The Woman Clothed with the Sun

A Holy Supper Address by James P. Cooper

Toronto - June 10, 2012

  1. In June we begin to think about the anniversary of the establishment of the New Church.

    1. Most organizations in the world do something to remember their origins, but usually they are marking a day when some people got together to sign some papers, or collected a first donation, or began digging the foundation for a building. And we do those things too.

    2. But the New Church regarded in itself as a doctrine, a movement, didn’t start that way – it wasn’t started by people in this world at all, but rather it was founded in the spiritual world.

      1. The earthly organization did not come along until many years later.

    3. The story of the establishment of the New Church in the heavens is told in the book of Revelation, and the image of the Woman clothed in the Sun is key.

  2. The Woman

    1. (Rev 12) Now a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a garland of twelve stars. {2} Then being with child, she cried out in labour and in pain to give birth.

    2. The woman is a picture of the Lord’s church in the heavens.

      1. The church is represented by a woman, because the church is the bride and wife of the Lord. As a bride is in the affection of the wisdom of her husband and loves him because of that wisdom, so the church looks to conjunction with the Lord, for, like a bride, it wants to be one with the Wisdom that is from the Lord.

    3. Sun, moon, and stars represent Charity, Faith, and knowledge.

      1. The Lord appears in the spiritual world as the Sun of Heaven to represent the power and life-giving nature of His Divine Love and Divine Wisdom.

      2. The woman who represents the church is seen with that power and life from the Lord radiating to all people through her as if from a sun.

      3. She is described as being clothed with the sun for two reasons:

        1. Because the Lord’s life flows into man through the church in the heavens,

          1. Thus the light coming as if from the woman although the Lord is the source.

        2. also, when men in the church know the truths from the Word and live according to them they are in love to the Lord, which love is signified by the light and heat of the sun.

      4. Thus, the radiant power of the woman comes from the reciprocal conjunction of men with the Lord.

        1. Man receives good and truth from the Lord through the church, and then as if of himself chooses to make it his own, thus returning that love to the Lord. This reciprocal conjunction is the life of heaven from which all delights and blessings flow.

      5. The moon, representing the faith of the New Church, was seen under her feet, because at the time of John’s vision, and even at the time Swedenborg was visiting the spiritual world, the New church in the heavens had not yet been conjoined to the church on earth.

        1. The conjunction of the New Church in the heavens and the church on earth was the Lord’s purpose, and the revelation of the internal sense of the Word through Swedenborg was the means to that goal.

    4. However, that was not the end, but a beginning. The Lord has, through His Second Coming, given us the tools to establish the church on earth if we sincerely desire it and work for it. Our text warns us that establishing the church on earth will not be easy: she travailed and pained to bring forth (REV 12:2). The Writings tell us that this means the church on earth will not be easily received at first, especially by those who are in faith alone (AR 531).

      1. The presence of evil also makes it hard for the church to grow. Evils of life are given as the reason why people find it hard to read the Word with understanding.

      2. They love their evils, and most people are aware that the Word teaches that evils are to be removed. So they avoid the reading the Word or even attempting to understand what it teaches.

      3. Thus the importance of the prophets (or today a formal church organization) who, like a voice in the wilderness, warn people to repent of their sins, then bring their lives into order, so that the Lord may touch their lives and lead them to heaven.

  3. The child born to the woman is the doctrine of the New Church which is being established on the earth.

    1. But, not everyone wants this to happen.

      1. There are people who love their lives just the way they are and do not want to be annoyed by teachings about charity, and the need to reform.

      2. There are others who are not just complacent, but who actually want others to remain in ignorance so they can have power over them.

        1. In today’s world there are lots of businesses whose only product is information. Other businesses sell ways of processing and storing information.

        2. Knowing a secret, having information that other people want or need, gives you power over those people.

          1. You can use it for good – a teacher who wants to give it to as many people as possible.

          2. An evil person who wants to use it to make people give him money, or do things his way.

      3. This evil person is represented in the Word by the dragon.

    2. The Dragon

      1. {3} And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great, fiery red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems on his heads. {4} His tail drew a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was ready to give birth, to devour her Child as soon as it was born.

        1. Fiery red: evil, flaming.

        2. Seven heads and ten horns: Confusion and irrationality from many different ideas trying to lead. The horns are the power to confuse, the diadems an intent to lead innocent people astray.

        3. The stars are the doctrines of the church. The dragon wants to take away their heavenly authority and make them merely natural idea, opinions that can be safely ignored.

        4. And the doctrine of the New Church is the most dangerous enemy of the dragon because it makes the whole of the Word accessible to people, and when they understand the Word, the dragons lies no longer have any power or effect.

    3. The Male Child

      1. {5} She bore a male Child who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron. And her Child was caught up to God and His throne.

        1. However, since each of us is truly free, falsity and evil have a pull on our hearts and minds equal to that of good and truth.

        2. Every one of us must make hard choices and turn away from the pull of hereditary tendencies to evils. To do this requires real power. The power to turn away from evil and falsity does not come from within ourselves, although it may at times seem this way. It comes from the Lord through the church and is represented by the “male child which shall rule the nations with a rod of iron” (REV 12:5).

        3. This child represents the doctrine of the church – not the words and ideas presented in the Word, but the ideas after they have been received in the mind and confirmed by a life according to them (See AR 148).

          1. The rod of iron – sceptre – represents the power of truth/knowledge from the Word to destroy and remove falsity, thus allowing people freedom and showing them the Lord’s path to heaven.

  4. Even though the New Church was established over 200 years ago, the battle is not yet over.

    1. It is being fought over and over as each generation is born and struggles with their own questions about their life and faith.

    2. It is being fought over and over as each individual struggles with their own inclinations to evils of every kind.

    3. But please remember that we are not fighting alone.

      1. The Lord is guiding the angels of heaven to protect us and lead us to our heavenly home.

      2. We just need to know that they are there, look for them, and follow them.

  5. The Woman Protected

    1. The church itself is under attack every day.

      1. Actively, through the militant actions of other religions, and

      2. Passively, through cultural shift and acceptance of a variety of evils of life, and

      3. Through people turning away from Word as an authority in their life. This is where the hells do their most insidious work. Rather than making a frontal attack against the whole of the Word, instead they lead us to pick and choose the parts that we like. Once we begin to doubt the authority of some teachings, it’s not hard to find ourselves doubting all but our own prudence. And the loves of self and self intelligence rule.

      4. When we believe that we alone are responsible for the Lord’s church, both in our lives and in the world, we will despair. These unhappy times in our lives are caused by temptations, and we suffer real pain because good things that we really love are being challenged. We sometimes call these “wilderness” states.

        1. {6} Then the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, that they should feed her there one thousand two hundred and sixty days.

    2. The good news is that we are not responsible for the Lord’s church. He, and all the angels, are working in secret ways to preserve the church on earth, and to preserve human freedom -- for both are essential to the continuation of the heavens.

      1. {7} And war broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels fought with the dragon; and the dragon and his [messengers] fought, {8} but they did not prevail, nor was a place found for them in heaven any longer.

    3. As we prepare for the Holy Supper today, we can see that the Lord is protecting His church with His great power. What He requires of us is that each of us do our part, relatively small though it may be.

      1. And what is our part? To fight the dragon in the context of our own lives; to look for the evils in our lives, to pray to the Lord for help in removing them, and to begin to live in a new way.

          1. {9} So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his [messengers] were cast out with him. Amen.

First Lesson: Rev 12

Now a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a garland of twelve stars. {2} Then being with child, she cried out in labour and in pain to give birth. {3} And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great, fiery red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems on his heads. {4} His tail drew a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was ready to give birth, to devour her Child as soon as it was born. {5} She bore a male Child who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron. And her Child was caught up to God and His throne. {6} Then the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, that they should feed her there one thousand two hundred and sixty days. {7} And war broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels fought with the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought, {8} but they did not prevail, nor was a place found for them in heaven any longer.

Second Lesson: TCR 773, 774

The Lord’s coming is for the purpose of forming a new heaven of those who have believed in Him, and for the purpose of establishing a new church of those who shall hereafter believe in Him, inasmuch as these two are the ends for which He came. The very end for which the universe was created was no other than the formation from men of an angelic heaven, where all who believe in God shall live forever in eternal blessedness; for the Divine love which is in God and essentially is God, can intend nothing else, and the Divine wisdom which is also in God and is God, can effect nothing else.

TCR 774. The Lord’s presence is unceasing with every man, both the evil and the good, for without His presence no man lives; but His Coming is only to those who receive Him, who are such as believe on Him and keep His commandments. The Lord’s unceasing presence causes man to become rational, and gives him the ability to become spiritual.

This is effected by the light that goes forth from the Lord as the sun in the spiritual world, and that man receives in his understanding; that light is truth, and by means of it man has rationality. But the Lord’s coming is to him who joins heat with that light, that is, love with truth; for the heat that goes forth from that same sun is love to God and love toward the neighbour. The mere presence of the Lord, and the consequent enlightenment of the understanding, may be likened to presence of solar light in the world; unless this light is joined with heat all things on earth become desolate.

But the coming of the Lord may be likened to the coming of heat, which takes place in spring; because heat then joins itself with light, the earth is softened, and seeds sprout and bring forth fruit. Such is the parallelism between the spiritual things which are the environment of man’s spirit, and the natural things which are the environment of his body. Amen.