''Before Abraham . . .''

As the new year dawns, our thoughts may be drawn to the relentless march of time. Though friends wish each other a ''happy'' new year, they may be less than happy with the concept of passing time. Throughout history people have been impelled to find a solution to time's grip on mankind. One of the better-known incidents occurred in 1513 when the explorer Ponce de Leon, searching for the fountain of youth, discovered Florida.

Is there a thing or agency - such as a fountain - that we must find in order to achieve eternal life? Or is there perhaps an understandingm that we need to gain?

There is a statement by Christ Jesus, bearing on the issues of time and aging , that was considered so blasphemous by his auditors in the temple that they started to attack him with stones. But Jesus escaped untouched. He had told his listeners that by obeying his loving precepts they would ''never see death.'' They reminded him that Abraham and the other revered prophets had died. Jesus said, ''Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad.'' They retorted: ''Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham?'' Then Jesus followed with the startling statement, ''Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am.'' n1

n1 John 8:51,56-58

What lay behind Jesus' extraordinary declaration? Wasn't it his understanding of his spiritual nature, of his eternal sonship with God? And as his teachings indicate, we are all, in our true selfhood, God's, Spirit's, offspring. We're not, in absolute truth, vulnerable, aging, physical mortals. God, eternal good, couldn't have created us that way, so unlike Himself. We can begin to prove this , however modestly. As we grasp the reality of our spiritual relationship to Him and follow Jesus' teachings faithfully, we'll gain a degree of dominion over material laws that would sentence us to aging and death.

Man, as the offspring of God, is His ageless expression. Because God is eternal, His spiritual manifestation, man, is eternal also. God is Life itself, as the Scriptures imply. Therefore both He and His reflection, man, must eternally coexist. So the antidote to the ravages of time is no fabulous fountain of youth; it's the divinely scientific truth of our unity with God. ''In divine Science,'' writes Mary Baker Eddy, n2 ''man is the true image of God.'' She continues: ''The divine nature was best expressed in Christ Jesus, who threw upon mortals the truer reflection of God and lifted their lives higher than their poor thought-models would allow, - thoughts which presented man as fallen, sick, sinning, and dying. The Christlike understanding of scientific being and divine healing includes a perfect Principle and idea, - perfect God and perfect man, - as the basis of thought and demonstration.'' n3

n2 Mrs. Eddy is the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science.

n3 Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 259.

An analogy helpful in understanding spiritual life and man's relationship to God is that of a person before a mirror. The mirrored image reflects the original. God's creation reflects only the divine Father and His qualities. As Life, God, is not subject to decay or death, neither is His image. This may sound unrealistic, impractical. But it's the very foundation on which our Master demonstrated eternal life, and it's the basis on which we can progressively prove our exemption from debility and decay.

The Christ-power behind this thought of man as the image of eternal good is even now changing the world. The limits associated with advancing age are being broken down - as is readily seen in the increased physical and scholastic endeavors of retirees, in challenges to mandatory retirement statutes, and so forth.

Our real heritage is not decay, as the carnal mind insists, but eternal usefulness and infinite development. Mrs. Eddy writes: ''Man, governed by immortal Mind, is always beautiful and grand. Each succeeding year unfolds wisdom, beauty, and holiness.'' n4

n4 Ibid., p. 246.

A good new-year resolution for any of us is to accept Christ's promise of eternal life as the reality and to look, not to a material fountain, but to God for health and joy. ''With thee,'' the Psalmist sang, ''is the fountain of life.'' n5

n5 Psalms 36:9.

DAILY BIBLE VERSE This is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent. John 17:3

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