Mention the word, and people almost always think of the great period of discovery and enlightenment that took place during the 14th, 15th, and 16th centuries - the Renaissance, or rebirth, when much of Europe emerged from the so-called Dark Ages and vaulted into an era of great hope and wonderment.
In her 2003 novel "The Birth of Venus," author Sarah Dunant depicts the character of Alessandra, a 15th-century Florentine woman inspired by the great painters of the age, who strives to paint a chapel with her own heavenly work. Alessandra calls herself "an inferior artist in a superior age," but notes that her efforts have nevertheless meant much, combined with those of so many others, "during those heady days when we brought man into contact with God in a way he had never been before."
Summing up her work, Alessandra concludes that hers was but "a single voice lost inside a great chorus of others. And, such was the sound that the chorus made together, that to have been a part of it at all was enough for me."
The 21st century, measured though it is on vaster scales, needs such a renaissance chorus, with voices louder and stronger than ever. Ignorance, plagues, wars, and miseries have not, sadly, disappeared in the days since Michelangelo painted the Sistine Chapel. But at the same time, much has been discovered, and rediscovered, about the value of individual thought and deed in the half- millennium that has intervened.
As 2004 rolls into 2005, we can redouble our efforts to see that the chorus of hope and healing grows stronger in the world, not weaker, through what we know of our Creator. The genius of spirituality is that it transforms existence metaphysically - literally in ways beyond the physical. We aren't limited by who we are or where we came from, what we have or what we have not, how far we can travel or how much education we have. Mary Baker Eddy's 1866 discovery of the system of laws that undergirded the healing works of Jesus has made it possible for every individual to love as he loved, and heal as he healed.
This Science of Christ offers the promise that an age of enlightenment and rebirth can break upon any bleak instance of sickness or misery, as we know spiritual facts - the truth that the Soul of the universe has mandated a reign of good, but never of evil. Our privilege is to learn these simple yet profound facts. To live them. Even to sing them! "A demonstration of the facts of Soul in Jesus' way resolves the dark visions of material sense into harmony and immortality" (Mary Baker Eddy, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,"page 428).
The hopeful fact is that "the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much" (James 5:16). And the "choruses of spiritual renaissance" awaiting our prayer-voices are countless. Here are just a few you can awaken the world by singing in:
• The peace chorus. An effort to quell anger between two people in an office cubicle, through divine Love's power, is an honest pattern for solving the dispute between Israel and Palestine.
• The economic chorus. A recognition that "in the scientific relation of God to man ... whatever blesses one blesses all" (Science and Health, page 206) can bring the means to pay a single rent bill, just as it can rejuvenate a slumping national or world economy.
• The environmental chorus. Understanding that "the earth is the Lord's, and the fulness thereof" (Ps. 24:1) has the power to promote a wise use of natural resources in the backyard or above the Arctic Circle.
• The health chorus. Healing of any one case of sickness through the Science of Christ proves that the ability to heal all sickness - even the worldwide AIDS pandemic - lies in the realm of thought and prayer, and therefore cannot be beyond the reach of God's saving power.
• The hope chorus. There are as many voices here as there are constructive thoughts to think. As a flower turns to the sun, when we turn from the weight of a problem to the possibility of its solution, we're actually responding to the supreme fact that "God [good] is All-in-all" (Science and Health, page 468). There's perhaps no greater masterpiece than this eternal truth.