The Lesson of the Nightingales

OUT on the plains of Flanders, before the great war, there was a beautiful oak wood. In the early summer of 1914, before the clouds of strife gathered, it was an ideal retreat. The undergrowth was green and fresh and lovely, full of sweet scents and little scampering creatures, and in the branches were innumerable birds. The tall oak trees rose on each side of the grass-grown rides like columns in a great cathedral, their widespreading branches shading the summer sun sufficiently to make even a hot day pleasant, but not enough to prevent beams of gold and silver light from falling on the traveler's pathway. It would surely have been difficult to find a more ideal retreat. This wood was, however, destined to become one of the pivots of strife in the great war; and as the contending forces swept over the countryside, it became a center for fierce fighting, and, eventually, a screen before which a part of the Allied trench line was established. Thus the beautiful wood became an object for the opposing guns, so that the noise of shells crashing through the timber and the clatter of pick and shovel took the place of quiet, serenity, and peace.

In her book "The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany" (p. 290) Mrs. Eddy writes, "Divine Love is never so near as when all earthly joys seem most afar." And this statement was clearly proved, at least to one student of Christian Science whose duties called him into the oak wood during many weeks of trench warfare. He recognized that safety from the elements of evil lay in a daily, hourly retreat to "the secret place of the most High," of which the Psalmist sings in the ninety-first psalm. Indeed, the inspiring message of this psalm was often upon his lips. During the tumult, when the shriek of shells and the crashing of falling timber made the beautiful wood a pandemonium, it did not always seem very easy to dwell "in the secret place of the most High" and "abide under the shadow of the Almighty." At such times the material sense of things was very much in evidence. Fear, or strain, or resentment against the belief of war would at times endeavor to possess human consciousness; and it was then that the student was taught a beautiful and enduring lesson.

August 9, 1924

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