A funny cartoon from my little collection of wisdom in comics is condensing something most of us understand right away: Newness is thrilling and original, but we want it to be tested and somehow feeling like something we already know. And that makes it, well, not new.
"New" has many wonderful definitions: It is something that is not old and not even refurbished (“as good as new” is not “new”), something that is in existence in now and hasn't been before, it is something that has been known only for a short time, something unfamiliar (like a new place), something that was recently built (the new library), something different than the former (like a new car), a condition (starting a new job), something like becoming fresh (being a new person) or like having recently become (being the new wife or son-in-law). New has a different origin than renovated old.
We feel when something is only patched up, overhauled or revamped as opposed to being really new. New has a different origin. New is fresh and direct. New is promising. My mother once mentioned that in most parts of the world, already 20 inches away from a drinking water fountain streaming out of a mountain, the water quality is already slightly altered. The difference between the source and something drawn from it at even a slight distance is measurable.
Paul describes in different letters the newness of life in Christ, 100% good: "...be renewed in the spirit of your mind; and that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness," he writes to the Ephesians. The real new is and always will be the spiritual - original, fresh, revealed to spiritual sense, embodied by a pure heart, and the love that is truly unselfed. In Retrospection and Introspection Mary Baker Eddy writes (pp. 27, 28), "The divine hand led me into a new world of light and Life, a fresh universe—old to God, but new to His 'little one.'" And in Science and Health we read: "So far as the scientific statement as to man is understood, it can be proved and will bring to light the true reflection of God— the real man, or the new man (as St. Paul has it). (p. 300)
Science and Health is a book that is so shockingly revolutionary and innovative that people have been either rejecting it altogether or soaked it up like a sponge and made its approach their way of life. The book challenges everything we seem to know and experience and teaches us all about Spirit, it lets us discover timeless Truth in the Bible and put them into practice right away. The Bible is important because it is the only book on the planet talking about the spirituality of God and man and the only book giving to humanity to life and works of Christ Jesus, the one individual that brought this understanding to humanity. The last 100 pages are reports of healing which have been handpicked by the author to illustrate certain aspects of the effect of Christian Science. Every single report testifies to the newness of Life. Really new, not patched up. I go back to those pages often to learn more about progress and healing, and about the book itself.
One of my favorite reports of healing is by someone with an extraordinary sense of humility and with the wonderful ability to write in such a poetic way that it reaches the heart. It is difficult to forget this report once you read it. With this report I am wishing you a wonderful new year - as "new thoughts of God reveal our heaven" (as hymn #140 says).
From the chapter „Fruitage“ in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy, p. 621, 622)
For fifteen years I was a great sufferer physically and mentally. Eminent physicians treated me for hereditary consumption, torpid liver, and many other diseases. I sought relief at famous springs, the ozone of Florida, and the pure air of Colorado, but in vain. My life was one ceaseless torture. During all this time, however, I was an earnest seeker after Truth. I examined every religious teaching with a calm and unprejudiced attention. From an orthodox Protestant I became a skeptic, and a follower of Voltaire, Tom Paine, and Ingersoll; yet all the while I retained faith in a supreme intelligent Being who made all.
Sick,weary, doubting, and despairing, I accidentally went into a Christian Science church in New York City, on a Wednesday evening, not knowing what kind of a place it was. Seeing a large number of people going into the building, I followed, supposing that a marriage ceremony had attracted the crowd. Being informed it was their regular Wednesday evening service, I inquired as to the denomination. I concluded that it was another new fad, but after investigation I procured a copy of Science and Health, promising I would read it carefully. I began reading the book on Tuesday and finished on Friday of the same week. I was still in the dark. I laid the book down, involuntarily closed my eyes, and silently prayed to God.
I remained in that attitude a few moments, when I felt like the mariner who had been tossed for days upon a boisterous sea, the clouds bending low, the billows rolling high, all nature wrapped in darkness; in his despair he kneels and commits his soul to God, when he suddenly beholds the North Star breaking through the clouds, enabling him to guide his ship to the shores of safety. Many things were made plain to me. I saw that there is one Fatherhood of God and one brotherhood of man; that though "once I was blind, now I see;" that there was no more pain, nor aches, no fear, nor indigestion. I slept that night like a babe and awoke next morning refreshed. There are now no traces whatever of my former complaint and I feel like a new being.
— L. P., New York, N. Y.
Part of the Christmas Season is not just the peaceful image of families and strangers gathering in homes across the world to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, the advent of the Christian era. Part of the preparation are also jokes about the various kinds of challenges that are anticipated when people come together who don't spend much time with each other during the year - bringing different habits, different viewpoints to the Christmas celebration. You might have noticed these comments, too, or read about them in articles - or jokes about the mother-in-law, the racist uncle, the aunt talking too much, the talk about 'the good old days'", etc. You get the idea. So on the surface the harmonious Christmas gathering is present, while under the surface more people than you might think dread the Christmas Season for obvious reasons. So lets dive under the surface and take up those fears - and heal them. There is an expert in relationships - someone who built up and fortified the first Christian communities, who, in some ways, are not unlike us at all. This expert is Paul.
Paul has the perfect guidelines for us. Every one of us, who knows something about the goodness of Life, the Love, that alone is Life, has the task to share this love with others. It is my sense that Paul did observe patterns in the various communities and families he worked with - people meeting, working or eating together. In order to be direct and not to be mistaken, he prepared something which we today would probably call "a bullet point" list.
Get along among yourselves, each of you doing your part. Be patient with each person, attentive to individual needs. And be careful that when you get on each other’s nerves you don’t snap at each other. Look for the best in each other, and always do your best to bring it out. Be cheerful no matter what; pray all the time; thank God no matter what happens. This is the way God wants you who belong to Christ Jesus to live. (from his first letter to the Thessalonians, chapter 5. The Message)
There is no other reason to meet anybody for Christmas (or beyond) than to bless - to do good to others, to listen. In short, the reason for any interaction with anyone else is giving and not getting. Loneliness is not a reason, self-importance is not a reason, human will is not a reason, tradition is not a reason. The only reason is love.
In order to put these guidelines into practice there is a powerful preparation, fortifying oneself ahead of time, shedding more light on Paul's guidelines with Christian Science. Barbara Vining, the editor-in-chief of the Christian Science Periodicals, shared insights about a family gathering and how she prepared in the article "Illustrating the ethics of divine Love", which you might enjoy.
May your days be filled with goodness and the unique joy which lights up the heart when we look out for the best in each other. Or, as Kate Mullane Robertson puts it in a wonderfully poetic way:
"There is nothing more beautiful than the eyes of someone who is seeking beauty in others."
Who is writing?
In my work as Christian Science practitioner and writer I draw on listening to God and listening to people.
I invest in peace.
Want to join me?