The Olympic torch is a traditional and worthy symbol of the Olympic Games, whose purpose is to encourage harmony among nations and their peoples, and by its very shining light to brighten and kindle the hope that the spirit of excellence being pursued by the participating athletes will illumine the hearts of the world's people. But there is a light of even greater value to mankind and the world, and one that is always available.
The Psalmist sang, ''Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.'' n1 This is the light of Spirit, God, and of His Christ, the saving Truth. It's a light that doesn't just appear briefly in four-year cycles but that always casts its rays upon the lives of men and women to benefit and better them.
n1 Psalms 119:105.
The light of a torch radiates outward and dissipates darkness. This symbol of the Olympic Games and the purpose of them can be a reminder to the world of its need to reach outward in further effort to advance humanity's goals. Much effort by nations and peoples is being expended in this direction. There are efforts to combat terrorism, to improve the environment, to preserve human rights, to eliminate starvation and oppression, to reduce the danger of nuclear destruction. These efforts to improve the lot of humanity are worthwhile and necessary. But there is a higher reach and broader effort that alone can assure this attainment.
The Bible records the efforts of many people dedicated to bettering human life. Moses led the Hebrews out of Egyptian bondage. David made of one nation all the tribes of Israel. Nehemiah rebuilt the broken wall of Jerusalem. These and others sought to improve their peoples' lot - but on a spiritual basis, through trust in the one God. Now as then there continues the need to develop and experience more of humanity's potential. Yet the key to this attainment is a perception of God.
Christ Jesus once declared, ''God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.'' n2 Jesus fed the multitude, healed the sick, restored the sinner - met all forms of human need through his understanding of God as Spirit. He turned people to God, to a spiritual understanding of Him.
n2 John 4:24.
Referring to God as Mind, Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, observes: ''If men would bring to bear upon the study of the Science of Mind half the faith they bestow upon the so-called pains and pleasures of material sense, they would not go on from bad to worse, until disciplined by the prison and the scaffold; but the whole human family would be redeemed through the merits of Christ, - through the perception and acceptance of Truth. For this glorious result Christian Science lights the torch of spiritual understanding.'' n3
n3 Science and Health with key to the Scriptures, p.202.
As the pages of this newspaper attest, Christian Science supports constructive human activities. And it shows that a vital force in promoting a spirit of excellence in all worthy activities is a spiritual understanding of God, and of man created in His image. If God is Spirit, man's actua selfhood must be infinitely more and better than limited, destructible physicality.
An understanding of God as Spirit and of man as His likeness enlightens human thought by lifting it above the restrictive concept that existence is merely physical. This ''torch of spiritual understanding'' helps us gain dominion, through divine power, over sin, sickness, discouragement, lack. It is a light at the end of the tunnel of a material sense of existence.
The flame of the Olympic torch can remind us, then, of a greater light. Christ Jesus exemplified the radiant light of spiritual understanding for all people and for all time in demonstrating the healing and saving power of God. And he proved the practical role of this understanding, its importance to each of us in illuminating every facet of human life. DAILY BIBLE VERSE I will pray with the sprit, and I will pray with the understand also. I Corinthians 14:15