"A vast similitude spans them, and always has spanned them, and shall forever span them."
It is part of a poem by Ralph Waldo Emerson, which Ralph Vaughn Williams put to music in his piece called A Sea Symphony.
I - to this day - do not know exactly what Emerson meant by that blurb.
Nor do I understand what he meant by other words within his poem Passage to India, an excerpt of which is:
What the duce did he mean by THAT?
The "TRUE Son of God" had and has already come - whose name obviously was and is: JESUS!
Did not Ralph Waldo Emerson know that at that time, or did he not believe that, if he knew it? WHY did he say that? To pacify anti-Jesus jews, atheists, and/or evolutionists of his time - so his musical masterpiece would have acceptable lyrics to them to not boycott it?
In any case, I heard a sermon recently in which the dramatic preacher was vividly orating on why a lot of people are turned off against mainstream orthodox religion, particularly presuming false conceptions and distorted misinformation against Christianity and thus consequential churchgoing in general.
To wit, they misbelieve that it would be "boring" in heaven, with a lot of tediously-repetitious harp playing with everyone-always-dressed-in-long-white-robes attire, floating around doing nothing but having to be irritated by listening to negro-spiritual rap noise ("songs") while mandatorily clapping hands to the offbeat, plus incessantly bowing down to God and getting up only to repeatedly bow down to Him again...over and over and over and over and over ad nauseum.....besides being forced to always be PERFECTLY good and never EVER naughty or imaginatively sinful or deviant in the slightest way, with absolutely NO aberrant [wicked] "variety" in words or actions - eternally.
In stark contrast, they [falsely] presume drunken beer parties and naked heterosexual orgies with cute-faced shapely teen girls in hell with, surrounding by a huge horde of religious-right-despising-and-mocking friends - which to them would be much more interesting and preferable (despite the lack of air conditioning outside the tavern-type bar in hell with a sadistically-mischievous devil outside ready to harass and attack anyone who ventures outside).
Besides, the preacher continued, everything written in the New-Testament book of Revelation (as is the alleged case with most, if not all, of the remainder of the entire Bible) is merely a conglomeration of intoxication-based hallucinatory symbols, metaphors, and allegories excerpted and randomly assorted out of previous parts of especially Old-Testament prophecy books....so no one can really be sure about what is (in fact) as-stated REALITY nor what can actually be taken literally.
But, not everything in the book of Revelation or Genesis or any other Scriptural book of the Sacred 66 is symbolically or figuratively fictional, a fable or make-believe tale. And one prudently can and should distinguish what must be taken literally from what must be understood as symbols, allegories, and metaphors.
IsIs the seven-headed cyclops-like "beast" of Revelation 13-19 symbolic? How about the "Lamb" of God who [supposedly] needs to be sheared every so often, who apparently goes around bleating: "Baa Baa" like a typical sheep or lamb?
What ELSE in Revelation is symbolic? The deviant seven angels of The Seven Churches in the opening chapters of Revelation - most of who are said to be infested with various infidel heresies and apostasies? How about "a woman "clothed with the sun" ("ouch!") in Revelation chapter 12? Some chinese-like "dragon" mentioned? Symbolic also is the name Jesus and the word saints themselves? Streets of gold and gates of pearl? The Emerald City in the Hollywood special-effects movie The Wizard of God was also a childish fairy tale of never-never-land fabrication?
Indeed, Scripture does seem to contain some bizarre and even noxiously-disgusting contradictory statements-on-record...as for example relating to:
John 6:48 I am the bread of life.
49 Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died.
50 This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that a man may eat of it and not die.
51 I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is My flesh."
52 The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, "How can this man give us his flesh to eat? [a good question!]"
53 So Jesus said to them, "Truthfully I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink His blood, you have no life in you;
54 he who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at The Last Day.
55 For My flesh is food indeed [ish!], and My blood is drink indeed [yuck!].
56 He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood stays in Me, and I in him.
57 As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats Me will live because of Me.[Oh, come ON now.]
58 This is the bread which came down from heaven, not such as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live for ever."
59 This He said in the synagogue, as He taught at Capernaum. [Where are the Roman police to take Him away to the nearest asylum?]
60 Many of His disciples, when they heard it, said, "This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?" [Indeed!]
61 But Jesus, knowing in himself that His disciples [understandably] murmured at it, said to them, "Do you take offense at this? [duh!]
62 Then what if you were to see the Son of man ascending where He was before? [was has that to do with anything?]
63 It is the spirit that gives life, the flesh is of no avail; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life [Ah! They are symbolic, figurative metaphors! Thanks, Jesus, for clearing that up, so we don't presume that You were a cannibalistic nutcase].
66 After this many of his disciples drew back and no longer went about with Him.
67 Jesus said to the twelve, "Do you also wish to go away?"
68 Simon Peter answered him, "Lord, to whom shall we go [who can change water into wine, walk on water, raise dead Lazarus, and feed an army with a sack lunch like You]? You have the metaphorical/figurative/symbolic/allegorical] [mere]words of eternal life;
69 and we have believed, and have come to know, that You are the Holy One of God."
Leviticus 7:27 Whoever eats any blood, that person shall be cut off from his people."
The gospel of Saint John, one of The Big Four in the New Testament, is "rife and reeking" with needs-to-be-explained metaphors which John clearly liked to pen:
John 2:19 Jesus answered them, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up."
John 2:20 The Jews then said, "It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?"
John 2:21 But he spoke of the "temple" of his body.
John 11:11 Thus He spoke, and then He said to them, "Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I go to awake him out of sleep."
12 The disciples said to Him, "Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover [wake up normally]."
13 Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought that He meant taking rest in sleep.
14 Then Jesus told them plainly, "Lazarus is dead;
15 and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him."
16 Thomas, called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, "Let us also go, that we may die with him."
17 Now when Jesus came, He found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days.
18 Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles off,
19 and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them concerning their brother.
20 When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met Him, while Mary sat in the house.
21 Martha said to Jesus, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.
Taken literally and logically, every one of the Old-Testament writers and authors of various Biblical books who never actually chomped on any of the body parts of Jesus nor slurped His blood will not "live forever," "had no life in them," nor "had eternal life," nor did they "abide in Him" -- and thus are destined for hellfire in "The Outer Darkness":
Matthew 22:13 Then the king said to the attendants, 'Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness; there humans will weep and gnash their teeth.'
Matthew 25:30 And throw the worthless servant into the outer darkness; there humans will weep and gnash their teeth.'
Pretty difficult to even see one's hand right in front of one's face in "the outer darkness." Like being way inside a deep cave when all the lights are turned off. Hard to enjoy a beer party and naked-teens sex orgies under those conditions, besides constantly being burned in obviously-black flames of torture:
Matthew 8:29 And hey, they cried out, "What have You to do with us, Oh Son of God? Have You come here to torment us before the time?"
Mark 5:7 ....and crying out with a loud voice, he said, "What have You to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me."
Luke 8:28 When he saw Jesus, he cried out and fell down before Him, and said with a loud voice, "What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, do not torment me."
Luke 16:23 ....and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes, and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus in his bosom.
Luke 16:24 And he called out, 'Father Abraham, have mercy upon me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in anguish in this flame.'
Luke 16:28 for I have five brothers, so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.'
Revelation 14:11 And the smoke of their torment goes up for ever and ever; and they have no rest, day or night, these worshipers of the beast and its image, and whoever receives the mark of his name."
Apparently, heaven - despite the purportedly-"boring" constantly-all-white-and-full-length-wardrobe clothes and harp playing and bowing down, won't be that bad after all (compared to condition in solitary-confinement, blind-blackness, on-fire hell! At least the redeemed who are in bliss, who are never again bothered by malicious and deceitfully-lying wicked, will see where they are going as they fly around with or without wings.
Are all descriptions above are simply non-sensical metaphors, symbols, allegories, in figurative meaninglessness?
The other day I was in a department store and saw some kid books explaining arithmetic and relating the abstract concepts of counting and quantities to symbols we know as "numbers" and how to manipulate "numbers" with mathematical addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.
Alphabetic and numerical symbols (both spoken and written) are indeed a convenient way to express human intentions to describe quantification to themselves and others...which is something neither apes nor lower lifeform animals can apparently do (nor in fact, ever do).
But although they themselves are real and exist as observable and understandable, many symbols are not the real existing entity they represent - but instead merely an indirect abstract (and somewhat lacking or deficient) description.
In other words, the representative symbols are NOT the actual entity itself which was or is or will be represented by the symbols.
And there are consequences (sometime dire ones) for not understanding the difference between representative symbols contrasted to the actual entity being represented by such, and sometimes catastrophic punishment for not heeding symbols understood but instead defied.
Sometimes, when symbols are presented, one must carefully and responsibly discern and distinguish exactly what IS and what is NOT referred to. For example, within the following passages:
Matthew 26:26 Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, "Take, eat; this is My body."
Mark 14:22 And as they were eating, He took bread, and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to them, and said, "Take; this is My body."
Luke 22:19 And He took bread, and when He had given thanks He broke it and gave it to them, saying, "This is My body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of Me."
First Corinthians 11:24 ...and when He had given thanks, He broke it, and said, "This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of Me."
.....there seems to be a direct association between the actual bread Christ is giving away, and His words equivocating that with His ACTUAL human body (parts...such as His liver, spleen, penis, fingernails, and thyroid gland).
Upon closer inspection - however - what precisely did He mean by: "THIS is My body"? WHAT was His body? Simply simultaneously handling bread at His apostles at The Last Supper while mouthing the exact words He mouthed did not in any way infer that the bread itself which He was handling was His body...but instead He meant that He Himself was THE Body He wanted them to fix their attention and aspirations upon.....not the bread and cup (as near-distractions).
As the wife says to me sometimes: "Listen to my words!"
Note the precise words of Saint Paul in explaining the communion scenario:
First Corinthians 11:20 Therefore when you come together into one place, this is not to eat the Lord's supper.
21 For in eating each one takes his own supper first; and one is hungry, and another drunken.
22 For do you not have houses in which to eat and drink? Or do you despise the church of God, and shame those who do not have? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you for this? I do not praise you!
23 For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus in the night in which he was betrayed took bread;
24 And giving thanks, He broke it and said, "Take, eat; this is My body, which is broken for you; this do in remembrance of Me."
25 In the same way He took the cup also, after supping, saying, "This cup is the New Covenant in My blood; as often as you drink it, do this in remembrance of Me."
26 For "as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you show" the Lord's death until He shall come.
27 So that whoever shall eat this bread and drink this cup of the Lord unworthily, he will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.
28 But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread and drink of that cup.
29 For he who eats and drinks unworthily eats and drinks condemnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body.
30 For this cause many among you are weak and sickly, and many sleep [Here we go again with that "sleep" metaphor!].
31 For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged.
32 But when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world.
33 So that, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for one another.
If it wasn't for the above-mentioned almost-despicably-noxious little gem of a meager few verses in only one chapter of one epistle of oneNew-Testament author...it would have safely assumed that Christ's eat-bread/drink-cup instructions were to apply exclusively and solely to His disciples alone...ONLY once, and ONLY at THE ONE time they did.
WHAT is being intended by Paul in the passage above? Is he not speaking of church picnics, luncheons, suppers, and dinners, while chiding those who are gluttons and drunkards thereat? Was not his "so-that" concluding statement a general plea to "wait for one another" and not rudely butt in and be impatient hogs?
Metaphor is OBVIOUSLY "the name of the game" in verses 26 thru 28, where he semantically mentions "drinking" a "cup." I, for one, did not know (and I speak sarcastically) that "cups" were liquid and thus drinkable. Seems to me it is best to smash the cups first and then TRY to "drink" the shards - although to me that would be more like eating them than "drinking" them.
It is a relief to see that St Paul quoted the words defining "the cup" as what Jesus Himself actually said it was, which is: "the New Covenant in My blood." Such a "cup" is neither a drinkable physical solid substance nor a drinkable physical liquid substance, but (thankfully!) instead a theological abstraction - albeit an understandable and tolerable one.
The wordless "showing the Lord's death until He comes" along with the "guilty of the body and blood of the Lord" phrase, and the "discerning the Lord's body" bit, pertaining not so much to drinking non-liquid cups but eating "bread," and doing or not doing such "unworthily," is rather perplexing to most people, including myself -- which ingestion (if done "unworthily") is likely not the blaspheming-the-Holy-Spirit Unforgivable Sin, but is perhaps an oopsie or whoopsie mistake one should at least apologize once for.
If such ominous and frightening warnings are not exactly defined as to what they precisely are and consist of, it clearly is better to stay away from church whenever such fatality-possible "communion" services are imposed on potential visitors and already-member congregants.
It is disturbing to me that to some cultic sects, physically eating "bread" (like crispy wafers) and physically drinking symbolic non-liquid cups is more important than allegiance and obedience (regarding moral living) to Christ Himself per se.
What I get out of all of that combo of non-literal metaphors with actual-and-real visually-observable-and-touchable physical objects is a weird association of optional and occasional (whether doing so "often" or instead "seldom" - whatever that entails, in whoever's opinion) eating bread and "drinking cups" -- with maintaining a "worthy" relationship of compliance with moral commands of, and faith in, the Lord Jesus.
Such affinity toward Christ Himself (instead of worshipping and fixing attention upon non-reliable human faith, mixed-bag human works, human acts of baptisms, human acts of other so-called "sacraments" such as communion) makes sense - instead of crazy absurdity involving a confusing misapplication and misconstruence of metaphorical symbols vs. real physical objects referred to.