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‘The beauty of holiness’

From the July 2017 issue of The Christian Science Journal

The Psalmist talks of worshiping the Lord in “the beauty of holiness” (Psalms 29:2, 96:9). For years I’ve wondered what that meant. There seemed to be a promise in that phrase, and I wanted to understand it, so I kept searching for its meaning. I found helpful inspiration in the account of John in the book of Revelation.

The Bible relates a rather profound spiritual experience that John had of the presence of God. A transcendent view of the beauty of spiritual reality flooded his consciousness. Beginning to describe this view, he wrote: “And I saw a new heaven and a new earth” (Revelation 21:1). Mary Baker Eddy writes about this experience in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures: “The Revelator was on our plane of existence, while yet beholding what the eye cannot see,—that which is invisible to the uninspired thought. This testimony of Holy Writ sustains the fact in Science, that the heavens and earth to one human consciousness, that consciousness which God bestows, are spiritual, while to another, the unillumined human mind, the vision is material” (p. 573).

Obviously John was experiencing “the beauty of holiness.” But what is it? And how can we find it?

I had been praying daily to see more of God’s presence, to become more conscious of the reality of Soul.

Recently I had a transformational moment that helped answer both questions. I had been praying daily to see more of God’s presence, to become more conscious of the reality of Soul, and my prayer was answered in an unexpected way. I was backing out of a parking space, when I saw some seagulls “dancing” in the air as they hovered over a dumpster. This was nothing new to me, yet suddenly this mundane moment took on a totally different appearance. Something compellingly spiritual happened. It was as if luminous spiritual light was flooding the scene. It became radiant, glorious. I recognized this as a glimpse of Soul’s reality. The way I saw the shape of the birds’ wings, the color of their bodies, the exquisite grace that characterized their movement, pointed beyond the physical appearance to spiritual qualities of God. It was a transcendent moment. I was seeing beyond the ordinary view of them as “just seagulls,” and glimpsing “the beauty of holiness,” or the very expression of the Divine.

The heart yearns for evidences of God. Where can we find them? Actually, everywhere! This experience taught me that we just need to look for them, open our thoughts to the presence of spiritual reality, and then … we experience God’s presence right in the midst of our daily lives.

The study of Christian Science reveals that “God is All-in-all,” as Mary Baker Eddy writes in Science and Health (p. 113). So God fills all space, is everywhere. It’s not that we find God in matter. In the universe of Spirit, the only universe that truly exists, there is no matter. God’s reality is truly good, pure, beautiful, and spiritual. Even where there seem to be evidences of ugliness, mortality, right there is the tangible presence of God.

How do we become aware of this? Mrs. Eddy gives wonderful instruction to address just this point: “We must look deep into realism instead of accepting only the outward sense of things” (Science and Health, p. 129). Then we see past the merely material view of things as John did and bear witness to the glorious spiritual expression that underlies all real being. This is the place where the divine embraces the human and we experience transcendence—we experience the reality that’s actually always here.

It’s not that we need to go out and try to find evidences of God. In prayer, we ask to be able to discern God’s revealing of Himself to us, which is going on constantly. We develop an expectation of witnessing more of the divine presence. We cultivate a heart’s desire that yearns to know more of God’s wondrous reality. We open our thought to see more of the good that’s already here—for example, we find kindness where there has seemed to be hate, or glimpses of hope where there appeared to be despair.

As we yield to more of a spiritual consciousness of God’s presence, our awareness of good increases, and the evidence of evil in our experience decreases. What, then, is the inevitable result? Transformation, renewal, reformation, and healing. When we experience God’s presence, when we feel submerged in the exquisite presence of Love alone, we are consciously aware of our oneness with the Divine, with God. That consciousness knows only light, harmony, purity, love, health, and life. We experience the kingdom of heaven right here, and we glorify and praise the Divine as we recognize the immense holiness of His creation. That is, we worship God “in the beauty of holiness.”

Two things have helped me to look “deep into realism” in order to experience more of this “beauty of holiness.” One is to pay attention. To keep thought filled with good, rather than letting it drift into negativity, apathy, human will, etc., is to be at the ready to let in the influx of Spirit. Letting this spiritual sense govern our approach to the details of our lives results in finding the evidences of God everywhere. 

For example, I grew up by the ocean, and seeing seagulls darting and diving over food was a daily occurrence and amusing at best, but hardly inspiring. Yet this time it was different. This time the qualities of God shone through the movement of the birds and revealed the exquisite “beauty of holiness” that underlies all reality. I was moved, I was in awe; I experienced a sacredness that is indescribable.

Expecting to see evidence of God everywhere, rather than anticipating a humdrum daily experience, has also been helpful in my spiritual progress. Endeavoring to stand on mental tiptoes to see what wonders of God are being revealed has made a difference. In doing so, we can begin to see spiritual reality wherever we are, including discerning the reality of being in the most unexpected places and often in delightful ways.

Each time we catch a new glimpse of the radiant truth of Soul’s magnificence, we are energized by Spirit, inspired by Love, and able to tangibly feel the unity of good that exists throughout God’s universe. But if we don’t see this view readily, we needn’t be discouraged. It doesn’t always come easily or quickly. It takes discipline and perseverance—and love for God. The promise is there to be fulfilled for each of us.

The implications of experiencing more of the presence of God are huge. The ultimate result of worshiping God in “the beauty of holiness” is healing. When we yield to the light of Christ, the light of Truth, the light of spiritual reality flooding our thought, darkness fades away. As we recognize that we are created, as God’s spiritual reflection, to bear witness to “the beauty of holiness,” it is possible to rise above pain, sadness, and sin. Recognizing that these are actually nothing but shadows, and not the spiritual reality that is truly ours, deprives them of their apparent power. Then they begin to disappear, and we experience healing.

As we expand our moments of bearing witness to “the beauty of holiness,” we bring healing not only to our own lives but to the world. Each time we consciously experience God’s presence, we’re letting in the light that diminishes darkness. Moments add up, and they do make a difference. More of God becomes evident to us, and the effects of this discernment are felt. Transformation of character, healing of disease, and experiencing God firsthand is the promise. Our worship of God “in the beauty of holiness” brings light into dark places, and the promise is fulfilled!

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