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The healing power of hymns

From the Christian Science Sentinel - March 30, 2015

All my life I have gained comfort and inspiration from music, especially the hymns from church services. When I wake up, a line from a hymn is often my first conscious thought. As a child I attended the Methodist Sunday School, and one of my favorite hymns was called “In the Garden.” The line “And He walks with me and He talks with me / And He tells me I am His own” brought great comfort as I was growing up (C. Austin Miles, 1912).

Since becoming a student of Christian Science, the last line of “The Old Rugged Cross” from the Methodist Hymnal has new meaning to me. “I will cling to the old rugged cross, / And exchange it someday for a crown” (George Bennard, 1913). I have learned that we daily “take up the cross” by turning away from sin and materialism, and deepening the understanding of our relationship to God. We are rewarded for our work each day with that glorious crown—the promise of the healing Christ. In fact, Mary Baker Eddy established the cross and crown as the prominent symbol representing her writings.

Mrs. Eddy tells us in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, “Whatever inspires with wisdom, Truth, or Love—be it song, sermon, or Science—blesses the human family with crumbs of comfort from Christ’s table, feeding the hungry and giving living waters to the thirsty” (p. 234). I’ve found that Christian Science hymns are not only beautiful and comforting—they carry spiritual sustenance and powerful healing messages that are accessible to everyone.

Several years ago I had a wonderful experience that proved to me the powerful spiritual insight gained from hymns. I woke one spring morning feeling depressed. I was planning to take a group tennis lesson with my daughters, but it was cold and windy and the weather added to my poor mental state. We were late for the lesson, so I hurriedly took my place on the court, hitting balls being rapidly fired from our instructor’s racket. At one point I leaned too far back to hit a backhand and fell heavily on my left side.

I remember seeing this whole incident as an opportunity to refresh the perception of my relationship to God.

Someone helped me stand up, but the pain was so intense I had to find a place to sit. I vehemently declared in thought that I am God’s perfect child, held in His arms. As my daughter-in-law drove me home, I pondered the Lord’s Prayer and “the scientific statement of being” from Science and Health (see Matthew 6:9–13 and Science and Health, p. 468).

For the rest of that day and all that night I sat in an armchair. I could not lie down and any movement was very uncomfortable. I read the Bible Lesson for that week from the Full-Text Christian Science Quarterly. The next morning I called a Christian Science practitioner to encourage me in my prayers. She reminded me that I could never fall from divine Love’s embrace. 

I began to mentally wipe out any recollection of the sensation of falling, with the truth of my unfallen, perfect individuality. The belief of depression and disappointment I had felt the previous morning was replaced with a sense of well-being. I remember seeing this whole incident as an opportunity to refresh the perception of my relationship to God. To achieve not just healing of my body but to actually feel more joy each day.

Throughout the next five days and nights I gained such comfort from the Christian Science Hymnal. Words and music from a hymn would come to me, enhancing the practitioner’s words or the passages I was studying from the Bible and Science and Health. Hymn 53 assured me that the “Everlasting arms of Love / Are beneath, around, above” (John R. MacDuff), and Hymn 58 told me “We shall neither faint nor fall” (Elizabeth C. Adams). 

When I couldn’t concentrate because of the pain, meaningful words and music helped chase away fear and doubt that a healing was forthcoming. I kept reminding myself how much I had to be grateful for because God was right there with me. As Violet Hay tells us in Hymn 175, I knew that the Word of God was speaking to me, leading to freedom, proclaiming “All true being one with Thee. / Sinless, fearless, whole, rejoicing, / Now and through eternity.” The idea of there being no limit—no time or space—to our oneness with God has been so inspiring to me. As I worked with these ideas, I was realizing that the fear I had felt was wiped out by the truth of my eternal coexistence with God.

One morning the Lesson Sermon led me right to Hymn 382, which begins: “What is thy birthright, man, / Child of the perfect One” and ends with the declaration: “Thou hast the gift of God— / Dominion over all” (Emily F. Seal). From there I read and sang John Randall Dunn’s Hymn 374, which reminds readers: “Rejoice, for thou art whole.”

Late one night, still sitting in my chair, I spent time studying Mrs. Eddy’s poems, which communicated to me that the Christ was right with me, with wings of healing. That renewed my confidence and desire to push away pain in favor of God’s blessings and an active, joyful life.

I continued to talk to the practitioner each morning, and my dear husband encouraged me and took on all household duties. I realized I could either accept the idea that something was broken or out of place or reject that concept altogether. Certainly Bible passages continually remind us of our perfection in God. Jesus told us to be perfect as our Father is perfect (see Matthew 5:48). There is absolutely no broken or misplaced bone in perfection. 

From Hymn 134, Samuel Longfellow encouraged me that God was there “to nerve my faltering will.” I found that the definition of “to nerve” is “to give strength or courage to.” So I determined to be bolstered by God-given courage, indissoluble boldness, and mental strength. I fully expected evidence of “the Life that maketh all things new” and minute by minute I experienced the freedom and joy of “the freer step, the fuller breath” (Samuel Longfellow, No. 218). I was gradually able to move more easily. I knew that a clearer understanding of the Christ always replaces sorrow and pain.

Late on the fifth afternoon in my armchair, I studied the lovely words of Hymn 144. I knew it was written for me—that I did live in Love’s atmosphere and was indeed striving to destroy the mortal sense and see “the wonders of eternal Mind.” The hymn reads, in part: 

The mortal sense we must destroy,
If we would bring to light
The wonders of eternal Mind
Where sense is lost in sight.

For God, immortal Principle,
Is with us everywhere;
He holds us perfect in His love,
And we His image bear.

That night I was able to climb into bed and let the Christ-idea expressed in hymn after hymn flood my thought. I was healed. The next morning there was no evidence of any discomfort or disability, nor has there been since then. 

A mortal body is a misrepresentation of man. Deformity of God’s man is impossible. All that must ever be overcome is the false belief of accident or injury.

I determined to be bolstered by God-given courage, indissoluble boldness, and mental strength.

That whole week I was acknowledging and proving God’s purpose, which is always to “reclothe us in our rightful mind” as our friend John Greenleaf Whittier reminds us in Hymn 49. I rejoiced with him in knowing I was healed because I had no doubt that his words from Hymn 96 were also true: “The power that filled the garment’s hem / Is evermore the same.” 

Christ Jesus once encountered a woman who knew if she could just touch the hem of Christ’s garment, she would be healed of a long-standing ailment (see Matthew 9:20–22). That immediate healing power is still available today and through eternity. It was my right to demand a change within my own consciousness—to embrace and expect healing.

I still wake with a song each morning and feel such gratitude for the poets and composers whose words and music not only comfort and inspire, but elevate thought to a sacred place of reformation and healing. My feelings can best be summed up by these words:

I sing my way today
My heart is joyous, free
For what is Thine is ever mine,
I find myself in Thee.
(Violet Ker Seymer, No. 16)

Words to Hymns 16, 58, 175, 374 and adaptation to Hymn 144 © CSBD.

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