The Worship of The Ancient Chruch

The people of the earliest church had no other kind of worship than internal worship—the kind of worship in heaven. In that church, heaven communicated with humankind in such a way as to form a single unit with it. The method of communication was perception, which is discussed frequently above. So because the people of that church were angelic and had depth, they did not care about superficial bodily or worldly things, although they were, of course, aware of them. In the individual objects of the senses, rather, they perceived something divine and heavenly.

When they saw a tall mountain, for example, they did not picture a mountain but perceived the idea of height, and the idea of height led them to the idea of heaven and the Lord. This is how it came about that the Lord was said to live on the heights, that he was called the Highest One and Most Exalted, and that worship of him was later held on mountains.

It was the same with all other phenomena. When they thought of morning, for instance, they did not think of the early hours of the day but of the quality of heaven, which is like the morning or dawn in a person’s mind. So they called the Lord the morning, the east, and the dawn. Likewise when they perceived a tree with its fruit and leaves, they ignored these details, seeing in them instead the representation of a human being—love and charity being the fruit, and faith, the leaves. As a result they not only compared members of the church to a tree (and to a whole paradise), and character traits to the fruit and leaves, but also called them such.

This is what people who have a heavenly, angelic way of thinking are like.

Everyone is capable of realizing that our general viewpoint governs all our specific perceptions, including, of course, all our sense impressions, whether acquired through our eyes or ears. In fact we lack any interest in the objects of our senses unless they make part of that overall picture. To those whose hearts are glad, for instance, everything they hear or see appears cheerful and smiling. But to the depressed, everything they see or hear seems grim and melancholy. The same is true in all other cases as well, because our general mood pervades everything and causes us to see and hear everything within the context of our overall mood. Nothing outside that context is even visible but is virtually absent or irrelevant.

The situation was the same with the people of the earliest church. Whatever they saw with their eyes had a heavenly character for them. So for them, absolutely everything seemed alive. This indicates what their worship of God was like: internal and not at all external.

When the church deteriorated, as it did in succeeding generations, and that perception, that communication with heaven, began to die out, the situation started to change. People were no longer perceiving anything of heaven in the objects of their senses as earlier generations had, but only things of the world, and the less perception they had left, the more this tendency increased. At last their final inheritors, who lived just before the Flood, saw nothing but what was worldly, physical, and earthly in those objects.

from Secrets of Heaven, Pages 429, 430


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