July 31, 2011
In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters.
Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.
And God said, “Let there be a dome in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.” So God made the dome and separated the waters that were under the dome from the waters that were above the dome. And it was so. God called the dome Sky. And there was evening and there was morning, the second day.
And God said, “Let the waters under the sky be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.” And it was so. God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good. Then God said, “Let the earth put forth vegetation: plants yielding seed, and fruit trees of every kind on earth that bear fruit with the seed in it.” And it was so. The earth brought forth vegetation: plants yielding seed of every kind, and trees of every kind bearing fruit with the seed in it. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening and there was morning, the third day.
And God said, “Let there be lights in the dome of the sky to separate the day from the night; and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years, and let them be lights in the dome of the sky to give light upon the earth.” And it was so. God made the two great lights—the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night—and the stars. God set them in the dome of the sky to give light upon the earth, to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. And there was evening and there was morning, the fourth day.
Then I saw the Lamb open one of the seven seals, and I heard one of the four living creatures call out, as with a voice of thunder, “Come!” I looked, and there was a white horse! Its rider had a bow; a crown was given to him, and he came out conquering and to conquer.
When he opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature call out, “Come!” And out came another horse, bright red; its rider was permitted to take peace from the earth, so that people would slaughter one another; and he was given a great sword. When he opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature call out, “Come!” I looked, and there was a black horse! Its rider held a pair of scales in his hand, and I heard what seemed to be a voice in the midst of the four living creatures saying, “A quart of wheat for a day’s pay, and three quarts of barley for a day’s pay, but do not damage the olive oil and the wine!” When he opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature call out, “Come!” I looked and there was a pale green horse! Its rider’s name was Death, and Hades followed with him; they were given authority over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword, famine, and pestilence, and by the wild animals of the earth.
When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slaughtered for the word of God and for the testimony they had given; they cried out with a loud voice, “Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long will it be before you judge and avenge our blood on the inhabitants of the earth?” They were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number would be complete both of their fellow servants and of their brothers and sisters, who were soon to be killed as they themselves had been killed. When he opened the sixth seal, I looked, and there came a great earthquake; the sun became black as sackcloth, the full moon became like blood, and the stars of the sky fell to the earth as the fig tree drops its winter fruit when shaken by a gale. The sky vanished like a scroll rolling itself up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place. Then the kings of the earth and the magnates and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, calling to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of the one seated on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb; for the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to stand?”
It is well known in the New Church that the opening chapter of the Bible treats of the stages through which we pass in our regeneration. In this divine allegory of the creation the heavens represent the internal or spiritual man and the earth the external or natural man. The first three days are the progressive states of regeneration in the natural degree. On the fourth day it is said that the sun, moon, and stars were created. Spiritually interpreted, this marks the beginning of a truly spiritual development.
All things in nature were created by God and are in fact but the carrying out in the ultimate realm of nature of some divine idea or purpose. And because man is made in the image and likeness of God and is a world in miniature, every created thing corresponds likewise to something—some faculty, principle, or affection—in man. Because man perverted his faculties and brought them into disorder, the same natural object comes to have a double correspondence, a good and a bad. And as the Word treats of man in his evil as well as in his good and orderly states, the same terms are used to express either. But the context will always show in which sense they are used.
The sun warms, lightens, and vivifies the natural world as the Lord does the spiritual world. So it corresponds to and represents the Lord, and in our text the sun, with reference to the regenerating man, represents love to the Lord. The luminaries are to rule the day and the night and “to divide the light from the darkness.” When one comes into love to the Lord, this ruling love stands in the midst of all his activities and, like the sun in the center of its system, swings them around it as the center of all their movements. This ruling love gives to his affections all their warmth and to his thoughts all their light; it is the sun of his little world.
This state does not come at once or without effort. The three days of labor were necessary before the sun—love to the Lord—was created. This is the meaning of the statement that the sun was created on the fourth day. And when the Lord wishes to describe a church which has turned away from Him, He says that the sun has gone down.
The moon is the symbol of faith or belief. The moon does not shine of itself but reflects light from the sun. Our thoughts but reflect the quality of our affections. All our powers of spiritual perception depend upon the quality of the will. Hence the sun and moon are created on the same day. Such as our love is, so will be our faith.
“He made the stars also.” The stars are suns too distant to give us any heat, making themselves known only from their light. They represent neither the glowing affection of the sun nor the intelligent faith of the sun, but particular points of knowledge concerning spiritual things.
Before the time of the telescope it was thought that the stars were but a few thousand in number, but with the aid of the telescope the number has been increased beyond our ability to count them. So it is with the Word. A few of its truths were formerly known, but recent investigation, with the science of correspondence as the spiritual telescope, has multiplied them to infinity.
The sun is man’s state as to his love, the moon is his faith, and the stars are the knowledge which fill his mental sky.
We read in Jeremiah, “Thus saith the Lord, which giveth the sun for a light by day, and the ordinances of the moon and of the stars for a light by night, which divideth the sea when the waves thereof roar; the Lord of hosts is his name: If those ordinances depart from before me, saith the Lord, then the seed of Israel also shall cease from being a nation before me forever.” This does not mean, as the Israelites thought, that Israel would remain a nation as long as the natural sun, moon, and stars should continue. Israel represented the Lord’s Church at that time, and Jeremiah’s words are a spiritual warning and mean that when the Church loses its love to the Lord, which is its sun, and corrupts its faith, which is its moon, and disregards the truths of the Word, which are its stars, then it ceases to be the Lord’s Church.
In Joel we read, “And I will shew wonders in the heavens and in the earth blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and the terrible day of the Lord come.” Peter on the day of Pentecost quoted this passage and declared that it was then fulfilled. The sun of the Church is turned into darkness when love of the Lord dies out of its affections. The moon of the Church is turned into blood when violence is done to true faith or doctrine, and the stars fall from the heavens of the Church when the genuine truths of the Word are perverted or disregarded.
But the Lord never leaves Himself without a true Church upon the earth. He foresaw that the first Christian Church would come to its end. In Matthew He describes its consummation as follows: “Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.” And in the book of Revelation we find these words, “I beheld . . . and lo . . . the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood; and the stars of heaven fell unto the earth.”
It is clear to everyone that these prophecies refer to the Second Coming. Many have taken them and many even today still take them literally, forgetting that similar prophecies of the first coming were not literally fulfilled when the Lord came into the world. What is meant is that the time would come when love to the Lord would again die out of the Church, when the faith of the Church would become obscured, and when true knowledge of the Lord and of heaven would drop out of the minds of men.
One further quotation from Revelation may be cited: “And the third angel sounded, and there fell a great star from heaven, burning as it were a lamp, and it fell upon the third part of the rivers, and upon the fountains of waters; And the name of the star is called Wormwood.” This star, as in all other places in the Word, is a symbol of truth or falsity. By its being a great star is signified that it is a fundamental dogma of the Church. By its being called Wormwood is meant that it is a false principle, and its felling upon the rivers and fountains of waters means that it perverts and falsifies the truths of the Word. Before the Second Advent and the descent of the New Jerusalem the Church had adopted as fundamental to her faith a principle so false and deadly that it would turn in her all the rivers and fountains of water—the truths of the Word—into wormwood or bitterness, so that men would die of spiritual thirst by reason of those poisoned waters. The star did not fall upon the earth or the sea because these mean the external Church and its memory knowledges. The Church in its externals may go on for ages even after the internal has been killed out.
It was not by coincidence that the Wise Men were led to the Lord by a star. When they came to Herod at Jerusalem, they asked, “Where is he that is born King of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the east, and we come to worship Him.”
As the earth turns itself to the east, the sun rises to warm and lighten it. The east pictures the Lord as the source of spiritual light, and only those are wise who turn themselves to the Lord by loving Him. The truth in the Word is the star that leads us to the Lord. Only those who are wise can see this star. Amen.
Lord, let me not be so removed
from the rhythm of natural things
that I fail to hear you speaking in the wind;
so cushioned by micro-chip comforts
that I fail to feel your power in the warmth of the sun,
so bedazzled by the brilliance of human ingenuity
that I fail to see your light in a morning sky.
Lord, grant me the wisdom that befits my years
but let me never lose the wonder of a child.
- Frank Topping, Lord of My Days, 1980
Eternal God, whose loving power surveys all that you have made,
whose tender mercy is disposed to the least of your creatures,
and beyond whose care there is nothing that has life or breath,
we bless you for your wisdom, we give thanks for your loving-kindness,
we praise you for your providence,
and with patience and joy we rejoice in your perfect will;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
- Queen Anne (1665-1714)
Blessed are you, God of perilous matter and violent sea,
Blessed are you, God of untameable passion and marching evolution.
Blessed are you, God of immeasurable time and boundless ether.
Blessed are you, God of the abyss of stars and atoms.
Blessed are you in the countless dimensions of your glory,
World without end.
- Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955)
Rev. Louis A. Dole