The 19th day of June is a yearly celebration in traditional New Church congregations. What is it?
As a day, its roots go back to theologian Emanuel Swedenborg’s notation that on that date, in 1770, a spiritual event occurred – one with great spiritual symbolism. On that date, Swedenborg held that the 12 disciples of the New Testament regathered to again proclaim the message that the Lord God Savior Jesus Christ reigns. The message they had lived on this earth was again claimed but this time in heaven.
Just hold the core of that statement for a moment. What it means is that the New Church proclaims that Christ is alive and active in the world, and ours is to celebrate this living reality. Was Swedenborg really given to see those things? That is for the individual to decide but just “test drive” the message for the moment.
What the message means is that the anticipated “Second Coming of Christ” has occurred through the understanding of the real heart and soul of the bible – a testimony centered on love. This what Swedenborg wrote of. That Second Coming, is not, from a New Church perspective, just “good news” (Gospel) for Christians but for all faiths given the strong teachings in this church that any form of faith, if lived sincerely, draws one to heaven. The New Church then, in a sense, is just one of many facets of this “Second Coming”, an event far more about the gift of spiritual freedom than of dogmatic pietism squashed into an assembly of “The Elect.” Saying “Christ reigns” from a New Church angle is like saying “All are blessed.”
And that salvation entails taking on the work as individuals and institutions of continual self-critique and self-renewal, aka “resurrection.” Paradoxically, this in turn only works as we do the work of faith – the not to do list and the to do list. Individuals and institutions, including churches themselves, can become self-centered. Faith is about moving beyond those imprisoning constructs and moving towards agape forms of love – agape as in “self-sacrificing.” We do that through the rigorous honesty of self-critique and the loving service foundational to self-renewal.
I certainly have witnessed people living this “Second Coming” including many who would not define themselves as “Christian” or “New Church” in the tradition sense. The sign of the Second Coming really are changes in our own hearts – not “end times” or the ceasing of history. That breaking open of the world anew is an individual endeavor true but one we can support and celebrate as a Church. The 19th of June is good time to celebrate it!