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The transforming radiance of Pentecost

From the November 2021 issue of The Christian Science Journal

If you have ever felt the ground drop out from under your feet—your whole life turned upside down—there is a world of joy waiting to bless you more deeply and lastingly than you can imagine. Right where it might feel as if despair is holding you hostage, a new life of regeneration and unlimited impetus is ready to transform your experience with divine light and Love.

This was the case on the Day of Pentecost centuries ago, and many have received a powerful breath of this spiritual inspiration and freedom over the years since. The word pentecost means fiftieth day, and has come to be identified with the descent of the Holy Ghost fifty days after Christ Jesus’ resurrection. As part of a larger gathering, his followers had come together from different regions and language groups, convinced a great revelation was at hand. They were powerfully moved to speak by the Spirit and were able to hear each other’s words in their own languages. The book of Acts records, “And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance” (2:4).

The Day of Pentecost was a watershed experience in the lives of Jesus’ followers. His crucifixion had left them submerged in grief and confusion. But out of this dark heaviness grew a new perception that Christ, the Way of salvation, is eternal. Jesus’ resurrection and ascension proved that Love cannot be destroyed, removed, buried, or belied by any material power. Instead, it was hatred, fear, and ignorance which were being exposed and deposed, reversing the assumption of a hopeless defeat.

It’s deeply touching that the powerful embrace of the Holy Ghost at Pentecost was directly the product of Jesus’ prayers while he was still with his disciples. He didn’t want them to be confused or mournful at his physical disappearance, so he prayed that they would be receptive to another Comforter, abiding with them forever. His fervent prayer was graciously answered and stands as another poignant proof of Jesus’ tireless love for all seekers. Out of the crucifixion and what seemed irreparable loss, came unimaginable hope. 

When we have felt overwhelming loss in our lives, we can allow the apparent breakdown to become a breakthrough. In a search for that which is solid and strengthening, we can be led by the Holy Ghost to find the power of Christ renewing us and bringing us a far more enduring and fuller sense of Love.

Before the resurrection, Jesus’ followers felt utterly dejected. But after the ascension, they were filled with an all-consuming expectation that the Holy Ghost would appear to them. And so it did. An expectation that we can experience this kind of spiritual transcendence today stirs many to reflect on what enabled the disciples to collectively experience this transformation. 

The book that brings this spirit of the Holy Ghost tangibly into our lives today, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy, notes: “The time for the reappearing of the divine healing is throughout all time; and whosoever layeth his earthly all on the altar of divine Science, drinketh of Christ’s cup now, and is endued with the spirit and power of Christian healing” (p. 55). Christian Science explains that every healing, every motive enlarged and purified, and every action more unselfed, is evidence of Christ actively transforming our thoughts and dwelling in our hearts. 

When things look utterly dark, this is when we have the greatest opportunity to experience the purest and fullest radiance.

As latter-day followers, we, too, need an irrepressible, urgent yearning to flood our hearts. This yearning emerges, just as it did for Jesus’ followers, by being thoroughly divested of a mortal sense of goodness, truth, salvation, and spirituality. In fact, our deepest yearnings so often arise when we most keenly feel in need of direction, comfort, or wholeness. Our hearts might feel humanly empty, but this very emptiness makes room for the Christ, which replaces worn-out dependencies, beliefs, and fears. These are periods of introspection, of struggle, even of despair. But in these intense battles, honesty and humanity come forward and urge us to completely rethink—to look higher to the one true power greater, wiser, stronger, than ourselves.

To reach the roots of mortality and unearth its hidden conceits demands spadework—incisive discernment, unblinking honesty, and self-losing labor. This mental work deepens our faith, unselfs our love, and increases our spiritual endurance. Each time we face down a fear that everything we’ve sacrificed and worked for could be washed away by ignorance or malice, we grow in grace and trust in God.

At the age of five, my father was dying of cancer and polio. His parents had done all they knew how to try to save him, including employing five of the best physicians in the country to treat him. Eventually the doctors gave up and stopped treatment, saying it was hopeless and that he would not live more than 24 hours. 

A neighbor knew of the sad situation and arrived at their home with a copy of Science and Health. Although the neighbor was not a Christian Scientist himself, he told my grandfather that he had heard the book could heal. 

My grandfather was a conscientious Christian and accepted the book with an open mind and a yearning heart. He immediately began reading it. After four days, two of the physicians came to the house because they had not seen the child’s obituary in the newspaper. On seeing him still alive, they commented that if he survived, he would never walk or talk again. Yet within two weeks, my father was completely healed, and he went on to live a very active life, including strenuous duty serving in World War II. 

My grandparents were naturally profoundly grateful for this wonderful healing. They were living in what is now Karachi, Pakistan (then British India), and there were no nearby churches in the area. So they began to hold church services in their own home and invited their local Indian neighbors to join. My grandfather, who was British, became a supporter of Indian independence and was trusted by the community. Many people came to him and brought their relatives to be healed. 

He had imbibed the truths revealed in Science and Health as the life-saving spirit of Christ. This deep, pure reception of God’s message to humanity transformed his experience and his family’s and put them on the path of spiritual healing and regeneration, which was experienced in countless ways from that time on. 

Our humble yielding increases our commitment to trust God in the midst of difficulties. It enables us to do good, regardless of how we might be oppressed, ignored, or criticized for this. It enlarges our love enough to receive the inflow of pure and soul-transforming Spirit. 

When we experience the holiness of healing, of spiritual thinking and doing, we feel an indescribable sense of being loved by the Divine Being, of being prized and cherished by Life itself, and nothing in the world comes close to that feeling of peace and awe-inspired joy. This is often followed by a deep, sincere desire to unite with and commit ourselves more consistently to the teachings of God’s designated messengers. 

Another pertinent fact noted by the writer of Acts is that the Holy Ghost descended upon the disciples only when “they were all with one accord in one place” (Acts 2:1). The disciples had had to learn this unity of Spirit step by step. They had been challenged to fully accept people of varying languages and cultures to worship and eat with them. And they had to grow beyond the competitive egos jostling to be seen as the wisest, most devout, or most right. 

The biblical record of Pentecost indicates we need not demand or compete for the blessing of this profound regeneration. The law of God has made it available to everyone. As we identify and actively embrace the elements in thought that dissolve material reliance and matter-based belief systems, the way opens for us to feel and be renewed by this spirit of Truth. The light we gain from the fact that real unity and harmony are spiritual—far beyond the range of slippery statistics, outdated opinions, and material, self-imposed limits—reveals powerful insights into the nature of reality. It frees us to breathe deeply and collectively Spirit’s natural, intelligent, restorative, transformative healing animus. 

When things look utterly dark, this is when we have the greatest opportunity to experience the purest and fullest radiance. This is Christ’s promise through every heart-wrenching search: “Lo, I am with you alway” (Matthew 28:20). This truth, with us all, in us all, and ceaselessly urging itself upon us all, frees our lives of pain, fear, and grief, and fills them with divine beauty and vision.

Hold perpetually this thought,—that it is the spiritual idea, the Holy Ghost and Christ, which enables you to demonstrate, with scientific certainty, the rule of healing, based upon its divine Principle, Love, underlying, overlying, and encompassing all true being.

Mary Baker Eddy, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 496

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