A guest blog post by Anna-Lena Hathaway
As many families around the world prepare for Christmas, by playing music, putting up lights, or decorating a Christmas tree, I am reminded of a family tradition of celebrating the advent season. One definition of the Latin word “adventus” means “coming.” In many Christian churches, advent is a time of expectant waiting and preparation for the coming of Christ and the celebration of the Nativity at Christmas. The advent season provides the opportunity to share the ancient longing for the coming of the Messiah. Today, this countdown can be found in advent calendars with chocolate, socks, or other treats, and many families, churches, and cultures light a candle for the four Sundays before Christmas.
Years ago my grandmother Dorette Kreutziger, a Journal-listed practitioner of Christian Science, created her own “Christian Science advent calendar” by reading through the twenty-four questions and answers in the chapter “Recapitulation” in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy. The discoverer and founder of Christian Science laid out these twenty-four questions and answers to explain the principles behind her discovery. Mrs. Eddy begins the chapter with the most fundamental question: “What is God?” to which the author writes: “God is incorporeal, divine, supreme, infinite Mind, Spirit, Soul, Principle, Life, Truth, Love” (Science & Health, p. 465: 8). In her second question, Mrs. Eddy calls these terms synonymous with the “one absolute God” (Science & Health, p. 465: 12). Through these twenty-four questions and answers, she explains how to address and overcome challenges by affirming the ever-present power of God, our relationship with God, and how to apply these truths to our daily lives. She concludes her chapter with the “important points, or religious tenets, of Christian Science” (Science & Health, p. 497: 1). These twenty-four questions sum up the philosophy of Christian Science, whose purpose, Mrs. Eddy explains, is to “reinstate primitive Christianity and its lost element of healing” (Manual of the Mother Church p. 17: 12-13). My grandmother’s exercise makes for a wonderful opportunity to learn more about the divine Principles governing the universe as set forth by Christian Science, whether the reader is new to Christian Science or has been a student for many years.
Pondering the seven synonyms: Principle, Life, Love, Truth, Mind, Soul, and Spirit offer a daily opportunity to express God in unique and new ways and to find our own completeness as God’s infinite expression or reflection. As I look forward to diving into these questions and answers again this December, I am reminded of the true meaning of Christmas and greeted with an immense sense of gratitude for Christ Jesus. We can all increase our spiritual understanding by expressing and witnessing those synonyms for God in our daily lives.
Some further reading?
Our first real Christmas (by Scott Preller)
The Christmas season or Christmas: Which shall it be? (by James Spencer)
"...and I want to remember..." (by Kate Robertson)
Quiet anticipation in 24 steps (by Annette Kreutziger-Herr)
It is not ignorant, uninformed or uncool to not have an opinion on a given issue. Our lives are built on eternal facts, immortal facts, which operate in a different realm and not needing our approval. To refrain from forming an opinion means to side with Truth, which is always on our side, on everyone's side. To side with Truth is natural, but our culture discourages often this path. Often the only thing that is asked of us, is an opinion, an intense emotion. Like? Dislike?
During a heated debate at my university on a topic I certainly had an opinion about, I felt a need later on to pray and listen. Earnestly. Deeply yearning for a higher view. And the result was, that I realized the glory of not having an opinion and the wisdom in unselfishly supporting the peace of mind of everybody. The mental work that followed has changed my experience in more fundamental ways than I could have imagined. One being that I am not a friend of unsolicited advice anymore.
Since that time a favorite insight from Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy has grown even dearer to me:
"In Christian Science mere opinion is valueless." (p. 341)
An opinion really cements a human perspective which our ego relies upon. It leaves little space for understanding and holds us in a constant spot of flutter and fuzz. For anything in life and in Life is really not about an opinion, it is about understanding. Do you like this individual? Or dislike that person? Do you like this artwork? Do you dislike that decision? Based on truthful living how about these questions: Do you understand this individual? Or understand that person? Do you understand this artwork? Or do you understand this decision? What do you really know? And how does it feel to love with a universal love?
To move out of the combative fabric of public culture - or private culture - out of the back and forth of the opinion driven culture is a tall order. It asks for a lot of humility, inner work and ego busting. I rarely read a more moving account of this process and the shining results that followed than an account by Mary Trammell, a Christian Science practitioner and teacher from Florida. You can read the entire interview with Suzanne Smedley here. This part relates the healing of a prolonged period of weakness which prevented her from leaving her house, while she continued her practice work from home:
"I remember I was lying on the sofa one day, alone in the house, and I thought, 'If I ever get completely healed, I want to be a new person, and I’m going to give my whole life, like I never have before, to God and to the practice of Christian Science—to its healing mission.' And then, it was almost like a voice said to me, 'Well, why can’t that begin right now?' And so, I made the commitment right then that I would give it my all in a way I never had before. I think it was from that point forward that I began to see light at the end of the tunnel, and I had a complete recovery. (...) And as you know, Suzanne, I’ve been quite healthy ever since.
From then on, the practice became my life—the center of everything, whether it was family, church work, writing, editing. Without that, the rest would be meaningless. And I think I came out of that experience with a new sense of God as Love.
Prior to that, I’d spent a lot of time in an academic atmosphere, where the intellectual put-down, or arguing back, was a skill—you were encouraged to be a little combative. But after that healing, I couldn’t feel combative about anything, except fighting for the Truth. I found that even with our kids, who were teenagers at the time, I didn’t want to get mad at them anymore!
I remember soon after that experience, our son accidentally dropped a whole pile of plates, and broke them all, and felt terrible about it. I heard a big crash and went out to the kitchen, but you know, I wasn’t upset. I said, 'Well, let’s clean it up,' and he looked at me, and he said, 'Mom, you’ve come a long way. Two years ago you would have gone ballistic about this.' Since that healing, I haven’t ever had it in me to get really mad about anything."
Who is writing?
In my work as Christian Science practitioner and writer I draw on listening to God and listening to people.
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