The church that Mary Baker Eddy founded—The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts—and its branches around the world offer activities to those well acquainted with Christian Science and to others whose interest is entirely new. People may gather in a grand church building or in a modest hut, in the open air or in a community center. But it’s not so much the place that sets the tone for these activities. Rather, it’s the quality of thought that each one attending brings to them. Participation in church gains momentum when we think of its activities as taking place in the auditorium of Spirit—a concept that begins with prayer.
The foundation of every church service and Sunday School class, every lecture and Reading Room opening, is the kind of prayer that Christ Jesus recommended to his followers. He said, “When thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly” (Matthew 6:6).
Jesus wasn’t talking about finding a quiet place in a building, but a settled, holy state of thought. In the Christian Science textbook, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Mary Baker Eddy describes this holy attitude as “the sanctuary of Spirit, the door of which shuts out sinful sense but lets in Truth, Life, and Love.” And she continues: “To enter into the heart of prayer, the door of the erring senses must be closed. Lips must be mute and materialism silent, that man may have audience with Spirit, the divine Principle, Love, which destroys all error” (p. 15).
Think of that—prayer is having audience with Spirit, God! This is what every church activity offers when it takes place in the auditorium of Spirit, a collective expression of the sanctuary of Spirit.
An auditorium is a place in which people gather to hear. In the auditorium of Spirit, we gather to hear Spirit’s declarations of Truth, Life, and Love. In a church service, these are communicated as passages read from our Church’s Pastor, the Holy Bible and Science and Health. The truths in these books are also shared in Sunday Schools and Reading Rooms, as well as at Christian Science lectures, in which ideas and experiences are shared that confirm their veracity.
Jesus defined God as Spirit and said that God must be worshiped “in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24). Science and Health further explains Spirit as “divine substance; Mind; divine Principle; all that is good; God; that only which is perfect, everlasting, omnipresent, omnipotent, infinite” (p. 594). Spirit conveys to us the infinite nature of God, the limitless nature of good—good that comes from God as omnipresent Love, omnipotent Truth, and everlasting Life. Most importantly, far from being ethereal or mysterious, Spirit and its phenomena are what are real and forever established. Thus, when we have audience with Spirit, we are opening thought to realize that divine Love, Truth, and Life are real, present, and active in all their perfection, right where we are at every moment, without limitation or opposition.
In the auditorium of Spirit we experience the unlimited potency of good. There are infinite spiritual, healing ideas to resonate, inspire, and transform thought. There is infinite potential for every church activity to fulfill its purpose and to bless far beyond human expectations.
As with any meeting place, to enter the auditorium of Spirit requires some preparation. In the same passage on prayer, Mrs. Eddy tells us again what we must do to have audience with Spirit: “In order to pray aright, we must enter into the closet and shut the door. We must close the lips and silence the material senses. In the quiet sanctuary of earnest longings, we must deny sin and plead God’s allness” (Science and Health, p. 15).
In the auditorium of Spirit there are spiritual, healing ideas to resonate, inspire, and transform thought.
In just a few sentences, she tells us nine times that sinful, erring, material sense has no place in prayer. Therefore, it has no place in church. In order to have audience with Spirit, we must mentally close the door on any thought or desire that does not come from God. We must silence the material senses. Why? Because as Mrs. Eddy learned from the Bible and experienced herself, “Spirit, God, is heard when the senses are silent” (Science and Health, p. 89).
What are the material senses that must be silenced? They represent a view that assumes life to be essentially physical and supported by physical laws that assign substance and intelligence, cause and effect, to matter. Christ Jesus proved this assumption false. Through spiritual sense—the understanding of spiritual reality that Spirit bestows—he understood that Life is Spirit, God. This means that every expression of Life is spiritual, composed of the substance and intelligence of divine Love, Truth, and Life. With this understanding, Jesus brought healing to countless people suffering from the limited concepts of matter-based thought systems, represented today as biology, chemistry, psychology, and so on.
The spiritual sense that was natural to Jesus is natural to all. It is the loving nature of Spirit to bless everyone with spiritual sense, and with that we can shut out the material senses. Knowing that Spirit and all things spiritual are what are real and forever established, we can recognize the falsity of every assumption of material sense. For example, it is false to assume that man is made up of both good and bad character traits, and that often the bad traits are more in evidence than the good.
The true, spiritual, and perfect nature of each one of us is reflected in our daily lives only as good character traits, those derived from the nature of Spirit, Love, and Truth. Vitally, these include the capacity to perceive each other correctly—to see one another as spiritually perfect, made in God’s likeness, free of fault, free of fear, sadness, or stress. Seeing each other through spiritual sense is indispensable to Christian practice and to our church activities.
The opposite material sense is the outcome of what is termed in Christian Science mortal mind. This is itself false, an erring sense of mind that is the reverse of the persistent and consistent harmony and goodness of the divine Mind. It is at the root of any trouble we face in daily life, but it cannot stand in the presence of Spirit, Truth.
When material sense is silent, no claim of mortal mind can argue for its alleged existence in our experience or in how we see others. No sinful sense can distract us or impose itself on our thought. Instead, Spirit inspires with spiritual understanding. In the pure atmosphere of the auditorium of Spirit, we are free to hear and respond to the Christ, the transforming power of Truth by which Jesus healed and on which Church is founded. Every healing he accomplished represented “the divine Spirit, casting out the errors of mortal mind” (Science and Health, p. 138), and this is how Christian healing happens today.
The members of a branch Church of Christ, Scientist, were feeling saddened and shocked by the sudden passing of someone they loved just a few days before they were to host a Christian Science lecture for their community. But as they and the lecturer prayerfully considered the auditorium of Spirit in which they and their guests would meet, they felt comforted and strengthened. During the lecture one member was healed of a panic attack. As the Christ lifted her thought from fear and grief and cast out these errors of mortal mind, she was left free of symptoms and felt enveloped in love.
It can take persistent effort and commitment to consciously enter the auditorium of Spirit into which we welcome the public to a church service or lecture, Sunday School or Reading Room. But as we desire to see church fulfill its healing purpose, we will each have love enough to “enter into the heart of prayer” and thus contribute to the collective auditorium of Spirit in which church activities bear witness to divine Science in operation.
Joyfully acknowledging that everyone is inspired by Spirit, with spiritual sense and understanding, supports all in attendance to recognize the truth of spiritual reality given in the Bible and Science and Health. For ourselves and others, we can affirm that this truth is present reality.
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