The Pilgrims who began settling in Plymouth, Massachusetts, in 1620 went through a winter of nearly unbearable hardships, during which they lost half of their number. Yet, in the autumn that followed, they, along with the native Wampanoag Indians, held an elaborate feast to celebrate their gratitude to God for His guidance and care. It’s true, of course, that the bountiful crops of the spring and summer following that difficult winter gave them reason for hope and celebration. Yet, they were well aware that their challenges were far from over, and that’s what made their overflowing gratitude to God so memorable.
As Thanksgiving Day approaches in the United States this month, that combination of hardship and thanksgiving to God is worthy of deep consideration. In fact, as a Christian Scientist, I’ve begun to see the importance of that combination from a deeply spiritual point of view that offers unbounded hope for all people. It came to me as I pondered this statement by Mary Baker Eddy in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures: “Pilgrim on earth, thy home is heaven; stranger, thou art the guest of God” (p. 254).
That statement closes a full-page discussion starting at the bottom of the preceding page, where Mrs. Eddy, quoting Christ Jesus, says, “The divine demand, ‘Be ye therefore perfect,’ is scientific, and the human footsteps leading to perfection are indispensable.” The discussion points out that we progress step by step in fulfilling this demand while sojourning on earth—and that patience, practicality, and evangelization of the human self are required. Referring to the demand to evangelize the human self, she says, “This task God demands us to accept lovingly to-day, and to abandon so fast as practical the material, and to work out the spiritual which determines the outward and actual.” Science and Health also points out here that we will encounter resistance, that our “good will be evil spoken of,” and that we must take up this cross in order to “win and wear the crown.” And during all this pilgrimage on earth, our “home is heaven”; and though the spiritual perfection we are striving to demonstrate is a stranger to earthly sense, each of us is the “guest of God.”