Photo credit: Brett Sayles
Readings: Isaiah 62:1-2, 11-12, John 17:6-19, Secrets of Heaven #9229 (see below)
One of the reasons why I love this text today, is that you can really hear Jesus as a person in it. He is praying for his friends. In a moment he will pray for all those who will come after but this prayer, this prayer is for his companions who have been journeying with him for the past three years; his friends, his disciples. You can hear that history of friendship in this prayer. “I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them, by the power of your name…” I don’t know about you, but I am deeply moved by the pathos held in these words about someone leaving and wishing they could still protect those they care about.
Jesus and the disciples had been through a lot together. And so when Jesus had a chance to pray for them, he prayed for their protection, for their joyfulness, and for their connectedness, and lastly, for their sanctification. To sanctify something means to make it holy. Often times in religious contexts, this implies a separation or a purification. That to be holy or consecrated, something needs to be set apart, or having something about it purged, or stripped away. But I don’t think that is what Jesus is getting at here.
The whole time Jesus is praying, before ending with the notion of sanctification, he is praying about connection, weaving together God and Jesus and people, saying things like ”so that they might be one as we are one,” or “They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word.” We can see then, how sanctification must have something to do with entering into or being brought into oneness and connection.
But what does that really mean? We heard in our Swedenborg reading that holiness comes from the Lord alone. So it is not something that we can accomplish on our own, or while being separate from God. Holiness requires connection to God by its essential nature. Holiness emanates from God, and the holiness of anything else is directly correlated to how connected it is and receptive it is to the divine.
But it also doesn’t seem like a binary connection, like putting a plug into a socket. It is more mystical than that. Jesus says “All I have is yours and all you have is mine. And glory has come to me through them.” There is a sense of co-mingling and a shared identity. In fact, it reminds me of what Swedenborg wrote in Divine Providence: “the more closely we are united to the Lord, the more clearly we seem to have our own identity, and yet the more obvious it is that we belong to the Lord.”(1)
And now we also have this word: belong. The more we intentionally connect to the Lord, the more clear it becomes that we belong to the Lord. And not in the sense of being God’s property, but in the sense of being a part of something bigger, a sense of being exactly where we are supposed to be. So we are learning that holiness is a function of connection, which leads to a sense of belonging.
We are seeing that Jesus’ prayer has a powerful subtext; it is about what is going to happen to the disciples next in their lives, but even more it is about “becoming who are we in God.” To quote one of my seminary professors:
Jesus called us into sanctification, which is the becoming of who we and the earth are in God: sacred people living in sacred places with all forms of sacred life, without distinction. (2)
God wants everything to be holy because God wants everything to be connected to the divine. Holiness cannot be some kind of currency that mediates the value of someone or something, meaning that only a few very special things are or can be holy. That seems more like something the grasping human mind would do to the concept of holiness.
In fact, the more I hear about this, the less it seems that holiness is something staid, static, prescribed, measured, perfect, something that we must be very careful with because it is so very special, but rather, it has to be something that we fling ourselves into and towards with abandon, with our whole selves. If holiness comes from our connection with God, then holiness must also involve holding nothing back, holiness must also involve letting go; letting go of the ways we think it should be and letting it become what it is.
But of course, we need to remember to circle back to the fact that holiness is found in God not us. All of these observations about holiness are beautiful but can also very easily be twisted to sanctify anything that we want sanctified. God wants everything to be holy but that doesn’t mean everything can be holy. Evil, malice, hatred, distortion…these things could never even contemplate the kind of ego relinquishment that holiness requires.
Thus, we see in the text that Jesus says “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.” You might recognize these words from our communion liturgy. This is intentional, in order to reflect the reality that holiness is not a firehose of blissful acceptance, but it is an active and intentional partnership with what emanates from God. Swedenborg writes:
By 'that which is holy' is meant the Divine Truth emanating from the Lord. This Truth is called holy, and is meant also by the Holy Spirit…(3)
Holiness is an attribute of divine truth. When Jesus was praying for the sanctification of his disciples, he was praying that they would feel anchored and grounded in the reality of what he had embodied for them, the truths that he had brought to life for them. He said: “They are not of the world…” meaning that he hoped they would not find their belonging in the cravenness of human self-centeredness but rather in the universal and sacrificial love of God. The gospel of John begins with the “Word became flesh.” Jesus’ very existence tells us the truth about God.
But, divine truth is not just about knowledge but about life. Swedenborg writes, speaking of those in the spiritual church:
…in the measure that they receive good from the Lord they are holy; and the measure of good they receive from the Lord, that is, the measure in which they are holy, is determined by how far they lead a life of good in keeping with the genuine truths of faith, and by how far at that time they believe that all the good they think and do then begins in the Lord. (4)
Holiness is also about how open we are to being transformed by loving our neighbor, by being useful, by leaving the world better than we found it. Have you heard the phrase that it is better to “get caught trying?” It means that it is better to at least risk trying to accomplish important, loving, difficult things, and potentially fail, than to not try at all. There is magic, holiness, in that desire to serve that is willing to “get caught trying.” Jesus knew that his disciples would have a difficult road ahead of them, but if they were grounded, sanctified, in the truth that leads to good, the truth that leads to trying, then they would be protected from “the evil one,” that is, the forces that try to stop us from “getting caught trying,” the forces of cynicism, avarice, hypocrisy, ambition and fear.
What have we discovered today? That holiness is about connection and about belonging. That holiness grounds us in truth, propels us in life. That sanctification is the process of tracing all things back to God and then finding out who we are in that light.
Jesus loved his disciples. What he wanted for his friends, was that they might be so deeply connected to the divine, to the reality which Jesus had embodied for them, that it would sustain them going forward. That they would understand the quality of the love that they belonged to and that they might “have the full measure of [his] joy within them.” And Jesus wants that for us as well.
Isaiah 62:1-2, 11-12
1 For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, for Jerusalem’s sake I will not remain quiet, till her vindication shines out like the dawn, her salvation like a blazing torch. 2 The nations will see your vindication, and all kings your glory; you will be called by a new name that the mouth of the LORD will bestow.
11 The LORD has made proclamation to the ends of the earth: “Say to Daughter Zion, ‘See, your Savior comes! See, his reward is with him, and his recompense accompanies him.’ ” 12 They will be called the Holy People, the Redeemed of the LORD; and you will be called Sought After, the City No Longer Deserted.
6 “I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word. 7 Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you. 8 For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me. 9 I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours. 10 All I have is yours, and all you have is mine. And glory has come to me through them. 11 I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one. 12 While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me. None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled. 13 “I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. 14 I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. 15 My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. 17 Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. 19 For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.
Secrets of Heaven #9229
… the meaning of 'men of holiness' [is] those who are led by the Lord, for the Divine which emanates from the Lord is holiness itself. Consequently those who receive that emanation in faith and also in love are called holy ones. Anyone who imagines that a person is holy from any other source, or that anything present with a person is holy apart from that which comes and is received from the Lord is very much mistaken...
Readings: Psalm 31:1-5, John 14:1-7, Divine Providence #60 (see below)
See also on Youtube here
Addition one year later: I preached this sermon for Mother’s Day one year ago, and I thought it would be interesting to see how we hear it a year later. You’ll notice that I start out with grief and segue into birth. Last year, we were very much in the grieving phase. Now, we are perhaps more in the birthing phase. But the important point is that grief and birth connected, that when we accept the fullness of our experience of grief then it can lead to birthing new things. And of course, no matter the phase we feel ourselves in now, we will be processing, on many levels, the experiences of this year for a long time to come. It is reasonable and expected to enter into this cycle again and again.
Jesus said in our text today: do not let your hearts be troubled. This might be one of those times when I really feel like questioning the text. Because there is a lot in the world to trouble us. Even before the pandemic, there was plenty to be troubled about. Somehow it just doesn’t sit right to have Jesus to be telling me not to “let” my heart be troubled, as if being faithful meant somehow being detached from all the injustice, all the loss, all the inequity, all the grief in the world.
Whenever I am challenged by something that I read in the bible, I find it helpful to look a little deeper, to see if the context helps to ground what is being expressed. First, I think it is helpful to see that right before Jesus says do not let your heart be troubled, he predicts that Peter will disown him three times. In fact, in the previous chapter, Jesus washes his disciples feet, predicts his betrayal by Judas (with Judas right in front of him), commands the disciples to love one another, and then tells Peter he will disown him three times. And then immediately Jesus says: Do not let your heart be troubled.
On the face of it, it seems even more ridiculous. How could the disciples not be troubled by the crazy rollercoaster ride that is happening to them? But I think if we look deeper we can see that Jesus is actually anticipating the fullness of their experience, anticipating their grief and their uncertainty and helping them to see their way through it.
I don’t think Jesus is saying that to be faithful means not feeling sad. I don’t think he is saying to be unmoved, or not to grieve for the brokenness we see in the world. He is saying that in all of it, we do not need to feel internally agitated, unmoored, desperate, because God is with us. The word in the text that is translated as “troubled” is the greek word tarasso, and it indicates agitation, being stirred-up, literally movement to and fro.
Which sounds to me like a specific state that is more like anxiety or even defensiveness, a state that prevents us from being present to what is actually happening to us. And I think the antidote to that state is not detachment or escape or rising above our life, but rather recognizing what is expressed in Psalm 31. With God as our refuge, and rock, we can be grounded enough to squarely face whatever is happening. We can have the courage and fortitude to feel it all in fullness. We don’t have to retreat into denial, or dismissal, or numbness, or conspiracy theories. We won’t need simple answers to complex problems just to make ourselves feel better. With God as our rock we can see the world as it truly is, feel everything we are given to feel, and not be afraid of what it might mean.
For the disciples, grief was a reasonable reaction to seeing their friend and mentor die so terribly. Grief was a reasonable reaction to their own failures. Grief is a reasonable reaction to what we have experienced this past year. We have witnessed the death of the vulnerable (both due to the pandemic and white supremacy). We have witnessed overwhelm and exhaustion on the part of our doctors and nurses. We have seen ordinary people, our friends and neighbors lose their livelihoods. And as much as we have seen people come together, we are also seeing divisions widen. There is so much to grieve.
And I know that I have preached a lot about grief this past year. Well, grief isn’t a one and done experience. It comes in waves. It goes out and comes in like the tide. So, as we experience this collective trauma, it is reasonable that our feelings may come and go in a similar way. And one reason I want to return to the topic of grief today, on mother’s day, is because of what I see as the relationship between grief and the mothering impulse.
There are lots of things that we think of when we think of mothering. One thing that seems to me to be inherent to the mothering impulse is to see the suffering of another and to wish to ameliorate that pain somehow, to share the burden of the pain so that it might be lessened for another, being willing to sacrifice something of the self so that another might thrive.
And to be clear, I’m not trying to say that only mothers can engage in the mothering impulse. I’m talking more broadly about something that is very human, something that all people can participate in. Being a mother in a family certainly gives someone lots of opportunities to engage with and to practice and express the mothering impulse, but I wouldn’t call it exclusive to that relationship only. We can see it in lots of places.
Jesus, for example, gives us a powerful example of the mothering impulse. Jesus’ very birth was demonstrative of God’s mothering impulse, wherein God saw the suffering of humanity and reached out. Jesus continued to embody the mothering impulse by ministering to those unseen and suffering, and then finally sacrificing himself so that we might see and understand the ways in which our selfish choices are poisoning our own hearts, indeed, on the very cross forgiving us, enfolding and holding the grief and the blindness of the world, taking it upon himself.
In a very real way, when *we* are feeling the enormous grief that has accompanied this pandemic, and all of its effects, when we truly feel it, we are each of us mothering the world in our small way. Each of us acting in partnership with the mothering impulse of God, a God who feels the grief of our world in every moment.
But this mothering impulse is not passive. It does not exist solely to be martyred, to vacuum up the world’s grief and make it go away, to make us feel more comfortable. The mothering impulse also insists upon the birthing that is to come. For, as much as I have been preaching about grief these last two months, I have also been preaching about newness.
A pregnant women not only endures painful contractions but uses them to bring about birth. One of the most useful pieces of advice that I received from my midwife when giving birth to my own children was to enter into the pain of the contractions and to flow with them, rather than to resist them. To accept them as something that could give me the power, not just to simply endure the process, but to be the one who actively brought new life into the world.
I am sure that the disciples wished that Jesus would have resisted his crucifixion. Wished he would have spoken up and defended himself at his trial. But his purpose was not self-preservation, his purpose was to submit deeply to one of the most bleak of human failures, and then to reframe it as a powerful contraction, something that would give birth to new human possibility, something that would provide new life.
This is the way that Jesus speaks of: the way, the truth and the life.
Birth and re-birth is one kind of language for the way and the truth and life, but there are other ways of describing it too. As a gardener, I personally love gardening metaphors and Rev. Anna Woofenden uses the notion of compost as a way to describe how God works in the world and in us. I quote:
The more I learned about compost, the more I saw the image of God in it, proclaiming the work she does in the world. God is the Divine Composter. She takes all that has been, all that we’ve used, our best bits and our slimy bits, the endings in our lives and the pain of loss, the tantalizing crumbs from our joyful moments and the leftovers we’ve kept for too long. God takes all of that and says, “Okay great, let’s see what we can do with it next!” (1)(129)
Our best bits, our slimy bits, endings, loss, joy and the things we wish we could hold on to…this sounds a lot like that last supper with Jesus and the disciples that we described earlier, full of tenderness, betrayal, love, and confusion. It sounds a lot like life. I think sometimes we want our faith to be like a shield. Something that is supposed to make everything okay. That if Jesus says don’t let your heart be troubled, then we think avoiding sadness will mean we are doing something right.
I think instead that faith is more like a resilient immune system. Or like bacteria in compost. Or like the process of birth. There might be fever, there might be breakdown, there might be contractions, but the fever, the breakdown, the contractions, they are not evidence that something is going wrong, they are evidence that new life is on the way. I know that I feel “troubled,” as in agitated and afraid, when I think the breakdown is all there is, when I’m afraid that new life isn’t possible. Faith though, is believing in the process and being willing to ride it out.
We read in our Swedenborg reading that it is an angelic quality to know the path from having walked in it and then to walk in the path from this knowing of it. To truly know the way, we must be willing to walk in that way, and let that experience change us and lead us. Jesus said, I am the way, the truth and the life. The way that embraces truth and leads to life.
(1) Anna Woofenden, This is God’s Table: Finding Church Beyond the Walls, p129.
1 In you, LORD, I have taken refuge; let me never be put to shame; deliver me in your righteousness. 2 Turn your ear to me, come quickly to my rescue; be my rock of refuge, a strong fortress to save me. 3 Since you are my rock and my fortress, for the sake of your name lead and guide me. 4 Keep me free from the trap that is set for me, for you are my refuge. 5 Into your hands I commit my spirit; deliver me, LORD, my faithful God.
1 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. 2 My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. 4 You know the way to the place where I am going.”
5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” 6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”
Divine Providence 60
We can know the path to heaven to some extent simply by considering what the people who make up heaven are like, realizing that no one can become an angel or get to heaven unless he or she arrives bringing along some angelic quality from the world. Inherent in that angelic quality is a knowing of the path from having walked it and a walking in the path from the knowing of it.
There really are paths in the spiritual world, paths that lead to each community of heaven and to each community of hell. We all see our own paths, spontaneously, it seems. We see them because the paths there are for the loves of each individual. Love opens the paths and leads us to our kindred spirits. No one sees any paths except those of her or his love.
We can see from this that angels are simply heavenly loves, since otherwise they would not have seen the paths that lead to heaven.
Photo credit: Tim Mossholder
Readings: Isaiah 27:2-6, John 15:1-9, Secrets of Heaven #684 (see below)
See also on Youtube
Jesus used a lot of metaphors to try to communicate the nuances of spiritual reality. This metaphor of the vine is familiar to and beloved by the Christian tradition, and like the good shepherd metaphor, would have been very familiar to the people hearing it firsthand. They would have had intimate knowledge of viticulture, as grapes were an incredibly important crop to the ancient Mediterranean world. And they would have understood its use metaphorically as well, as the Jewish scriptures would often employ the image of a vineyard (and God as the vine grower) as a way to communicate ideas about the relationship between God and Israel.
But while Jesus, probably intentionally, employs a familiar metaphor here, he uses it a little differently to the way it is often used in the Old Testament. For the most part, the whole nation of Israel is referred to as a vine or vineyard, and occasionally, the people as the vines themselves. In Jesus’ metaphor though, we (people) are not individual vines nor are we collectively the vineyard, but instead we the branches.
So why the difference? What is Jesus trying to communicate here? Jesus is emphasizing inter-connectedness. As branches, one next to the other, we are all connected to the roots, to nourishment and stability, via the same trunk. We are invited to see the journey of our everyday living pictured in the life of the vine: nourishment on one end, fruitfulness on the other, and to understand that our inter-connectedness with the vine is what allows that journey to happen. Jesus doesn’t want us to forget about our inter-connectedness, to God and each other.
Nature and gardening metaphors abound in the bible, and this is not surprising because nature is before our eyes almost every moment. There are plenty of metaphors, ones that Jesus uses too, that imagine a person as a single plant. In these metaphors, God is often imagined as a gardener who tends either the vineyard or the plant/tree. There are ways in which this is helpful. As we heard in our Isaiah reading, God can be an extremely zealous gardener, in a way that communicates care, protection and diligence. And I quote: I, the LORD, watch over it; I water it continually. I guard it day and night so that no one may harm it. And, when we are invited to picture ourselves as a tree or a plant, it emphasizes our wholeness and freedom. The potential downside is if this God-as-gardener image starts to communicate distance and aloneness. I don’t know about you, but I don’t, I can’t, garden all the time. And even the most diligent human gardener can only focus on one tree at a time. But God is not only sometimes paying attention, only sometimes working for our benefit.
So into that metaphor, Jesus introduces the notion that God is not only the gardener but also the vine. That God’s connection to us not only comes from without but from within. Jesus reduces the distance, communicating that we cannot actually be apart from God. We are branches that are a part of a greater whole, intimately connected to God all the time. We are still called to be fruitful as our main task, but this task is cast as a partnership. I will abide in you and you in me. Plus, our freedom remains; we can refuse the abiding, we can refuse the fruitfulness, but like in all the biblical gardening metaphors, that will have its own consequences.
So, in one of his final teachings to the disciples in the gospel of John, Jesus really doubles down on our inter-connectedness to each other. He extends a familiar metaphor, one in which Israel is usually a vineyard or vine collectively, and zooms in on a more micro level. We can certainly feel communality as vines in the same vineyard, but Jesus intensifies that by calling everyone to be part of the same vine, evoking increased intimacy, increased inter-dependence, and increased connection.
This way of understanding our relationship to each other is reflected in the way that Swedenborg talks about heaven, as we heard in our reading today. Swedenborg also writes:
Since that is what heaven is like, no angel or spirit could ever have any life without being part of some community, without joining in harmony with many others. Community is simply harmony among many. No one's life is ever isolated from the life of others.(1)
Yes, we are all individual vines growing in our own contexts and there will also be an individual aspect of our spiritual lives that requires this singular view. But, it is also true that, as the quote says above, no one’s life is ever isolated from the life of others, not existentially, not spiritually. We human beings are a communal people, not simply because we might enjoy it, but because this is the way that the spirit that is constantly flowing into us naturally organizes itself.
So, I would like to bring this all forward into a consideration of the practice of communion, which we will share together after this sermon.
The Swedenborgian tradition has always emphasized the individual aspect of communion. We can see that fact even in the name it has more traditionally taken in the church: Holy Supper, rather than communion, which has the same linguistic root as community or commune. The heart of our whole tradition is the importance of each person’s lifelong spiritual journey, and the Holy Supper is a spiritual meal, one that provides nourishment for that journey. The bread corresponds to God’s goodness and God’s love, flowing into us, giving us life. The wine corresponds to God’s truth and God’s wisdom, ever available for our enlightenment and growth. Eating these elements, taking them into our body, corresponds to our openness to God’s love and wisdom, to our commitment to bring them into our lives. In the end, in this process, we can only approach God as ourselves, as one person. In freedom, we offer our own essential vulnerability, accountability and devotion; no one else can do that for us.
However, sometimes that emphasis overshadows the fact that our journeys, though individual, are most likely to be successful when undertaken with the support of a community. This is why church exists. And there is something so powerful about taking communion together, with our friends on the journey. I recall the first time I gave communion at the Church of the Holy City after being called to be pastor. Often we administer communion with people coming up to the altar in stages but that day everyone squeezed in along the rail, shoulder to shoulder, with not even a tiny bit of space between. And I found that to be such a hopeful, poignant and spontaneous expression of community. We were all embarking on an adventure together, side by side, and we wanted to be together.
And my friends, we all know that connection like that has been one of the hardest things to preserve during this year, in all realms, not just church. The days when we could kneel shoulder to shoulder on the altar have not yet returned, not quite. We relinquished that powerful enactment because we cared about each other’s lives, and that was and is the most beautiful of offerings. And now, as we have worshipped together online, we have discovered a new kind of community, unfettered by geographic location and physical proximity. But with intention, I believe we can still call the reality of being shoulder to shoulder into being, even online. Today, as we take communion together but apart, let us take a moment to connect in spirit to each other, to imagine that we are branches growing side by side, each person connected to their God, the main vine, in their own way, but all part of one plant with the same fruitful purpose.
I am the vine; you are the branches. If you abide in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit.
(1) Emanuel Swedenborg, Secrets of Heaven #687
2 In that day— “Sing about a fruitful vineyard: 3 I, the LORD, watch over it; I water it continually. I guard it day and night so that no one may harm it. 4 I am not angry. If only there were briers and thorns confronting me! I would march against them in battle; I would set them all on fire. 5 Or else let them come to me for refuge; let them make peace with me, yes, let them make peace with me.” 6 In days to come Jacob will take root, Israel will bud and blossom and fill all the world with fruit.
1 "I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower. 2 He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. 3 You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you. 4 Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. 6 Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers; such branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples. 9 As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love.
Secrets of Heaven #684
The Communities That Make Up Heaven
THERE are three heavens. Good spirits inhabit the first, angelic spirits the second, and angels the third. Each heaven is deeper and purer than the one before it. The result is that the heavens are perfectly distinct from one another.
The first heaven, the second heaven, and the third heaven are each divided into countless communities. Each community consists of many people who because of the compatibility and unanimity among them form a single personality, so to speak. And all the communities together form a single human being.
The distinctions among the communities are created by differences in mutual love and in faith in the Lord. Those differences are so far beyond counting that I cannot list even the most universal kinds.
Not the smallest difference exists that is not fitted into its exact place in the overall plan. In this way it can unite with all the other pieces in perfect concord to form a common whole, and the common whole can contribute to unity among the individual pieces. Thus everything combines for the happiness of the whole (rising from the individuals' happiness) and for the individuals' happiness (rising from the happiness of the whole).
In consequence, each angel and each community is an image of the whole of heaven and a kind of heaven-in-miniature.