"THE LIVING WAY OF LIFE."
Mrs. Eddy feelingly concludes her eloquent dedicatory message to First Church of Christ, Scientist, of Atlanta, Ga., with these inspired and inspiring words: "Mortality's thick gloom is pierced—the stone is rolled away—and death hath lost its sting, and the grave its victory. Immortal courage fills the human breast, and lights the living way of Life" (Christian Science Journal, May, 1899). This striking paragraph on "the living way of Life," which to many has given wings to hope and faith, was vividly recalled, while studying recently the beautiful portrayal, by an eminent English painter, of Christ restoring to life the only son of the widow of Nain, as recorded in the seventh chapter of Luke.
The artist has caught the dramatic scene at the moment when Jesus, after tenderly saying to the sorrowing mother, "Weep not," touches the bier and gives the command, "Young man, I say unto thee, Arise." Then, in obedience to his words, "he that was dead sat up, and began to speak." The painting impresses one that Nain, which is the Hebrew term for beauty, well deserves its name. In the background is the little town, nestling on the slope of the hill misnamed "Little Hermon," six miles distant from Nazareth. In the foreground is seen the funeral cortege, which has passed through the city's great arched gateway of stone, and is journeying to the habitation of the dead. There is good reason why the artist has flooded his painting with an oriental sunshine which bathes the scene with golden light, for he is presenting not a picture of death, but of life. Through the presence and the power of the Christ the onetime avenue of death has been transformed into "the living way of Life."
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The portrayal of this historic incident is in perfect keeping with the times and with the scientific understanding of spiritual truth, as revealed in "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" by Mrs. Eddy. The work of art is illuminated when we remember that at such an hour it was the custom for the afflicted family to send for two or more neddabelts, or public wailing women, each of whom brought a tambourine, and while beating it exclaimed, "Alas for him!" One writer tells us that "even the poorest would feel it a disgrace did they not provide at least two hired mourners and two time-players to lead the procession." The painter presents only one person on his canvas who is untouched by Christ's wondrous restoration of the dead to life. The foremost of the two hired mourners is so occupied with her paid wailings that she is dead to the miracle which has given back to the widowed mother her only son. This sense-enthralled neddabeh, with her back to the Christ, has her face set toward the tomb, while the road she travels is still the highway of death. The joyous mother, the restored son, the happy friends, have their proof that the onetime way of death is now to them the way of Life.
How true to the facts of Science is this portrayal by the faithful limner of the falsity of material sense testimony, represented by the wailing woman, in the presence of the transforming power of Truth. While the Master's miracle is acclaiming the mighty power of God, she is proclaiming the all-power of evil. While the mother rejoices over a loved one restored, she wails over a lost child. While the living son gives evidence of the inviolable law of Spirit, the hired wailer pays homage to the supposed laws of matter. While Christ Jesus is serene in the visible proof that Life is infinite and everlasting, the representative of material sense yields unquestioned allegiance to sin, sickness, and death.
This Nain funeral way is the way of the world, which, with its back to the truth, judges all things by the evidence of the physical senses, and declares that life is transient and death eternal; that life is in the body and must come to an end; that God gives and God takes away life. In the presence of Christ, Truth, the Christian Scientist knows that the way of death has been abolished. With his face toward the Master, and his back turned on material sense, he is one with the glad company who affirm: "There is no life, truth, intelligence, nor substance in matter. All is infinite Mind and its infinite manifestation, for God is All-in-all" (Science and Health, p. 468).
On the Nain highway of death the wailing woman believes that there is every reason why she should sorrow and no reason why she should rejoice. Everything which she knows of history declares that all must die. She thinks that this only son has merely gone the appointed way. To her there is no escape and no remedy for death's visitation. But the testimony of history counts for nothing to the mother who holds her boy in her arms. Through the transforming power of Christ, the highway of death has become for her the highway of life. It may be that this neddabeh, with her steps directed toward the distant graveyard, is thinking, too, upon the so-called law of heredity. Full of the gossip of the town, she may believe that the boy was afflicted as was his deceased father; it seems natural to her, therefore, that the child should go in like manner. But the happy mother, with her restored son, knows that Christ has made null and void this false law of heredity. She has learned in part the meaning of the words: "Call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven." She has entered upon the path which leads to the understanding that because God, who is Life, is the Father of all, material heredity is a myth; for, since God is his Father, man inherits good, and the only law of heredity that there can be, must be the law of eternal Life.
The hired mourner, at one with the material philosophy about her, may believe that death is sent of God. Possibly she has heard some one repeat Job's declaration, "The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away." Of course, if death were truly the work of God, she and all others should rejoice at its presence; but the living son is witness that death is not sent of God, for Christ Jesus would not and could not undo what God had already done. The restoration of the widow's son is proof that death is contrary to the will and law of God. The Master's words, "Whosoever believeth in me shall never die," is evidence that death is unnatural, abnormal, and unreal, and that God intends that all His children should win, here upon this earth, a complete and final victory over the "last enemy."
The counterfeit crier was fortified for her unhallowed service by the knowledge that existing institutions and customs were on the side of her wailing. No doubt the materia medica of her day assumed that the physicians brought all men into the world, kept them here during their span of life, and then, when they were beyond the reach of drugs, demanded that only the orthodox practitioners should oversee the burial rites. The church taught that death was a visitation of God, but that all should repel it. Religion made it honorable to bring children into the world to die, and made dying glorious if the church were permitted to conduct the obsequies. So the teaching and practice of materia medica, as well as the prayers and ceremonies of religion, considered death to be natural and inevitable; but the living son was witness that church, state, society, materia medica, and wailing women,—all these, in their thought of death, were wholly wrong. Christ destroyed the time-honored, or rather time-dishonored, highway of death and gave to all mankind "the living way of Life."
The marvel of the ages is that the Christian church for so many centuries has been blind to the simple teachings of him who pierced "mortality's thick gloom," and "rolled away the stone." A new era dawns. No longer do religion and philosophy go unrebuked for picturing man's existence as a journey, with the cradle as its starting-point and death as its goal. Christ's messenger to this age proclaims the glad tidings that, now and forever, life and not death is man's heritage, and a mighty host are rejoicing that "death hath lost its sting, and the grave its victory." With hearts filled with gratitude, they chant the glad refrain of her who sings: "Immortal courage fills the human breast, and lights the living way of Life."
The mistaken outcry of some who, like the wailing woman of Nain, turn their backs on Truth and heed only the testimony of material sense, does not voice the truth of being nor bring disquiet to those who face the ever-living Christ. Though the way of Life may at times appear rough, and the burden seem heavy to the faithful, yet to these God is ever saying, as He said to Joshua of old, "Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed; for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest."