December 21, 2016
Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, wrote, “Christmas to me is the reminder of God’s great gift, — His spiritual idea, man and the universe…” (My. 262) Last Wednesday’s service was on Christ Jesus’ gift of the indestructible man, indestructible Life and indestructible Love. This Wednesday’s service is about the gift of the glory of God’s presence, or the universe of Spirit where man dwells.
There is a theme of expansiveness in the Bible readings — the gentle Gihon Spring, and then the overflowing Euphrates RIver; Joseph’s angel, and then the multitudes of angels on Jesus’ birth; the voice in a burning bush speaking to Moses, and then the tongues of fire speaking to all at Pentecost; the one blessed womb becoming all who are receptive.
The readings from Science and Health begin and end with casting your anchor of hope “beyond the veil of matter into the Shekinah. . .” (SH p. 41).
Shekinah is the divine manifestation through which God’s presence is felt by man. It is the radiance and glory of God manifested in the cloud and fire over Mount Sinai and over and within the tabernacle (see Ex. 19:16-18; 40:34-38). Shekinah derives from the Hebrew term shakan (to dwell), but does not appear directly in the Bible. Harper’s Bible Dictionary notes that “behind the Shekinah was the idea of the divine transcendence.” (October 12, 1968 issue of the Christian Science Sentinel)
I have been reading Eugene Peterson’s autobiography, and his story about the Shekinah really helps me understand this term. (Peterson is an expert in Hebrew and Greek, and he is the author of The Message, a contemporary rendering of the Bible.) He wrote about how the Israelites wept when they returned from their Babylonian captivity and saw their replacement temple in Jerusalem. Solomon’s glorious building had been replaced with what looked to them like a tarpaper shack.
As they wept, a dazzling, light-resplendent presence descended, the Shekinah – God’s personal presence – and filled that humble, modest, makeshift, sorry excuse for a temple with glory. They lifted their arms in praise. They were truly home. God was truly present. The Shekinah faded out. The glory stayed. (The Pastor, p. 101)
Then I was speaking with a friend about what I had gained from reading this description of Shekinah, and she remarked that it reminded her of the Romanian churches — plain as a chicken coop on the outside but full of color and beauty on the inside. The glory of those churches was what she remembered most about her visit to a country that was still bleak after years of Communism.
Now, you may wonder where I am going with this discussion of Shekinah, but I began thinking about how Mrs. Eddy only uses the word “Shekinah” once in Science and Health, but she uses the phrase “man in Science” many times. (Sometimes it appears with other words in between, such as “Jesus beheld in Science the perfect man, who appeared to him where sinning mortal man appears to mortals.” SH 476). I am mentioning this because “man in Science” is the same concept as Shekinah to me — man dwelling in that glory beyond the veil of matter, man and the universe of Spirit.
The following Bible Notes from The New Oxford Annotated Bible are helpful in understanding the symbolism about the rivers in the Book of Isaiah:
Isaiah 7:3-9 The end of the conduit of the upper pool on the highway to the Fuller’s Field. A fuller is a person who processes wool. The location refers to the Gihon spring, Jerusalem’s water source, which was located beyond the fortified wall of the city in the Kidron Valley immediately east of the city of David. All ancient cities faced the problem of access to water in times of siege. Like several ancient Israelite cities, Jerusalem had a tunnel that would allow protected access to the Gihon from inside the walls of the city. Ahaz was inspecting Jerusalem’s defenses when Isaiah arrived with his son, symbolically named Shear-jashub (“a remnant will return”). The symbolic name is both a reassurance that the Lord would defend Jerusalem in keeping with the Davidic/Zion tradition, and also an acknowledgment of Judah’s losses. . . . Isaiah 7:10-25 the narrative suggests that Ahaz is skeptical, prompting the prophet to demand that the king ask a “sign” of the Lord. Although Ahaz rejects Isaiah’s advice, his response to the prophet is a model of piety insofar as he will not put the Lord to the test. 14: Isaiah’s reply emphasizes the Lord’s own sign, the birth of the child Immanuel (“God is with us”) to express the Lord’s commitment to defend Jerusalem.
Isaiah 8:5-8 The prophet makes clear the Lord’s dissatisfaction with Ahaz’s refusal to accept the divine offer of protection. The waters of Shiloah, the stream fed by the Gihon spring that symbolizes the Lord’s sustenance of Jerusalem and the house of David. The oracle plays on the imagery of the protective stream that now becomes a threatening force as it overflows its banks to flood the land. 7: The River, the Euphrates, in western Assyria. 8: Whereas Immanuel, “God is with us,” earlier signified God’s protection of Judah, the name now symbolizes the Lord’s punishment of the land.
I Corinthians 1:21 Paul shapes a playful contrast between two types of wisdom: on the one hand, a divine attribute; on the other, a human attainment. 22: The desire for wisdom among the Greeks was proverbial. 23: The first-century BCE orator Cicero attests the constraint upon discourse about the cross among persons of higher social class: “The mere mention of the word ‘cross’ is shameful to a Roman citizen and a free man.”