New Spiritual Days Dawning
January 20, 2002
Arise, shine; for your light has come,
and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you.
For darkness shall cover the earth,
and thick darkness the peoples;
But the Lord will arise upon you,
and his glory will appear over you.
Nations shall come to your light,
and kings to the brightness of your dawn.
Lift up your eyes and look around;
they all gather together, they come to you;
Your sons shall come from far away,
and your daughters shall be carried on their nurses’ arms.
Then you shall see and be radiant;
your heart shall thrill and rejoice,
Because the abundance of the sea shall be brought to you,
the wealth of the nations shall come to you.
A multitude of camels shall cover you,
the young camels of Midian and Ephah.
All those from Sheba shall come,
bearing gold and frankincense,
and proclaiming the praise of the Lord.
All the flocks of Kedar shall be gathered to you,
the rams of Nebaioth shall minister to you;
They shall be acceptable on my altar,
and I will adorn my glorious temple.
Who are these that fly like a cloud,
and like doves to their windows?
For the coastlands shall wait for me,
the ships of Tarshish first,
To bring your children from far away,
their silver and gold with them,
For the name of the Lord your God,
and for the Holy One of Israel,
Because he has endowed you with splendor.
Reading from Swedenborg
At the beginning of our lives, in our early childhood, we are in a
state of calm. But as the years go by and we grow up, we leave that
peaceful state behind. We give ourselves over to worldly concerns
and the resulting anxieties caused by the desires of selfish and
materialistic love, and by the false ideas that spring from them.
Something similar happens with the new life in us when we
are being spiritually reborn. At first we are in a state of serenity.
But as we move into our new life, we head into a state that is not
serene. The evil and false things we had adopted earlier now
emerge and show themselves. They harass us severely and persistently,
causing us to go through temptations and trials from the
devil’s crew—who keep trying to destroy our new way of life.
Despite all this, we are at peace in our deepest levels. If it were
not for the presence of that peace deep within us, we would not
put up any struggle at all—for in all our conflicts we look toward
a state of peace as our goal. If we did not have that end in view, we
would never have the strength and power to fight. This is also
what enables us to overcome. Since this is our goal, we do enter a
state of peace once the conflict of temptation is past. It is like the
season of spring that follows autumn and winter, or like the time
of dawn that follows evening and night. (Arcana Coelestia #3696)
What does it mean for new spiritual days to dawn with us? The
image of dawn suggests a spiritual beginning: the emergence
of something new and needed in our spiritual journeying. Each new
spiritual beginning is portrayed by the dawn of a new day. The dawn
in nature mirrors and corresponds with the spiritual dawns within
and among people. What is dawning for you? What can your part be
in working with God and others in the coming of new spiritual days?
The lighting of candles is part of many religious ceremonies. A
lighted candle is an image of God coming to us, and of our opening
to the continuing presence of God. A lighted candle suggests
the dawning of a new day and the coming of light. Isaiah speaks
of a new day dawning, the power of the Lord shining brightly,
light coming to darkness, and nations and kings coming to the
light of the people’s dawning day. We know that God continually
seeks to bring all to the light; and we can ask ourselves how we can
best prepare for and respond to the light. We also remember the
saying of Jesus, “I am the light for the world” (John 8:12).
Suppose we are in a spiritual situation that resembles late
afternoon, evening, or night. We may feel much in need of a new
spiritual dawn. The prophet Hosea wrote that the Lord’s coming
is “as certain as the morning sun” (Hosea 6:3). We can trust that
new spiritual days will dawn, and seek to work with God and others
to receive new spiritual days and grow in them.
Think of a situation when you were hard at work on a project.
Perhaps you felt stuck and saw no way of going forward. You
decided to take a break from the project and return to it later.
This putting aside could be compared with a time of night. Later,
you returned to the project rejuvenated, energized, and with
insights for going forward. This could be compared with dawn.
One of my favorite things to do is to take a walk at the time of
dawn. The light begins; there is brightening on one side of the sky. Light comes to more and more parts of the sky. Colors keep
changing and increase in their variety and beauty. With the coming
of light, more and more can be clearly seen. During the dawns
of spring and summer, there are many fresh smells, and the
sounds of many birds. The dawning of each new day resembles
the dawning of other days, but is also unique and different in
many ways. There is both constancy and newness.
Consider the changes that come with spring. There is increasing
warmth and light; the emergence of new plants; the coming of
buds and their unfolding into leaves; a vast variety of flowers; and
much more. Spring, like dawn, provides images of God coming to
us, and of our receiving and responding to God’s presence.
How can we best prepare ourselves for dawns, springs, or new
spiritual days in our lives? We cannot, by our own efforts, make a
new spiritual day dawn. Yet being ready for a spiritual dawning is
different from passively waiting. We can work on being ready and
open to receive a spiritual dawning, and to participate with God
and others in it.
Cycles of the year and of day and night picture and correspond
with cycles in a person’s life of charity, regeneration, and
the spiritual growth of relationships and communities. It is not
that God is absent and then enters. God is continually present
and moving with each person, relationship, community, and
group. God comes as a dawn when God’s effort is received and
welcomed, and people respond individually or collectively. Swedenborg
speaks of various ways this is true. There is a first coming
of God as an entry point into regeneration and a life of charity;
there are comings of God again and again in such a life; and there
are also key turning points when a person drifts from or finds it
hard to remain in that life, and then returns to it with God’s help.
At the beginning of our entry into regeneration, there is a first
coming of God, or first receiving of God. Swedenborg describes
this as the dawn of something that continues throughout our life
in this world. In such a life:
People, as to their understanding, begin to be enlightened in
spiritual things and to increase in wisdom; and as they receive
wisdom from the Lord, so they progress through morning into
day. The day continues with them until old age, even until
death; and after death they are raised up into heaven by the Lord.
There, although they may have died as elderly people, they
return to the morning of their life. And then to eternity they
advance in the wisdom to which they were first introduced in the
material world. (True Christian Religion #766)
With such a life on earth there are still spiritual cycles much like
spring, summer, fall, and winter, and like morning, noon,
evening, and twilight. These cycles continue in heaven and contribute
to the growth of individuals, heavenly communities, and
heaven as a whole. These repeated cycles relate to Swedenborg’s
account of the Lord rising every day, and even every moment,
with those who are regenerating:
Since in the proper sense “morning” means the Lord, the Lord’s
advent, and thus the approach of the Lord’s realm, it is evident
what it also symbolizes: namely, the rise of a new church (for this
is the Lord’s realm on earth), and this both on a large scale and
on a small scale—and even in the smallest events.
On a large scale, it happens when any church on earth is being
raised up anew. On a small scale, it happens when a person is
being regenerated and made new—for then the Lord’s realm is
arising in the person, and the person is becoming a church. And
in the smallest events, it happens whenever the good of love and
faith is working in a person; for this is the Lord’s coming.
(Arcana Coelestia #2405.7)
We can think of a life of charity and service to others and a life of
regeneration (or rebirth) as bound together in a life that has a
series of spiritual dawnings and new days: God coming again and
again. One part of such a life is what Swedenborg describes as
temptations, testings, or conflicting pulls, which call for looking
to God, resisting evils, and turning to what is good. As a person
comes through temptation with God’s help, it is like spring following
winter, or dawn following night.
The spiritual dawns following temptations seem to be vital
turning points. With some of these a person may for a time be
stuck, or even off the spiritual path altogether, but then return to
it in a new dawn. Imagine a person on a path of regeneration who
goes through a difficult illness. Along with the physical pain and
inability to function comes an erosion of the person’s devotion to
God and service to others. The person, with help from God, may
realize this. Then, in what is like a dawn following night, the person
could look to God, envision ways of serving others even
before being physically able to do much, and become energized
The cycles and events in nature portray and correspond with
God nurturing a needed life direction—as in the coming of
spring, the sun bringing warmth, and the rain bringing water. The
growth of a tree, flower, or animal portrays the rebirth that comes
through living a life of charity. Nature is a guide in its portrayal of
God and spiritual life, and in its constancy and creativity—which
picture the constancy and creativity of God.
Let us especially lift up one image: the brightening sky at the
coming of dawn. Let us be ready for the spiritual dawn. Amen.
Creator God, you have given us many hope-filled images of the
dawning of new spiritual days in the twin Bibles of scripture and
nature. As we go through our own dark nights of the soul, we
thank you for encouraging us with images of comfort and renewal;
of new spiritual light and warmth coming just when we think
our darkness will last forever. Be with us, O God, as we prepare
ourselves for the new spiritual dawnings that you have in store for
us; and open our souls to your renewed warmth and light. Amen.
Rev. Ted Klein