Singing for joy

Inspired by a video of a multinational concert of Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” – a piece that’s been played many times as a celebration of humanity’s innate desire for peace, including during the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests in Beijing – today’s contributor explores what it means to truly live Jesus’ command to “Love one another.”

I once watched a YouTube video of a concert with 10,000 people singing Ludwig van Beethoven’s masterful composition “Ode to Joy” from his Symphony No. 9. One viewer noted how universal the quest for peace and joy is, describing the concert as “a Romanian guy presenting in English a German song sung by 10,000 Japanese people on French TV.”

Beethoven’s great praise of joy, whose words were adapted from a poem by German writer Friedrich Schiller, has been sung many times as a celebration of humanity’s high ideals and innate desire for peace. It was played on makeshift loudspeakers during the Tiananmen Square protests in Beijing, performed during German reunification festivities after the fall of the Berlin Wall, and presented at the opening ceremonies of the 1998 Winter Olympics in Japan.

This recent video of so many folks from so many backgrounds singing about joy and peace struck me as showing the great need for Christ Jesus’ profound command, “Love one another” (John 13:34).

One could say that loving others, as Jesus instructed, is an all-embracing prayer for humanity, one that has a much deeper meaning than just to be generous or compassionate, as important as those qualities are. I’ve learned in Christian Science that it actually rests on the spiritual facts of being: the relation of God to all of us as our divine Parent, and our true nature as the spiritual expression of divine Love, God.

Mary Baker Eddy, the discoverer of Christian Science, came to see that there were divine laws behind the biblical command to love. In her key text on Christian Science, “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” she expands on the spiritual meaning of “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” After quoting the command, she writes: “It should be thoroughly understood that all men have one Mind, one God and Father, one Life, Truth, and Love. Mankind will become perfect in proportion as this fact becomes apparent, war will cease and the true brotherhood of man will be established. Having no other gods, turning to no other but the one perfect Mind to guide him, man is the likeness of God, pure and eternal, having that Mind which was also in Christ” (p. 467).

The spiritual understanding of God as our “one Mind, one God and Father, one Life, Truth, and Love,” equips us to see humanity’s innate brotherhood. This divine unity doesn’t jeopardize our uniqueness. In fact, loving our neighbor as ourselves includes recognizing God’s infinite individuality expressed in infinite variety as man, God’s spiritual image and likeness.

There is great spiritual joy and freedom in seeing the individuality and uniqueness of God’s children as expressing the unity of the one perfect Mind in infinite individual variety, lovingly governed by the one unifying divine force that is God.

Understanding even just a little of this spiritual reality of our existence and individuality begins to antidote any separateness or divisiveness we might be facing. It enables us to embrace each other in love and bring a healing influence to conflicts.

What higher “ode to joy” could there be than to more clearly perceive how divine Love’s attributes are expressed by every individual? Our spiritual love for others brings out this healing vision and sends ripples of blessing into our world.

Adapted from an article published in the May 2017 issue of The Christian Science Journal.

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