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Baptism, communion, and Christian Science

Water, bread, and wine are symbols of a much deeper spiritual reality

From the June 12, 1989 issue of the Christian Science Sentinel

[Original in German]

How happy I was when my sister registered me with the clergyman's office as her daughter's godmother! A very special bond had developed between my niece and me because I had cared for her soon after she was born.

However, the minister refused to let me serve as a god-parent because, he said, Christian Scientists disregard the sacraments. He also was very concerned because children of Christian Scientists were not being baptized in the traditional way he held so dear. His words impelled me to delve into this subject intensively.

In the Bible I read that Jesus himself did not baptize, only his disciples did.

John the Baptist had waited humbly and longingly for one who was greater. He knew that a future baptism of Spirit—which characterizes true Christianity—would replace his baptism with water.

In prayer I asked God, divine Mind, to cleanse me and all mankind of prejudgments based on ignorance. All sadness had vanished. I even felt gratitude that I was about to gain a clearer understanding of true being and the spiritual significance of Christian baptism.

I realized even more clearly that Christian Science does not disregard the sacraments; it makes higher and more rigorous demands on their practice. The spiritualization of thought, something each of us needs to do, is of utmost importance in this. As we begin to spiritualize human thinking, outward ceremonies yield to the spiritual substance of our worship and devotion. We may not use the material symbols—water, bread, wine—but we need and love the deeper spiritual reality they represent.

The deep meaning of baptism as seen in Christian Science is a giving up of a mortal concept of self, a progressive cleansing from sin and belief in evil of every sort. It includes relinquishing ungodlike behavior and attitudes through the understanding of the allness of divine Mind, the one and only Spirit, and through Christ, Truth—the Way. Thus we begin to demonstrate the significance of true baptism, which Mrs. Eddy defines in Science and Health as "purification by Spirit; submergence in Spirit." Science and Health, p. 581.

Since this purification can occur only in thought, it is not a ritual to be performed only once; we must be baptized day after day. Human thinking must be cleansed daily so that we can see God. The Christian Science textbook, Science and Health, shows the profound spiritual basis for both baptism and the Eucharist. It explains: "Our baptism is a purification from all error.... Our Eucharist is spiritual communion with the one God. Our bread, 'which cometh down from heaven,' is Truth. Our cup is the cross. Our wine the inspiration of Love, the draught our Master drank and commended to his followers." Ibid., p. 35.

I rejoiced in this profound understanding of the sacraments gained from my study and prayer, and I recognized that everyone is able to take part in these sacraments of baptism and communion daily through living the truths gained in deep study of the Bible along with the Christian Science textbook.

Self-examination in the light of this spiritual understanding of sacrament has led to many new questions: "Have I really taken the bread of Truth and drunk the wine, 'the inspiration of Love,' this morning? Have I had communion with the one God in my daily life by using what I read in the Bible Lesson?"  In the Christian Science Quarterly. My morning prayer for spiritual understanding reaffirms the possibility of daily demonstrating obedience to Christ Jesus' commandments. Thanks to the revelation of Christian Science, the Master's command that we should "heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils" Matt. 10:8. can be put into practice.

Self-examination in light of this spiritual understanding of sacrament has led to many new questions.

Christ Jesus came to glorify God, to heal, awaken, purify—to cast out evil; and now, to some degree, we are experiencing for ourselves the wonder and joy of the Christ-spirit that animated Jesus. It is at work within every one of us.

We cannot stop at the last supper, which Christ Jesus shared with his disciples before the crucifixion, because, truly, the Eucharist speaks to us of the morning meal he had with them after he rose from the tomb. See John 21:1-17. This spiritualized sense of communion leads to new life, to rebirth. And as the disciples discerned the Christ by the Sea of Galilee, so too, all Christians can now joyfully celebrate the morning meal.

The Eucharist, as a ritual observance, serves to commemorate Christ Jesus, but Science and Health tells us, "If Christ, Truth, has come to us in demonstration, no other commemoration is requisite, for demonstration is Immanuel, or God with us; and if a friend be with us, why need we memorials of that friend?" Science and Health, p. 34.

Every healing in Christian Science is a purification of our consciousness, similar to baptism. It involves turning away from materiality and overcoming subjection to mortal sensuousness. Indeed, it means separating oneself from the belief that Mind and Life are in matter. It is a turning to the divine, a rising to new life in Christ, for as Paul says, "If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new." II Cor. 5:17.

Of the many healings my family and I have experienced through Christian Science, one in particular seems to me to represent the morning meal, the appearing of the living, renewing Christ.

In the general jostling of the crowd at a dedication ceremony for a bridge, my small daughter fell from a poorly secured podium and gashed her thigh on a railroad tie that was nearby. In spite of the many people around us and her crying, I immediately and unswervingly declared the truth of God and His man. This man is and has always been intact and protected as God's own expression. The little one immediately quieted down. I took the child in my arms and shared with her all the truths of God that came to thought. We strove to look away from the body, to keep our thoughts clear of the frightening, unpleasant picture that would fool us into believing in evil instead of knowing the allness of God, good. Continuing to pray silently, I knew that God forever maintains man as His own expression in the eternal order of His law, in indestructible harmony—indeed, that no one can fall out of this unchangeable order.

During this prayerful work, this "submergence in Spirit," I felt the deep peace and conviction of the allness and all-presence of divine Love. This powerful truth did its work as an unchanging law, and not even half an hour had gone by before the wound had closed completely. My daughter had experienced true baptism through the influx of the Christ, which purifies, blesses, and heals.

The appearance of the omnipresent, healing Christ, revealing man's oneness with God, is always like a miracle to human sense. It causes us time and again to be deeply grateful for the baptism and communion we truly do experience in Christian Science.

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