Like many around the world today, I have been greatly disturbed by this weekend’s attacks in Texas and Ohio resulting in loss of innocent life. Such events are truly heartbreaking.
In thinking about these senseless tragedies, I find inspiration and comfort in an image from another event that was in the news earlier this year. The day after the Notre Dame Cathedral became engulfed in flames and the iconic spire collapsed, news photos showed votive candles that had been lit in loving prayer before the fire and were still burning brightly. This scene of surviving light amid destruction offered hope to many.
Could this idea of continuing light hold a message of hope in the face of other, more devastating events as well?
To find out, I did what I usually do when I want and need to find answers to pressing questions such as these: I turned to my Bible and the writings of Mary Baker Eddy, the discoverer of Christian Science, who experienced – and overcame – much tragedy in her own life. I started with an idea at the beginning of the Bible; it talks of God and how He created man.
In Genesis, it says that man (a generic term for all of us) was made in the image and likeness of God. In her Bible companion book and textbook on Christian Science, “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” Mrs. Eddy wrote, “Man is not God, but like a ray of light which comes from the sun, man, the outcome of God, reflects God” (p. 250). This points to our real nature as God’s spiritual offspring or reflection. A Bible passage I find especially helpful is in the Sermon on the Mount, where Jesus said, “Ye are the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14). And the Gospel of John describes the divine nature Jesus expressed – the Christ – as “the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world” (1:9).
Putting these ideas together, I reasoned that the light that each one of us expresses or reflects must be as eternal as its source, God. Not even the darkest act or tragedy can come between or separate anyone from the light of universal divine Love, God.
Science and Health states: “Man is the idea of Spirit; he reflects the beatific presence, illuming the universe with light. Man is deathless, spiritual” (p. 266). Senseless acts of violence need to stop. But I am heartened by what I’m learning about the real nature of everyone, eternally lit by the light of divine Love. Though individuals may pass from our view, I am convinced that the light we all express still shines. And this includes those who commit terrible acts, as well. They are not beyond the reforming reach of divine Love’s light, which is so bright it can dissolve the darkness of fear, anger, and other destructive elements.
This verse from the 1932 “Christian Science Hymnal” brings me hope and inspires my prayers for a world in which the true nature of man increasingly prevails over the darkened sense of man as perpetrating, or suffering from, senseless tragedies:
Lift up thy light, O man, arise and shine,
Steadfast while loud the storms of life assail;
Immortal ray of that great Light divine,
’Gainst whose all-power no tempest shall prevail.
(Celia Thaxter, No. 172)
In the days and weeks following these tragic events, I pray that those mourning family and friends might feel in their hearts how the true, spiritual nature of each loved one is still shining brightly as God’s reflection.