Not too long ago I came upon a passage in Mary Baker Eddy’s book Unity of Good that made me stop in my tracks.
Referring to Mary Magdalene, who came to Christ Jesus’ tomb after his crucifixion and found the stone rolled away, Mrs. Eddy writes: “Mary had risen to discern faintly God’s ever-presence, and that of His idea, man; but her mortal sense, reversing Science and spiritual understanding, interpreted this appearing as a risen Christ” (pp. 62–63).
I had always thought of Jesus’ resurrection as a really big deal, a triumph of Spirit over the flesh and a monumental proof, a demonstration, of divine Science. And it certainly was. Yet, suddenly I saw it from a new point of view. I was struck with the thought that the resurrection of Jesus was his demonstration of his spiritual identity as the Christ, which was no more an “event” to God than the sunrise is an event to the sun. I saw that the really big deal is the discernment of God’s ever-presence, a realization of our oneness with divine Mind. This is what brought the healings Jesus performed, brought his resurrection, and moved him on to his ascension.
As I pondered these ideas, my thoughts went back to the Christian Science Bible Lesson from Easter week. It included a truncated version of the crucifixion of Jesus—short bursts, even one-liners narrating the events. First Jesus was delivered to Annas and Caiaphas, then he was brought before Pontius Pilate, and then he was crucified. But in that same section, right beside this story of doom and gloom, there was another story that had more light and hope to it: Joseph claims the body of Jesus and puts it in a tomb, giving Jesus a safe place to continue to pray and work out his salvation, “the problem of being” according to Mrs. Eddy’s writings.
We learn from Mary Baker Eddy’s book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures that Jesus was still consciously aware while in the tomb, feeling God’s ever-presence and thinking the thoughts of divine Mind (see pp. 44–45). He continued to commune with God in this way even after the angel messages of inspiration from God rolled away the stone (the stone representing the entrenched sense of the solidness of matter) and he walked out of the tomb, resurrected. This led to his ascension, when the chapters and episodes of his human story ceased completely.
It had struck me at the time that the brevity of the crucifixion story in the Lesson was helping us see that this was not the final big event that it appeared to be and that we should focus on the story of light outside of the doom and gloom. As we trace this line of light, we are actually led higher than even that hopeful story of resurrection, and into ascension as the highest and ultimate event. Jesus did not stop at, nor get stuck on, the event of a resurrected mortal body, but stayed with the spiritual understanding of God’s ever-presence; and this inevitably continued to dissipate the mortal story until he achieved the ascension.
Wasn’t this confirming, then, what I had read from Unity of Good? When Mary came to Jesus’ tomb, she received a glimpse of God’s ever-presence as the sum total of being. That’s the big deal! And yet when she saw Jesus alive and walking around in the flesh, she became satisfied to accept this as the “big deal.”
As I explored the text surrounding the arresting passage in Unity of Good quoted above, I found further amplification of this idea: “In Science, Christ never died. In material sense Jesus died, and lived. The fleshly Jesus seemed to die, though he did not. The Truth or Life in divine Science—undisturbed by human error, sin, and death—saith forever, ‘I am the living God, and man is My idea, never in matter, nor resurrected from it.’ ‘Why seek ye the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen.’ (Luke xxiv. 5, 6.) Mortal sense, confining itself to matter, is all that can be buried or resurrected.
“… The Way, the Truth, and the Life were never absent for a moment. This trinity of Love lives and reigns forever. Its kingdom, not apparent to material sense, never disappeared to spiritual sense, but remained forever in the Science of being. The so-called appearing, disappearing, and reappearing of ever-presence, in whom is no variableness or shadow of turning, is the false human sense of that light which shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehendeth it not” (pp. 62–63).
The carnal mind would attempt to hold the call to be better healers within the grasp of the mortal story.
Again my thoughts went to something in the Christian Science textbook, Science and Health, which supports this interpretation. It had to do with Jesus’ raising of Lazarus from the dead: “Jesus said of Lazarus: ‘Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep.’ Jesus restored Lazarus by the understanding that Lazarus had never died, not by an admission that his body had died and then lived again. Had Jesus believed that Lazarus had lived or died in his body, the Master would have stood on the same plane of belief as those who buried the body, and he could not have resuscitated it” (p. 75). In other words, the resurrection to life of Jesus, or Lazarus—or in fact any return to normal human health, financial stability, improved relationships, etc.—is not the goal, but the natural, gentle, inevitable clearer view of the divine ever-presence, which is not just a big deal, but the only deal.
With this in mind, we begin to see that perhaps the greatest trap in our demonstration of Christian Science is to make a restoration of material well-being our main objective in any instance, instead of rising to discern “God’s ever-presence, and that of His idea, man.” Science and Health says, “The determination to hold Spirit in the grasp of matter is the persecutor of Truth and Love” (p. 28). It’s as though the carnal mind would constantly tempt us to keep asking Spirit to do something to matter instead of worshiping God as the All-in-all. This more spiritual approach brings needed progress and healing into our present experience.
We are off course, then, when, no matter how well-intentioned, how earnestly, how dedicatedly, our main goal is to help someone get out of pain, land a job, or find a loving relationship. This approach starts with a finite material story, with mortal characters, a timeline, events, and the duality of joys and sorrows, as our paradigm for existence. We can pray until we are blue in the face from this premise, but it is already held in the grasp of matter or finiteness and cannot rise above the finite. As Science and Health puts it, “The fountain can rise no higher than its source” (p. 18). And our true source, our origin, is Spirit, so that’s where we need to start in our prayers.
So, what approach should we take to solve these problems? It is always to draw nigh to God. It is the pure and sacred worship of the oneness and allness of God, that magnifies and honors, even blends with, God. Mrs. Eddy explains, “To live so as to keep human consciousness in constant relation with the divine, the spiritual, and the eternal, is to individualize infinite power; and this is Christian Science” (The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany, p. 160). And she also writes, “You have simply to preserve a scientific, positive sense of unity with your divine source, and daily demonstrate this” (Pulpit and Press, p. 4).
Simply? It doesn’t always seem easy or simple to preserve a scientific, positive sense of unity or oneness with our divine source, divine Mind. And yet, I am finding it increasingly encouraging to see that all of the complexities of the mortal plot are only a tactic, such as a con artist uses to set up a swirl of complications that allow him to pull off a deception.
Mortal complexities tend to take our thought off of preserving that simple sense of oneness with God. They tend to drag our sense of turning to God down to solving a bunch of unfinished problems. And this would be “holding Spirit in the grasp of matter,” and actually persecuting or undermining our practice of Christian Science. Paul warned Christians, “I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ” (II Corinthians 11:3).
So, how does all of this relate to our work as healers in Christian Science, which we know our Leader, Mary Baker Eddy, expected us to be? We hear the call so often that we must do better healing work because this alone is how our movement was established and how it will continue to prosper. The carnal mind, or accuser, is the persecutor of Truth, and it would attempt to hold this call to be better healers within the grasp of the mortal story. It would subtly have us focus on the rapid growth of the Christian Science movement through spectacular accounts of healing during the late 19th century as the resurrection of Truth. It would have us watch the movement climb to maturity in the mid-20th century, and then it would say that the sun is now setting on our movement, and indeed if we cling to this paradigm of a story of the beginning and middle of Christian Science, we will seem to see it decline and end.
But, just as to the sun there is no event called a sunrise or sunset, to Truth, God, there is no story of its beginning, middle, or end, there is only Truth. “To Truth there is no error,—all is Truth” (Science and Health, p. 475).
In view of this, the only way to do better healing work is to let our worship of God propel our healing work—causing us to grapple with the earth-bound sense of self in all of its forms and rise to such pure communion with God that we too are conscious of God’s ever-presence. The fact that this rules out the claim to another presence may be called healing, or evil beliefs disappearing, but again, this is not the goal but the byproduct of pure and sacred worship of God.
God is not just a big deal, but the only deal—the only Life there is and all there is to Life.
Some years ago, I experienced a powerful example of such healing work. A contagious condition had been reported at our daughter’s preschool, and she began to experience the troubling symptoms that had been described to us. We were praying earnestly as we had been taught in Christian Science, to see this dear daughter as the perfect image and likeness of God, and we expected results. We were also working with my dad, who was a Journal-listed Christian Science practitioner. I share that specific bit of information because of what he said to us the night of the healing.
My dad came to our home for a visit. He walked in the door and said, “I am not in the business of fixing mortal lives; I am in the business of worshiping God. If anybody wants to do that, they can stay as I visit. If not, would they please leave for a while.”
Now, I know that my dad loved his grandchild as much as we loved her. He was not implying that he didn’t care about results and a restoration to a healthy condition, or that he wanted some kind of personal control—quite the contrary. He was saying that he knew from experience that God alone is Life and that the way to heal this imposition about our daughter’s safety and well-being as Life’s expression was to acknowledge and hold to God as Life.
He rejected the belief of a fluctuating mortal story, and of a presence and power other than God, which can lead to futile attempts to prolong a person’s health. To my dad, accepting that belief would be dishonoring God. He was defending the very fact of eternal, unchanging, ever-present Life, and knowing that our daughter’s health and harmony were forever safe and secure in this unchanging Life, much as sunshine is safe in the sun.
And what a relief this was to me! Dad had uncovered the leading error, the main mistake, in my prayers. I had been subtly fooled into starting with the picture of a child needing healing, and I had been feeling fear and insecurity that I didn’t know enough to help our daughter. But this was a flawed starting point. What I did know how to do was to worship and honor God. I knew how to humbly commune with God and feel that sweet release of seeing, and reasoning out from, the standpoint from which divine Love, Father-Mother God, sees all Her creation. This was the correct premise for prayer, and I could feel it lift all fears at once. I could see that our daughter was safe right then, and that what I was being led to do was to have no other gods and to love God with all my being.
Dad stayed with us for about an hour. Our daughter slept peacefully during this time. In fact, she stayed asleep all night, but I had no desire to sleep. So clear was the light of this singular and pure worship of God that I longed to view everyone and everything from this standpoint. I started with our daughter until I felt utter certainty of her spiritual perfection. Then I thought about each of our family members and out into our village and up the hill to a nearby college, and up the river to the nearby town and out into the world until I felt this light of Life encircling the universe. I saw all as light!
Finally, in the wee hours I went to sleep. When our daughter awakened in the morning, she got up refreshed and joyously ate a full breakfast. There was never another symptom or evidence of the disease.
Over and over again I am learning this lesson: God is not just a big deal, but the only deal—the only Life there is and all there is to Life. The way that this fact embraces our human experience in healing is not in fixing life, but in interpreting it correctly from the standpoint of Mind itself. Through self-renunciation and magnifying the allness of God, we rise to our oneness with Mind. We gain glimpses of God’s ever-presence, and this rules out anything unlike God. We see God’s harmony shining clearly and dispelling the mists of sin, disease, and death in our day-to-day experience. But let us be alert not to make this the agenda, but the gentle and inevitable byproduct of the real deal—divine consciousness itself, which offers “a foretaste of eternity” (Science and Health, p. 598).
Let us share our testimonies of healing with the emphasis on those moments of divine consciousness; and let the corresponding and necessary disappearance of evil beliefs from our thought and experience be shared as though this were as natural and necessary as darkness giving place to light. We are, after all, right now on holy ground, in the kingdom of heaven, in the ever-presence of God!