Christmas Chronology

December 1, 2017 § Leave a comment

Below is a chronological list of passages from the Gospels of Matthew, Luke, and John related to the Christmas story.

Time Frame:                                                 Passage:                    Topic:

Creation to Eternity                                      John 1: 1-18             The Word became flesh

9 months before Jesus was born               Luke 1: 26-38           Annunciation to Mary
9 months before Jesus was born               Luke 1: 39-45           Mary visits Elizabeth
9 months before Jesus was born               Luke 1: 46-56           Mary’s Song

6 months before Jesus was born               Matthew 1: 18-25    Annunciation to Joseph

Birth of Jesus                                                  Luke 2: 1-7               Birth
Birth of Jesus                                                  Luke 2: 8-20             Shepherds and Angels

8 days after Jesus was born                         Luke 2: 21                Circumcision

40 days after Jesus was born                       Luke 2: 22-40           Presentation in the Temple

About 18 months after Jesus was born     Matthew 2: 1-12      Visit of the Magi
About 18 months after Jesus was born     Matthew 2: 13-18    Escape to Egypt

About 5 years after Jesus was born           Matthew 2: 19-23    Return to Nazareth



The good of not feeling good about one’s self

November 8, 2017 § Leave a comment

People want to feel good about themselves. Much of psycho-therapy is about helping people to remove doubt and guilt, so they can be happy and self-confident. Sometimes this desire to feel good about ourselves causes us not to like sermons that talk about evils and sins. And these days, many ministers, oblige and strive to focus on “positive” messages.

Yet, if we are to become angelic, we should be self-loathing, which is a loathing or hatred of ourselves. We become innocent to the extent that we acknowledge and believe that we are nothing but evil and falsity, and that any good and truth in us is the Lord’s.

With regard to a proprium [what is of one’s self] of innocence meant by ‘black one among the lambs’ the position is that, to be good, all good must contain innocence. Charity devoid of innocence is not charity, and still less can love to the Lord exist without it. Innocence is therefore an absolutely essential element of love and charity, and consequently of good. A proprium of innocence consists in knowing, acknowledging, and believing, not with the lips but with the heart, that nothing but evil originates in oneself, and everything good in the Lord, and therefore that such a proprium is altogether black, that is to say, both the will side of the proprium, which is evil, and the understanding side, which is falsity. When a person confesses and believes that in his heart, the Lord flows in with good and truth and instills a heavenly proprium into him which is bright and shining. Nobody can possibly be truly humble unless that acknowledgement and belief are present in his heart; and when they are present he is self-effacing, indeed self-loathing, and so is not preoccupied with himself, in which case he is in a fit state to receive the Lord’s Divine. These are the circumstances in which the Lord flows in with good into a humble and contrite heart. (AC 3994)

It is only when we hate ourselves, when we are self-effacing and self-loathing that we can be humble enough to open our hearts and minds to receive the goods and truths which the Lord wishes to bestow upon us.

This is what is meant in the Gospels that “the last shall be first, and the first shall be last.”

Poorly Lit Parts of the Understanding

November 8, 2017 § Leave a comment

The poorly lit parts of the understanding. Love that phrase. Now if I only knew which parts of my understanding was poorly lit, I might be able to speak intelligently!

This being so, the arcana [secrets] which describe these matters cannot be explained easily and intelligibly since they fall within the poorly lit parts of the understanding. It is rather like someone talking in a foreign language, in that no matter how clearly the thing is explained in that language the hearer does not understand. (AC 3993.2)

This later passage adds some insight to unlit areas of the mind:

As regards the things that enter the memory the position is this: Those for which there is no affection pass into the unlit parts of the memory when they enter it, whereas those for which there is affection pass into the light there. Things present in that light are seen and appear clearly and distinctly when any matter of a similar nature is brought up, but not so the things lying around in the unlit parts. Such is the effect that affection belonging to love has. (AC 4018.2)

Marriage is more than friendship

November 5, 2017 § Leave a comment

Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and shall cling to his wife, and they shall be as one flesh. (Gen 2.24; Lexham English Bible)

As regards ‘clinging’ in the external sense, or inner sense nearest to the literal, meaning a joining together, this may be seen without explanation; and as regards ‘clinging’ in the internal sense meaning charity, this is evident from the consideration that charity, or what amounts to the same, mutual love, is a spiritual joining together. For mutual love is a joining together of affections belonging to the will and a consequent agreement of thoughts belonging to the understanding, and so is a joining of minds as to both parts. (AC 3875.1)

Mutual love is different from friendship inasmuch as mutual love has a person’s good in view, and in directing itself towards that good is directed towards the person in whom good is present. Friendship however has the person in view, which is also mutual love when it looks at that person from the point of view of, that is, on account of, that good. But when it does not look at him from the point of view of good or on account of that good but on account of self which it calls good, friendship is not in that case mutual love but something close to the love of self. And insofar as it is close to this it is opposed to mutual love. (AC 3875.5)


We often talk about how our spouse should be our best friend. The above teachings shed a lot of light on how spouses should be best friends.

Married love, mutual love, and friendship are very intimately connected. Genuine married love will involve mutual love and true friendship. Two people can mutually love each other without being married to each other. They too will be true friends to each other. But you can also be friends with someone without mutually loving them.

Friendship without mutual love regards person without regard to good that is in him. It sees only his outward kindness, his regard for you, his behavior. It does not look beyond this to his character, to the good that is in him.  

True friendship comes from mutual love. Mutual love regards the good in the other person and seeks to nurture that good. The nurturing of good in another can take many forms:

  • encouraging good behavior
  • criticism of pettiness
  • explaining what is good and true
  • showing the negative consequences
  • supportiveness
  • withdrawal
  • and so many more.

A genuine marriage requires each person to be looking to the Lord and shunning evils as sins against Him. It also means practicing mutual love, that is, helping each other to become a better person. Genuine marriage means creating a higher common standard, not sinking to the lowest common standard. Each couple, of course, find their own unique ways of helping their spouses. 





Understanding over time

October 3, 2017 § Leave a comment

I am currently reading through the Arcana Celestia for the third time. Right now I am in the story of Jacob and Esau which is about the glorification of the natural.

When I was younger, I understood all of this because I understood the words I read. Now, I don’t understand it. It is difficult to clearly distinguish what thoughts and affections are from the rational and which are from the natural. It is impossible, at least for me, to tell what is coming into the natural directly and what is flowing in indirectly. Without being able to relate what is being taught to what is going on in my own mind, I do not feel that I truly understand what is being taught. 

It is comforting, however, that the Lord so frequently points out our inability to comprehend these things which make sense to the angels.


September 22, 2017 § Leave a comment

There are many aspects of aging that are not fun. There is more pain, one does not heal as fast, nor can one do as much. There are some benefits to getting older also. Grandchildren are a blessing. Seeing their smiles and delights, getting a kiss or a hug — precious!

There are also spiritual benefits to aging, as can be seen from this passage in the Arcana Celestia:

‘So it was, that Isaac was old’ means when the state was reached. This is clear from the meaning of ‘growing old’ as the arrival and presence of a new state; for ‘old age’ in the Word means both the casting aside of the previous state and the assumption of the new one. The reason it has these two meanings is that old age is the final stage of life, when bodily things start to be cast aside together with the loves which belong to the preceding stage, and so when interior things start to be enlightened; for once bodily things have been removed interior things are enlightened. And a further reason for the two meanings is that angels, who perceive spiritually the things that are in the Word, no longer have the concept of old age but instead the concept of new life. Thus by Isaac’s being old they perceive that the state was reached, that is to say, when the Divine Rational, represented by Isaac, desired the Natural which corresponded to itself, that is, that the Natural too should be Divine. (AC 3492)


August 19, 2017 § Leave a comment

I just finished reading a marvelous book. Echoes of Scripture in the Gospels by Richard B. Hays, published by Baylor University Press; Waco, Texas; 2016. I wish I had read it many years ago, so that I could have used the knowledge and insight gained by this book all that time. Unfortunately, as noted above, the book was only published last year.

In brief, the book shows how each Gospel uses the Old Testament, mostly the LXX. It comments on the quotes, the allusions, the references, and even the very slight echoes of Scripture found in the Gospel. The echoes of scripture are a metaphor for a literary device used by the Gospel writers called metalepsis, which is “quoting a piece of text that beckons the reader to discover more of the original context from which the fragmentary citation came.” Richard Hays goes on to explain this term:

It’s a term I learned from the literary scholar and poet John Hollander, who had written an elegant book called The Figure of Echo: A Mode of Allusion in Milton and After. Hollander made the point that all great literature is densely allusive and that very often poetic texts are full of echoes of earlier texts. A sensitive reading requires us to recognize that and to see where the echoes come from.

His explanations and commentary provide profound insight into what the Gospels are teaching and showing us.

To the best of my knowledge Richard Hays is not New Church and has never read any of Swedenborg’s books. But the insights he has gained from his studies is very compatible with the teachings of the Heavenly Doctrines. By compatible I mean that while his understanding of what he says is not New Church, and I am sure quite different from our beliefs; but his words can be infilled with New Church ideas.

One example of this is the identity of Jesus Christ:

The more deeply we probe the Jewish and Old Testament roots of the Gospel narratives, the more clearly we see that each of the four Evangelists, in their diverse portrayals, identifies Jesus as the embodiment of the God of Israel. (p. 363)

While worded very differently, this is conveying the same idea as the Heavenly Doctrines, see for example AR 67:

THE FAITH OF THE NEW HEAVEN AND THE NEW CHURCH, IN ONE UNIVERSAL IDEA, is this, that the Lord from eternity, who is Jehovah, came into the world (See also LJp 366;F 34; DP124.4; AR 548; BE 116 & TCR 2)

An intriguing observation that Richard Hays makes is:

. . . the Evangelists received Scripture as a complex body of texts given to the community by God, who had scripted the whole biblical drama in such a way that it had multiple senses. Some of these senses are hidden, so they come into focus only retrospectively. (p. 358)

Richard Hays, as far as I know, is unaware that Old and New Testaments have a spiritual meaning, that was hidden and which is now revealed in the Heavenly Doctrines. Yet what he says about the meaning which the Evangelists saw retrospectively in Scriptures is also true of the Spiritual Meaning.

  • The spiritual meaning was hidden within the literal meaning of the Old and New Testaments.
  • And the spiritual meaning can only be seen retrospectively from the Heavenly Doctrines.

This last point is thought provoking. From the Heavenly Doctrines we can see in the Old and New Testaments a spiritual meaning. One of the things that the Heavenly Doctrines do when they reveal the spiritual meaning of a passage, is that they often confirm that meaning by citing numerous other verses in the Old and New Testaments. As laborious as it often is to read through all these citations, it is often only by reading through them and seeing how a given term is used in many verses, that we can see that the term must have a spiritual meaning. Further, as you read through the Arcana Celestia or the Apocalypse Revealed, you begin to get a glimmer that the spiritual meaning reveals an overarching narrative. From the Heavenly Doctrines and their revelation of the spiritual meaning, we can see a unity of structure in the Old and New Testaments that is not evident from the literal meaning alone. The literal meaning appears to separate stories and histories, often with conflicting views and information.

It is the revelation of the the spiritual meaning of the Old and New Testaments that tie the Old Testament, the New Testament, and the Heavenly Doctrines into a unitary Word or Divine Revelation. This for me explains why the Arcana Celestia had to be the first  work of the Heavenly Doctrines published.

The Writings are also filled with quotations, references, allusions, and echos of other passages in themselves, and of verse in the letter of the Word that deepen and enrich their teachings. The Heavenly Doctrines become more alive as our familiarity with them the letter of the Word grows.