The Holy Supper
"Then came the day of unleavened bread, when the Passover must be killed. And He sent Peter and John, saying, go and prepare us the pass. over that we may eat. And they said unto Him, Where wilt Thou that we prepare? And He said unto them, Behold, when ye are entered into the city, there shall a man meet you, bearing a pitcher of water; follow him into the house where he entereth in. And ye shall say unto the good man of the house, The Master saith unto thee, Where is the guest-chamber, where I shall eat the Passover with my disciples? And he shall show you a large upper room furnished: there make ready." (Luke 22:7-12)
Peter and John said unto Him, Where wilt Thou that we prepare? Their earnest question bridges the passage of years, and when we contemplate partaking of the Holy Supper we too may ask the meaningful words, "Where wilt Thou that we prepare?" With Peter and John it was a spatial question and dealt with the time of the first administration of the Holy Communion. With us affections take the place of space, and state replaces time. Our soul searches for the answer as to the affections of our own state. What is the preparation of the state of our affections that we may enter worthily into the participation of that sacrament which is said to be the gate of heaven and the opening of eternal life?
The Lord's body and blood are to be received. "Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of Man, and drink His blood, ye have no life in you." (John 6:5 3) Unleavened bread blessed in His name is to be eaten; wine consecrated to His service is to be drunk, and by the immutable law of correspondences that bread, in feeding the It is a beautiful thought which we gain from the Writings that for each one of us there is an invisible thread leading through the tangled affairs of earthly life inevitably to the door of our heavenly mansion, just as by ways unknown to John and Peter, the man bearing the pitcher of water led them unerringly to the sacred rendezvous.
"Say to the good man of the house. Who is the good man of our spiritual house? What is it in our lives that points the finger upward? What is the voice of the good man of our mental house? It is the still small voice of conscience; the product of all those sweet and precious remains which have been stored in us from the days when the celestial angels were our guardians, angels who do always behold the face of the Father which is in heaven." Down through a mother's love, a father's care, a playmate's affection; through stirring love of country, through self-sacrifice, and noble deeds, the remains have been stored up. All have left their impress and their urge to help us seek for higher things.
The good man of the house shall show you a large upper room furnished and prepared. An upper room, men do not get inspiration from looking downward, but from trying to envision that which is higher. When the Ten Commandments were to be given, the Lord Jehovah selected Mount Sinai, a mountain towering high above the plains of the wilderness. There was not one single Israelite who did not have to look upward if he was to see God's contact with Moses.
Similarly when the Lord was on earth and He wanted to give in one great discourse the essence of all His teachings; when He desired to withdraw the disciples from the multitudinous distractions of the world, and bring them into the sphere of His love and the light of His wisdom, we read that "Seeing the multitudes He went up into a mountain, and when He was set His disciples came unto Him, and He opened His mouth and taught them saying, Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." (Matt. 5:1-3)
The Psalmist was urging the same thing when he said, "I will lift up mine eyes unto the mountains from whence cometh my help, my help is from the Lord Who made the heavens and the earth." (Psalm 121:1,2) Now the good man of the house takes Peter and John up, as by the rungs of Jacob's ladder, and there shows them the large upper room furnished and prepared.
As a practical application in our own preparation for partaking of the Holy Supper it would seem as though following the man bearing the pitcher of water would definitely lead us to read portions of the Writings such as the chapter on the Holy Supper in The True Christian Religion, that our thoughts may be drawn and directed to that heavenly house that shall some day be ours. Such reading is bound to arouse remains in us and elevate our minds and lead us into the large upper room furnished and prepared. Here we too may find the Lord in those lofty ideals, the large upper room, to which the steadfast following of the truth inevitably leads.
So far we have taken the active part; we have followed the man bearing a pitcher of water; now two events take place wherein the Lord takes the lead, and we cooperate. First He rose from the table and, laying aside His garments, He girded Himself with a linen towel, and, pouring water into a basin, He washed the disciples' feet. The Lord's garments are the appearance of the truths in which we see Him. What then is the significance of His laying aside His garments and girding Himself with a linen towel? The Word has many truths, but the truths needful for purification are simple indeed, and few in number, perfectly represented by the garment which now clothed the Lord. With water from a basin He washed their feet and dried them on the towel wherewith He was girded. The simple truths that must cleanse our very outward man before partaking of the Holy Supper are set forth in man's table of the Decalogue: "Thou shalt not kill," "Thou shalt not commit adultery," "Thou shalt not steal," "Thou shalt not bear false witness," Thou shalt not covet." After He had washed their feet He took again His garments and sat down with them at the table. There must be actual repentance before the Holy Supper can benefit man.
The second thing that it is necessary for us to do before partaking of the Holy Supper is to shun our evils as sins against God. Any evil shunned otherwise is not really shunned: it is but hidden, it is a traitor in our midst. "He that eateth bread with Me, hath lifted his heel against Me." (John 13:18)
Judas, stung by the Lord's reprimand for criticizing Mary's costly anointing, had gone to the chief priests and sold his Master for thirty pieces of silver, the price, then, of one slave! And now the hand of him who would betray Him was on the table with Him. In plain language He said, "One of you shall betray Me." (John 13:21) And then each disciple began to say, "Lord, is it I?"
Finally, in answer to John's inquiry He said, "He it is, to whom I shall give a sop, when I have dipped it. And when He had dipped the sop, He gave it to Judas Iscariot." (John 13:26) "Jesus said to him, that thou doest do quickly . . . He, then, having received the sop, went immediately out. And it was night." (John 13:27 and 30) We shall only discover the traitor in ourselves by self-examination. "Betray the Lord," we say to ourselves, "Never." Yet those who stood on the Lord's left hand at the great judgment scene were likewise in ignorance of ever having offended Him.
The Gospel accounts are not absolutely clear as to just what point in that Last Passover the Lord administered the Holy Supper, but it seems logical to believe that it took place after Judas, the traitor, had been separated. Then it was that "He took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples and said, Take, eat; this is my body. And He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it. For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins." (Matt. 26:26, 27, 28).
To what, then, does His flesh correspond? It is obvious from the institution of the Holy Supper that He did not mean His Palestine body, for He took bread and said: "Take, eat, this is My body." Bread is the staff of life, and the bread that has been blessed corresponds to the Divine love. The Divine love builds man's character, even as the bread builds his body. It is the very substance of the universe, and is that from which the Lord created all things. Now man cannot receive that love unless he appropriates it, and he appropriates it by doing the commandments of the Lord.
The Lord illustrated this on a certain occasion when He was talking to the Samaritan woman at Jacob's well. When His disciples begged Him to eat, and He said that He had meat to eat that they knew not of, they wondered if He had been fed secretly. But He turned to them, and said: "My meat is to do the will of Him that sent Me." (John 4:34) Even so is our character built, by doing the will of God; that is, by eating His flesh, in the deepest spiritual sense. What, then, is the meaning of the eating of the bread in the Holy Supper? "Take, eat, this is My body." Our prayer is that as the natural bread is eaten, and becomes an actual part of our body, so the spiritual bread that is His flesh, His Divine love, will be received by us, and will strengthen our steadfast determination to keep His commandments, that our faces may ever be set toward the kingdom of heaven.
And what of the wine? "This cup is the new covenant in My blood." His blood is His Divine truth and the Divine truth is the blood of the universe. It goes forth from the Lord as a mighty blood stream from the heart of the Grand Man. It comes forth pure and rich with the nourishment needed for men's souls; and it comes through the arteries down to the least capillaries until it reaches each individual cell. The cells of the Grand Man are the angels of heaven. In them it is colored with all the weakness of human thinking; and from them it returns again through the veins of the Grand Man, ascending as the prayers of the saints, and carrying back their hopes and fears and desires, to be purified by the wisdom of God and again sent forth with renewed vigor. What, then, is the meaning of partaking of the wine of the Holy Supper? It is just this. We pray that as the wine exhilarates the natural man, so the vision of the Divine wisdom will exhilarate our minds and make firm and sure the ideals for which we strive; that those ideals may in the end lead us to Him and to His heavenly kingdom. Without His love, and without His wisdom, there is no spiritual life in us; and that is what the Lord meant when He said in the synagogue at Capernaum:
"Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of Man, and drink His blood, ye have no life in you." (John 6:53)
The beauty of the New Church Christmas is the thought that as the Lord was born into the world two thousand years ago, so He may, spiritually, be born into the heart of each one of us today. And as we trace the story of the Lord's actual birth into the outer world, so it is possible from the Writings of Swedenborg to draw a spiritual sense, which describes the way in which the Lord may be born into the hearts of each one of us. For the real coming of the Lord is His coming to each individual person.
Looked at in one way, there only are individuals in the world. In the eyes of God we are not just a mass of humanity, but we are individuals, we are Tom and Dick and Harry. We are people He knows, whose every problem and effort He knows. The Writings show that the whole end of His Divine providence is that there may be formed a heaven from the human race, a heaven where we may some day find something which we love to do, and so may perform a use for our fellow angels. Now, when we understand the spiritual sense of the Christmas story, we will see how the Lord may be born into the heart and into the mind of each one of us. Nothing is more clear than the fact that we have thoughts and that we have desires. Swedenborg tells us there are two compartments of the mind which take care of these things. The will of man is a spiritual organ which is capable of loving, and the understanding is a spiritual organ capable of thought. Now each of the organs is wonderfully adapted to the uses it has to perform, just as the ear is adapted to hearing and the eye is adapted to sight. It is in the will that love is found and since the heart corresponds to our will, when we love somebody we feel that love, as it were, in our heart. On the other hand, our lungs correspond to our understanding or our ability to think. This can easily be seen to be true, for as soon as our lungs stop functioning, rational conscious thought ceases. Throughout life the lungs correspond exactly to all our thought processes. The deepest psychology we can learn is imaged in the interaction between our lungs and our heart, and the more we study that, the more interesting things we learn about the will and the understanding. For example, every affection or desire that man has must be passed through the thoughts of his understanding just as the blood in our body must pass through the lungs. If our lungs are healthy and clean and functioning, the blood is purified by the lungs. In like manner, every purpose of our will, which is the bloodstream of one's spiritual life the stream of his affections, has to be passed through the understanding to be examined and purified. If a man is ignorant, he cannot shape his deeds by wisdom but instead they are the deeds of ignorance. If, however, he is wise, if he reads the Word and fills his mind with its teachings, every purpose that he can have is purified by the Word of God present in his understanding.
I speak of the will and the understanding for this reason: There are two accounts of the Lord's birth, one in Matthew and the other in Luke and as we look over humanity we observe the obvious fact that it is made up of two entirely different kinds of creatures, one called man and the other woman. Neither of them quite understand each other but they are irresistibly attracted toward each other and nothing very much worthwhile is accomplished in life without the close cooperation between them. These two great classes of beings, men and women, have been created by the Lord in order that the angelic heavens might be populated and so it is of Divine order that children should be born of their marriage. That is the greatest of their uses, the bringing of children into this world, and the careful raising of their children in order that they, in their day, may become angels of heaven. The husband and wife have to act conjointly in this use.
There are men and women in the world because man has these two faculties of the will and understanding, and we cannot do a thing, we cannot so much as lift our arm, without the marriage of the will and the understanding; that is, without the union of them. I have to want to lift it, that's the will, and I have to know how to lift it. If we observe a baby, we will notice that he does not know how to reach out his hand. A baby will look at something bright and try to touch it when it may be across the room. He thinks the moon is just as close as his little rattle. He does not know how to reach the rattle. That is something which it takes us months to teach him. But the budding will and understanding are both there and they must be so trained and developed that the Lord will be able to come to both faculties. This necessity is brought out in the twofold Christmas story.
In order to describe how the Lord comes to man fully, Luke and Matthew depict how He comes both to man's will or his affections, and to his understanding or power to reason. His entrance into the will is set forth in Luke's narrative, His enlightening of the understanding in the Gospel of Matthew. The broad generalities are very clear. Women of course represent love, and men wisdom. Not that all women are loving or that all men are wise but, in general, men reason things out and women, through the perceptions of love, arrive almost instantaneously at conclusions. Luke's Gospel has been called, by some commentators, the woman's Gospel. When the angel told Mary that she was to have a child, she said, "How shall this be, seeing I know not a man? And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Spirit shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God." (Luke 1:34, 35) Mary, who was the central figure in this drama, was completely convinced by the simple statement of this angel that she was to be the virgin mother of One who was to be great in the history of Israel. How great, she had no conception of, but she thought that this son of hers was to be the Messiah, perhaps a great warrior king who should free them from the yoke of Rome that was so distasteful to that freedom-loving people.
On the other hand, the Matthew story presents the virgin birth of the Lord from the standpoint of Joseph, who when he found that Mary was to have a child, being a just man, and not wishing to make a public example of her, was going to put her away secretly, but then the angel came to him and said "Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit." (Matthew 1:20) The fact that Joseph was completely convinced by this angelic vision, that Mary's child was conceived of the Holy Spirit, is the greatest proof of the virgin birth. "Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife: and knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name Jesus." (Ibid. 1:24, 25) Therefore, because the Gospel of Luke makes clear to Mary the virgin birth, it has been called "The Woman's Gospel" and because the Gospel according to Matthew does the same for Joseph, it has been called "The Man's Gospel."
Luke's Gospel tells of events prior to the birth of the Lord. It tells of a venerable priest of the Jewish Church whose fathers had been priests before him for fifteen hundred years, all the way back to the days of Mount Sinai. His name was Zacharias and he came of a long line of people who had seen angels. Imagine his surprise when, as he went into the temple to burn incense, he saw an angel standing on the right side of the golden altar. He did not doubt that he was seeing an angel, although there had been no open vision in Israel for four hundred years, for as a priest he knew the history of his people. He was surprised, however, that the angel should come to him and he was filled with fear. The conception that the Jews had of Jehovah at that time was of a fearful God, a just God, but a God who executed terrific vengeance upon His enemies. Zacharias was troubled and fear fell upon him. But the first thing the angel said to him, even as later he used the same words to Mary, was "Fear not."
However, Zacharias doubted, as well he might, when Gabriel told him that he was to be a father in his old age and Elisabeth was to be a mother. He doubted, and the angel told him that as a sign to him that it would surely come to pass, he should be dumb. The priest of the old dispensation should speak no more! The angel had told him of the birth of John the Baptist, the forerunner of the Lord Jesus Christ, and as a sign of the prediction the old priest, the priest of the religion which was to be supplanted by Christianity, was silent until the words of the angel came true.
True to Gabriel's words, in due course of time Elisabeth bore a son. All the relatives wanted to call his name Zacharias after his father but, no, he had been named John by the angel; and when they asked his father what he would have him named he called for a tablet and wrote, "His name is John." Not until the birth of the herald of the new dispensation did speech return to the lips of this old Judean priest.
John the Baptist grew to be a wonderful man. He was a Nazarite. He drank neither wine nor strong drink and matured in the wilderness eating locusts and wild honey; and just before the Lord was ready for His public ministry, thirty years after the event we are now talking of, John stood in the river Jordan and when he saw the Lord coming he said to his disciples, "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world." (John 1:29) Spiritually understood, the thing which brings the Lord to us is the letter of the Word, the Old and the New Testaments. All our knowledge of the Lord comes from that source.
When John preached in the wilderness that men must repent because of the coming of the great Messiah, he prepared the way of the Lord, as it is written in the prophets, "The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make His paths straight." (Mark 1:3) In the same way, the reading of the Word in the letter prepares us to receive the vision of the Lord as to His Spirit. And so the Writings tell us that John the Baptist represents the letter of the Word. That is what he signifies, his relation to the Lord is the same as the relation of the letter of the Word to the spiritual sense which it contains. John went before the Lord even as we must read the letter of the Word before its spirit can be revealed to us.
If we look at some of the features of the Gospel according to Luke, we can see how it is primarily a coming of the Lord to our affections. The Luke story appeals to the hearts of children. It is easier to insinuate into the affections of children than is the Matthew story. That is only natural since the Luke story suggests how the Lord is born in our heart and in our affections rather than how He comes to us in a rational manner, or is born within our understanding. The events which Luke narrates took place before the events described by Matthew. The shepherds came to the Lord on the very night of His birth and found Him wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger because there was no room for Him in the inn. But it was not until weeks later that the wise men from the East came to lay their costly gifts before Him, the gold, the frankincense and myrrhand they found Him in a house.
Let us first explore the significance of Mary and Joseph's exclusion from the inn. In it there was room for the wealthy Pharisees who were the aristocrats of the Lord's day. There was also room in the inn for the Sadducees, who were the skeptics of those days, denying the life after death. There was room for the learned scribe and also for the arrogant priest. The inn-keeper found room for all of those people, but when Mary and Joseph knocked at his door, he said, "There is no room for you in the inn.
The Writings tell us that the inn represented the education of the Jewish Church because, just as the body is fed and housed in an inn, so the mind of man is fed by the education offered at his day and is nourished by it. In fact, that is where he lives in the spiritual inn which is the basis of his thinking. The Jewish education of the Lord's day led men to believe that the Messiah would be a great king, a national hero, a fighting man, a victorious conqueror, one who would break the yoke of Rome from off their necks. That is why they all rejected our Lord, except a handful of people. His own people rejected Him because there was no room in the education of His day for what He had to offer. We who are striving to establish New Church education think that there is a close parallel with the schools of today. The schools of today have room in their curricula for studies that lead to success. They can educate fine business men. They can give boys a training that will enable them to earn good livings. They can make masters and doctors out of them. They can take girls and put them in a finishing school and give them the social graces and dancing and music and enable them to get along smoothly with their fellow men; but in all our public schools, because of their very nature, religion is ruled out. There is no room for the Lord in the inn of our modern education except in those religious schools such as our own, which we conduct separate from the public schools at our additional expense. Only so can we provide room in the inn of our education to fill the minds of our children with the faith that there is One God in One Person who is the Lord Jesus Christ. This fundamental truth shall enter as a dominant thought into all our teaching into geography, mathematics, history and all other subjects, so that the Lord shall be in all of the instruction that we give. That is what we believe, and that is what we strive in our hearts to do! The Lord could not be born in the inn of Bethlehem because it represented the education of His day. In a beautiful passage from the Writings, in the Apocalypse Explained, it is said, "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 thus have been with such as were in no doctrine of truth, and there would have been no heavenly representation." (706:12)
He must be born into that with us which shelters the innocent affections. Domestic animals represent men's good affections, and ferocious animals like the wolf, the tiger, or the lion represent the things that kill men's spiritual life, such as envy, pride, hatred, murder, and all the affections for evil. The Lord cannot be born where the affections for evil abound, but He can be born in a stable, in the spiritual stable of each one of us; that is, He can be born in whatever is in us that shelters and makes possible the life of innocent affections and especially the affection represented by the horse. For the horse represents the understanding of the Word. So when we turn to the vision of the Apocalypse, we find the Lord described as a horseman, riding a noble white steed followed by thousands of angels on white horses, all of which represent the understanding of the Word. And the Lord was laid in a manger. First He was wrapped in swaddling clothes, the simplest of garments which represent the simplest of truths. By the simplest truths I mean the truths in which the Lord comes to us originally. For instance, that God is our Creator. Our children ask, "Where did the world come from? Where did I come from?" We answer, "God made you." "Where does our food come from?" "God made it." Simple truths like these are like swaddling clothes. The Lord was laid in a manger because the manger provides food for horses and thus represents the Word which furnishes ideas of the Lord for our minds, ideas which grow with us from infancy to adult life.
The Luke story also tells of the shepherds who were keeping watch over their flock by night on the lonely hills of Bethlehem. All of us have some responsibility. Those of us who are parents have their own children, those of us who are teachers have children for whom we are responsible, and those of us who are adults all have responsibility for the whole generation. Therefore the Lord said to Peter, "Feed my lambs." (John 21:15)
I am just speaking for myself, you will have to translate it into terms of your own occupations. It is very easy to enjoy teaching when the boys are bright and smiling and when you are doing the things that the boys like you to do and you do not have to correct them. That is like tending your sheep in the daytime when there are no dangers. But then there come disciplinary troubles, and things you have to tell the boys that they cannot do, and you meet the resistance of their will, and these may lead you into states of quite black despair. If you can still keep boldly on and keep watch over your flocks by night, then in some slight measure you arc following in the footsteps of those shepherds. It was on these very hills of Bethlehem that David slew both the lion and the bear, while he was keeping watch over his flock by night. When these shepherds were keeping watch on this particular night, then suddenly a beautiful angel appeared to them in the sky and told them that the Savior of the world had been born and that they would recognize Him because He would be lying in a manger, wrapped in swaddling clothes. The angel announced the simple truth concerning the birth of the Messiah and the shepherds heard it. And as this simple truth was pouring in upon them, suddenly there was with the one angel a multitude of the heavenly host. The whole heavens were filled with angels praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest and on earth, peace, good will toward men." (Luke 2: 14) That is a pattern of the experience of every New Church man. When once he sees one truth and gets its message from the Writings, there soon follow a multitude of truths never seen before. This is portrayed in the story by the words, "And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men." (Ibid. 2:13, 14)
That host of angels that appeared in the plains of Bethlehem was seen in the spiritual world. The spiritual eyes of the shepherds were opened, and at the same time an angelic society was seen as a star before the spiritual eyes of certain wise men in the East (Coronis 41) But this story is told in the Gospel of Matthew.
In the spiritual world, the East is where the Lord is. The angels always think of the East as where the Lord is and everything in the spiritual world is oriented by where the Lord appears. When it is said in the letter of the Word that the wise men saw the Lord's star in the East, it represents those who are striving for something higher than materialism, striving for God, hunting for Him, longing to see Him. Such men always see His star in the East. The wise men, from the prophecies that had come down to them from the Ancient Word, were convinced that the star foretold the birth of the king of the Jews; so they went to Jerusalem. But when they arrived there, they found Herod upon the throne.
I do not know of any contrast in the whole Word between good and evil so sharp and clear as the one we have here the wise men and Herod who had murdered three sons, a brother, and a wife. His nameless evils of which we are unaware may have been even more horrible. And Herod was a jealous man and, when the wise men informed him that they had seen a vision in the East which told them that a Messiah had been born in Jewry, he was troubled and all Jerusalem with him and he inquired from the scribes and found out that the Lord was to be born in Bethlehem of Judah.
Remember this is the gospel that depicts the coming of the Lord to the understanding; Hence the mention of wise men, of a star which signifies the light of the mind, of kings who represent truths, finally of Bethlehem which means the house of bread and spiritual bread is what feeds and builds the mind. Judah was the southern part of the country and represents love; thus the love of understanding things is signified by Bethlehem, and that is where the Lord is born. After Herod had found that the Lord was to be born there, he called the wise men craftily and enquired of them diligently what time the star had appeared to them; that is, how many weeks or months or days ago the wise men had seen it and started on their journey. For Herod had already determined murder in his heart and had decided that in order to kill the Messiah all the babies in Bethlehem should be put to death so that he would be sure to destroy his rival.
Herod represents the hereditary evil with which we all are born. The wise men represent the truth in us which receives the Lord. What a battle takes place in our lives between these two forces. Each wants to know where Christ should be born; the wise men that they might worship Him, and Herod that he might destroy Him. Herod sought to use the wise men for his evil purposes. "When ye have found Him," he said, "bring me word again that I may come and worship Him also." (Matthew 2:8) The wise men represent the voice of conscience within us and bid us turn our backs upon the allurements of hereditary evil. Every step that they went put distance between them and the king. This represents the momentous decisions that we make in our lives. When we decide to leave evil and to seek the Lord, we are acting like the wise men of old who turned their backs on Herod and departed from him. As soon as this decision was made, "Lo, the star which they saw in the East went before them till it came and stood over where the young child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy." (Ibid. 2: 9,10)
So it will be with us, in those decisions when we take a stand against some particular evil. Not the kind of confession that says, "O, I am hopelessly evil" and does nothing about it. But the kind of self- examination that finds some particular evil which we determine to shun as a sin against God. Then it is that we depart from Herod, and the star of truth that first awakened the conscience in us will go before us and it will lead us to the place where the Lord is. And we, too, will rejoice as the wise men did. "And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary, His mother, and fell down and worshipped Him." (Ibid. 2:11)
The Lord was born into the world of Mary and we certainly owe Mary love and respect, but not saint worship. To Swedenborg it was granted to meet Mary in the spiritual world and Mary then said that the Lord had indeed been born of her but that everything that she had given Him had been put off; and that she worships Him solely as her God, not as her Son. Yet Mary, in the letter of the Word, also represents the Church because the Lord is born into the hearts of our children and into our own hearts through the Church.
The Church provides the means whereby ministers may be instructed and educated and consecrated and ordained and set apart for their duties of teaching and preaching the Word of God. All of the ministrations of the Church are for the purpose of bringing the Lord into the hearts of men, bringing the Divine on earth, the Writings say, and that is all represented by Mary. It was Mary who brought the Lord into the world physically, but just as we do not worship Mary, so we never worship the Church. We respect the Church and support the Church because it is a means, in the hand of the Lord, for the saving of men, but the Church is never the end of our veneration as it is in some religions.
The wise men went in and they found the young Child with Mary, His mother. There is no mention of Joseph, and they did not come into a stable, but into a house. We do not know the exact time which elapsed since the night of the Lord's birth but it was certainly less than two years. After the wise men came into the house they spontaneously fell down and worshipped the Infant Lord and they rose and opened their treasures, and presented Him with gifts, gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.
The three gifts represent the three degrees of the mind. Gold, from time immemorial, has been the most precious of metals. Gold has been used for the crowns of kings, and gold has been used on the domes of temples to honor God because of its high correspondence. It represents the highest and purest of loves of which the human heart is capable. The Writings call that love celestial the love to the Lord our Savior.
The second was frankincense. Frankincense, which was used in their sacrifices on the very altar of incense which Zacharias had been tending when the angel came to him, represents all of our spiritual loves. Spiritual loves are our intellectual interests, the things about which we think, the things that we plan, dream, imagine. In offering this we offer our understanding and everything in it to the service of God. The last gift was myrrh, which was also an ingredient in sacrifices. It represents the natural degree in man. The natural degree is characterized by obedience. Those angels who go to the natural heaven (in contradistinction to the spiritual or celestial heaven) are the type of people who do things that are right from duty, who obey laws because they believe that the Lord has commanded them. They may not understand them, they may not love them, but they love the Lord and they love to obey the Lord. And so the third gift offered to the Lord was myrrh because obedience, natural obedience, is the stepping stone to a true love to the Lord. As the Lord said, "He that loveth Me, keepeth My commandments. "
The wise men offered gifts that signify all the things of a man's life, his celestial loves, his spiritual loves and his natural loves, which are all given without restraint to the Lord as an offering. And then night fell and these wise men dreamed a dream, a dream important to all of us. After we have seen the light, and after we have worshipped the Savior, and after we have rendered Him gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh, the Herod of evil is not dead, and he is still on the throne of our natural mind. He is still powerful and deceitful and the chances may be that he may still crush the spark of spiritual life in our hearts. And so God gave a parting warning to these wise men. And "being warned of God in a dream that they should not return, to Herod, they departed into their own country another way. (Ibid. 2:12)