internal in the external. That is quite another thing, if you will develop the external itself but if the internal itself has no forms in the external, then you are always in difficulties.
Now the whole question is, Can they come to a real obedience in relation to the internal, that there is an internal? And that does not take away that in every man there can be an internal but that internal is not open-present.
If they think and speak out of the plane in which they are, and they think it is the internal, then you start with the wrong thing. Because the internal can only come gradually present.
And so for me the whole question is directed of the priests in relation to that human in which they live, and they think that is the real thing. The direction is an approaching and loving to see for themselves what is the Divine Human in those things. Now as I have already said in relation to that, what is really the feeling of the priesthood? When goes the mind open to hear a sermon or such of a priest? Then I feel in that relation what is said in the Word about those preachers who come into the celestial heaven, for there must be in that something that their mind is touched in relation to what must go away from the human in which they were afraid to come in; and they bring again up that real thing, that the internal alone has to live in the human. Now that is for me the whole question and the whole disturbance; and that will always be the disturbance unless the priest himself makes that more and more clear in that relation, in which human they live, and in which that first internal has come to be present with them, and that they must not see that external, the human in which they live, that that internal is present there directly.
That is for me the whole question. And unless those things start, there is not the first starting point for the most external approaching. Because when we speak of the most external approaching, that is for me the most external approaching in relation to that. Because I see only also the first external approaching in the Church; but the question of that external approaching depends on how you see that in relation to the internal. You can make an external, making without this as it were there, that this must be changed and changed to come to that. They think that this is present there, instead of the opposite. That is for me the whole point. Because otherwise never anything of real truth can enter there, because ever truth will be changed to the plane on which they are.
Thus there must be another thing present in the priesthood, a quite other thing present as to a reigning in the people, because a real truth can be present with them. Because always it will be seen from the outside and the real inmost thing of feeling is lacking. And then you get all difficulties.
December 25, 1960
Rev. Theodore Pitcairn
Lessons: Ex. 2:1-10; Luke 2:4-19; A.E. 706
“The angels said to the shepherds, There is born to you this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord; and this is a sign unto you, ye shall find the Babe wrapped in swaddling clothes lying in a manger.”
(Luke 2:11,12,16; A.E. 706)
The account of the birth of the Lord is so beautiful and affecting that nearly all are moved by the story, even those who have little or no faith. All children love to hear the account again and again. This is of Providence for the implantation of remains, and as an ultimate basis of faith. But if, when we become adults, the story is not infilled, by an interior understanding of its significance it remains personal. We read: “He who thinks of God from person only, and not from essence, thinks materially.”
“The boys said: ‘We have thought of God from person. Have we, when reading the Word, appeared to any one like dead horses. The teacher said, You are boys, and cannot think otherwise, but I have perceived in you an affection for knowing and understanding.” (T.C.R. 623)
We read concerning our text:
“Since a sign means attestation that they might believe that the Saviour of the world was born, they said that they should find Him lying in a manger wrapped in swaddling clothes. … A manger means the Doctrine of the True from the Word, because horses signify the understanding of the Word; and thus a manger, as a feeding place for horses, signifies the Doctrine of the True from the Word; because there was no place in the inn; an inn signifies a place of instruction. Because the Jews … were in mere falsities, through adulteration of the Word, this is signified by there was no place in the inn.
… He is also said to have been wrapped in swaddling clothes, because swaddling clothes signify first trues, which are trues of innocence; and which also are trues of Divine Love; for nakedness, in reference to a babe, signifies the deprivation of trues.” (A.E. 706)
Unless we are in a perception of the internal sense, we are not moved by the internal sense as we are by the literal account of the birth of the Lord; for we do not perceive within the Doctrine of the true from the Word, represented by the manger, the trues of innocence and celestial love represented by swaddling clothes in which is the Lord as a little Babe.
Yet that such a perception is possible can be felt from the following quotation from de Hemelsche Leer:
“The head of the Son of Man is the good of love into the Lord, which is the inmost of the Doctrine of the Church. It is the good of love, from which the Doctrine of the Church comes into existence, for the Doctrine is spiritual out of a celestial origin. … In case of a change of state, there is no love for the essential of the Doctrine of the Church, There is no love for conjunction; the true conjugial is lacking. The external of the Doctrine of the Church, or its literal sense is touched with coarse hands, without feeling the tenderness of what is hidden within. Who is not painfully affected when he sees a small child, and especially a new born child, rudely handled?
Does not one experience a certain fear to touch a new born child with the hands, or even with the mouth? Is one not especially sensitive on such occasions of ones own coarseness and impurity? Does not all movements express a tenderness so as not to hurt the child? Let us then approach also the Doctrine of the Church as having been born from the Lord with humility and with a feeling of our own coarseness and impurity.” (Fasicle 3, P-35)
Bethlehem is said to signify the spiritual of the celestial, which is the same as is said of the Doctrine of the Church.
We also read:”Lo, we have heard of Him in Ephratha, we will come into His habitation, we will bow ourselves down at His footstool. Arise 0 Jehovah to Thy resting place. Thou and the ark of Thy strength. (Ps.132:6-9) Evidently this treats of the Lord, … Ephratha meaning Bethlehem where the Lord was born, and signifying the Word in respect to its natural sense, while Bethlehem signifies the Word in respect to its spiritual sense; and there He chose to be born because the Lord is the Word.” (A.E. 700)
The birth of the Lord is in the spiritual sense of the Word, although we are said to have heard of Him in Ephratha, that is in the natural sense of the Word. The birth of the Lord with us is in the internal sense of the Word of the Third Testament signified by Bethlehem although “we hear of Him” in the natural sense, signified by Ephratha. The Doctrine of the Church, in its essence, as spiritual from celestial origin, is one with the internal sense of the Word. Bethlehem, as shown above, is the spiritual of the celestial, and also the Internal sense of the Word, for these make one. For the essence of the Doctrine of the Church is the internal sense of the Word which has come to perception in the Church.
When the Lord came on earth, He glorified His Human and made a universal redemption. The operation was then from the side of the Lord. The cooperation or reciprocal, takes place when the Divine Human is consciously received, that is in His Second Coming. The Second Coming is only internally received when the New Church comes to a perception of the internal sense of the Third Testament, and makes this of life.
When the Lord was on earth, the things of His life were representative of His reception at His Second Coming.
The shepherds who came to the manger represented those who teach the trues of life and thus feed the flock. As persons these shepherds had no idea of the Doctrine of the true signified by the manger, nor of the first trues of innocence, signified by the swaddling clothes, and they had scarcely any idea of the Christ who was born; although they were under the great impression of the wonderful thing taking place.
The same is true of much of the Gospels; many of the miracles were miracles of healing the bodies, but which were representative of the cures of souls which the Lord would perform in His Second Coming. Even the Apostles understood little of the Lord’s words, for He often spoke in parables.
In general we too have little idea of the Lord’s birth on earth, or of its fulfillment in the Church, in His Second Coming. For, its fulfillment in us, we may be waiting, and we pray and hope that we are faithfully watching, with a modest and contented trust, knowing neither the hour or year when He cometh, but trusting that all is in His merciful Providence.
In our vanity we can easily imagine that we have a truly internal idea of the Lord’s birth, and that it is being fulfilled, or is about to be fulfilled, with us, when we are in reality in no state for its reception with us. The Lord comes to those who are in despair of ever being prepared to receive Him, rather than to those who feel themselves ready to receive Him.
On this day of the year the whole Christian world celebrates the birth of the Lord; many with vanity and some with simple faith. While we can rejoice that some in the world in general celebrate the Lord’s birth in simple faith, we should not enter into the mixed sphere of celebrating Christmas even with such, as are sincere. The sphere of Christmas which is truly of the Lord’s New Church is entirely different. This sphere as yet may be very weak in our midst; we may lack it more than the simple in the Christian world, but it can only come into existence and grow if we are willing to leave the sphere of the world, including the sphere of the celebration of the birth of the Lord by the simple in the world. The prevailing sphere in the old church, is a sphere of worshipping the Lord as to person and not as to essence. It is this sphere that we must leave.
Yet the ultimate account of the Lord’s birth on earth, with the great delight in this story, still must be in our natural mind and its affection, as the foundation upon which all interior ideas rest, for without the childish wonder of the birth of the Lord, all interior ideas are like a temple in the air. We should indeed have a love for all who truly love the celebration of the birth of the Lord as their Saviour, and yet remain distinct from them, not co- mingling our thinking and feeling with theirs; not from a feeling of superiority, which we may not have, but from a feeling for order, and for the possibility of a real development.
We read: “If it had pleased the Lord He might have been born in a most splendid palace, and have been laid in a bed adorned with precious stones; but He would then have been with such as were in no Doctrine of the true, and there would have been no celestial representation.” (A.E.706)
The Lord cannot be born with us in those knowledges of the Word which we have taken to ourselves, and which have put on, in ourselves , and in the Church, an appearance of great splendor. He can only be born in the affection of the true from a humble heart that feels itself poor in all things of the Word, and is willing to be instructed.
Let us pray that we may hear, understand and love the words of the angels: “There is born to you this day in the city of David a Saviour who is Christ the Lord; and this is a sign unto you, ye shall find the Babe wrapped in swaddling clothes lying in a manger.”
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