Liberation Through Christ

 

Catherine H. Anwandter, C.S.B., of Santiago, Chile

Member of the Board of Lectureship of The Mother Church,

The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts

 

"God created man to be free, and we can assert that freedom," Catherine H. Anwandter, C.S.B., told an audience in Boston on Sunday afternoon.

She went on to say, "true liberation isn't simply liberation from evil. . . . True liberation lets you feel and understand your spiritual unity with God." Mrs. Anwandter included a few examples of Christian healing to illustrate these points.

A member of The Christian Science Board of Lectureship, Mrs. Anwandter spoke in The Mother Church, The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts.

A native of Chile, Mrs. Anwandter speaks four languages fluently. She has devoted herself to the healing ministry of Christian Science since 1948. She became the first teacher of Christian Science in South America and the first to teach in the Spanish language. She has traveled extensively, lecturing on Christian Science.

"Liberation Through Christ" was the title of her lecture. She was introduced by Robert Hahn of Boston.

An abridged text of her lecture follows:

Behind mortal bars

Have you ever watched a wild animal in captivity? It has a look in its eyes as though it sees beyond the bars of its cage to the freedom of the forest and the prairie. It paces up and down, then wearily sits to continue its endless gaze beyond the bars. The longing for liberation is strong, even in what seems to be inescapable captivity. That's true for people, too.

Many times we feel we're behind bars that keep us from the freedom of life and the joy of living. Haven't you sometimes paced up and down, and then wearily sunk back to consider the bars the endless bars of human captivity? Haven't you wondered, is there a possibility of freedom, a promise of liberation?

Certainly the wild animal was created to be free. Its padded paws, its lithe body, its keen vision belong to the vast stretches and tangled forests of its natural habitat.

But what of man? Were we created to be hemmed in by trouble, by limitation, by fear? These are the bars that cruelly separate us from the freedom that is rightfully ours. What has made us so resigned to this captivity? Why do we so often fail to struggle for our own liberation? I believe many of us give up because we mistakenly identify ourselves as physical, subject to all the limitations of matter. But, we can begin to claim our liberation when we learn to reject the sense of material personality the limited personal sense of ourselves and claim with authority our true, spiritual individuality. God created man to be free, and we can assert that freedom.

Wrong self-images

At the root of our captivity is a distorted picture of ourselves as just a physical body with a distinct, personal mind of our own. Our personal appearance and character make up the image of our human personality. We maintain this image almost unconsciously throughout our life. It's so firmly embedded in our thought that we hardly notice how it influences our decisions.

Sometimes we might try to better our situation, but if we hold a negative, limited image of ourselves, we find it prevents our doing so. The wrong self-image is stronger than our desire, stronger than our wishful thinking or our hopeful dreams. And so this wrong self-image seems to dictate our lives; often stopping our progress or spoiling what might be our happiest relationships.

Generally, we think of this limited personality as something permanent, with false traits that will always belong to us. And we believe there's nothing much we can do about them. This false image of ourselves leads to loneliness and suffering. It binds and limits us in many directions. It undermines or prevents right achievements.

If we fight certain faults of character as though they were integral parts of our being, or if we bitterly endure the difficulties they cause us, this hedges us in even more tightly. We feel trapped in our own personality. Haven't you heard the remark, "Well, that's the way I am and there's nothing I can do about it!" This defensive attitude leads to conflict, to polarization and loneliness.

Loneliness is a prison, dark and bleak. The suffering it causes chills our lives and sinks us into the isolation of our own personality. Who of us that has felt the desolation of loneliness doesn't yearn for liberation liberation from self, from a physical sense of ourselves and from our own negative thoughts and feelings? Many of us have gone through an experience where we've lost a loved one, a member of the family or a friend, a cherished companion. This may seem at times the hardest thing of all to overcome, usually because we feel so wrapped up in our own emotions.

Grief overcome

One evening I called on a friend of mine who'd recently lost her husband. She was a well-known singer of an extremely sensitive and artistic temperament. I'd heard she was terribly grief-stricken. When I saw her, she appeared to me as a weak little woman in black, shriveling up with sorrow and loneliness.

I knew from my own experience all the feelings that surge in our hearts when grief seems overwhelming. And I realized that only God's infinite compassion and tenderness could lift her out of the depths of darkness. Then it was as though a sense of this infinite tenderness moved me to see through the appearance of loss and grief to her spiritual identity. Suddenly I thought how the Bible uses the idea of "bride" as a symbol of purity, bliss and peace. The word "bride" in the Bible represents the pure thought that seeks its source in God conscious only of its oneness with God, wedded to divine Love.

So I comforted my friend, gently reminding her she could be grateful for the many years of companionship she'd enjoyed. Then I explained that she could now rise to a higher sense of relationship of unity with God, with the infinite source of all good. I pointed out how John in the book of Revelation describes his vision of spiritual reality as a bride "coming down from God out of heaven." And I urged her to rise from a widowed sense of herself to the pure, spiritual consciousness of life and good at one with God, ever renewed and fresh. I read to her the Bible promise from that same passage, "And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying . . ." (Rev. 21:4).

Her whole appearance changed. She became peaceful and quiet and radiant. After a while she told me many people had visited her and tried to comfort her, but they'd only left her with a greater feeling of loneliness and desolation. Now she'd felt a new sense of life and light, and of the continuing presence of God's love.

When I saw her the next day she was no longer in mourning. She still had that radiant look in her face as though she had a new vision of her real identity, an awareness of the spirit of God as the vital essence of her being. She'd begun to feel the liberation that comes when we learn to pay less attention to a limited physical personality, and reach out more toward our true identity as the spiritual, joy-filled expression of God.

Spiritual individuality

We can learn to distinguish between a false sense of personality and true individuality. We can learn the mortal personality is a false picture of ourselves. It tells us we're a mixture of mind and matter, of good and evil, of life and death. On the other hand, the Christianly scientific understanding of our identity is a clear vision of our spiritual individuality that expresses the great I AM that is God, Spirit.

This spiritual individuality isn't divided from or separated from its great source called God. We see that we are with God and God is with us. So we really shouldn't identify ourselves as physical bodies, but as individual consciousness. And as individual consciousness, we're aware of the glory and freedom of limitless being.

When we see that our identity isn't divided from God, we're released from the inhibitions and limitations of a merely physical or personal sense of self. This right identification means each one can assert his freedom from sin, sickness and death. Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, shows this in her book "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures."

Mrs. Eddy explains that the understanding of true identity will ultimately enable everyone to achieve health and freedom and spiritual dominion. We'll no longer be tyrannized by the limitations of a material body or personal character.

Power of good available

Then we realize in our true identity we're not subject to material laws, to the temptations of the flesh. True identity is sinless, deathless, harmonious, and eternal. Through knowing our unity with God, we can avail ourselves of the power of good. We can feel the forces of good, overcoming evil, maintaining health as the normal condition of life. This enables us to reject the fears and discords that belong to a material personality. When we know our permanent, spiritual identity we're liberated from the sufferings and anguish of a false and personal sense of self.

Liberation through Christ requires a change of thought from a material to a spiritual basis. By this I mean thinking and feeling and understanding the wisdom and love and joy of God. When we make this kind of basic change we no longer identify ourselves in the flesh.

The ancient Hebrew prophets foresaw the coming of the Messiah, or Christ, who would show men the way of liberation from evil. Jesus fulfilled this prophecy and presented the Christ, the Son of God, as the liberating Truth of man's being.

Jesus brought out in his own life the power of this Christ, Truth, to heal the sick, to reclaim the sinner, and even to bring the dead back to life. The Christ, Truth, liberated people from the very ills that harass our lives today. Why don't we understand and use this Christ, Truth, to liberate us nowadays from sin, sickness and death? Jesus showed that the Christ wasn't unique to himself, but that it was the living Truth for everyone. His words awakened his hearers to recognize their own spiritual identity as sons of God. Some of those faithful listeners recorded those words so that we, too, can hear them. Remember how John says in one of his epistles, "Beloved, now are we the sons of God" (I John 3:2).

The Christ healing

Jesus started his mission with this bugle call, "Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Matt. 4:17). When Jesus said repent he was referring to a change of mind. The word "repent" means a radical change of consciousness, a change of base. So repentance literally calls for a mental change of position from the human standpoint of thinking about yourself as a mortal, to the divine standpoint of man as the Son of God. It means turning to the Christ as the living Truth of your being. Then you can heal, and be healed.

This means it's possible to turn from the captivity of pain and suffering in the body and be liberated by the Christ. Liberated by realizing that you aren't encased in matter, but that you embody or express the qualities, faculties and forces of God, your divine Mind or Spirit. You live, you think, you feel, you see, you move as the conscious expression of divine Life, unbounded by human personality or the physical body. Your whole being is uncluttered and free, free from the weight of matter, but conscious of the forever oneness of Father and son, of God and His spiritual creation, man.

Liberation then is release, release from domination by a foreign power. This release frees us from the imprisoning bars of that personal image of ourselves with its ugly traits of character. It frees us also from the imposition and pressure of human will and personal opinion. Correct identification of yourself as the conscious expression of God brings healing healing of whatever has been troubling you. Your sight, your hearing, your feeling, your movement are as free as thought itself. They're not in the body. Your true seeing, hearing, feeling and moving are the eternal, spiritual faculties of man's being. God's presence and power show themselves in the health and completeness of your life.

Mrs. Eddy says: "Christian Science healing is 'the Spirit and the bride,' the Word and the wedding of this Word to all human thought and action, that says: Come, and I will give thee rest, peace, health, holiness" ("The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany," p. 153).

Fear eliminated

A friend of mine found her freedom, her release from chronic ill health, when she learned to identify herself as the spiritual likeness of God. From infancy she had suffered from a bone disease. It would cause unbearable pain. Even after many operations she was still only able to get around on crutches. Since she couldn't go to school, she educated herself at home. Later she felt strong enough to leave home because she wanted to study photography in a large city.

She opened a little office, but because of being ill and in pain much of the time she barely made a living for herself. But then she was attracted to some people in the next-door office. When she discovered they were Christian Scientists, she decided to find out about this religion and went to a Christian Science Reading Room. She began to study "Science and Health" even though she very much doubted the existence of God.

After a great struggle, she began to feel God's presence for the first time. And her need to understand her relationship to God loomed above everything else. She devoted herself to studying Christian Science and asked for the help of an experienced Christian Scientist. Fear was eliminated as her thinking was transformed from a material to a spiritual basis. She was liberated from servitude to a sick body, and found her healing by understanding the Christ, the true idea of God and of her spiritual selfhood. She gave up the old view of herself as a limited, sickly mortal, and found peace and joy in her identity as the expression of God. At last she was completely healed to the point where an insurance company confirmed that her health had been totally restored.

The physical freedom this healing brought to my friend was just the beginning. She was soon free in many other ways. Free to live like other people, free to play golf, to drive a car, to go on with her career and more important still, to continue growing in her understanding of God and her own true nature. How can words define what a healing like this means?

It opens up a new outlook for anyone to find release from the bondage of sickness or bondage of any kind by a radical change of mind. By changing the mental concept of ourselves from a material to a spiritual basis, we learn to live in the harmony and perfection of spiritual being. We can experience the freedom and joy of health as the normal condition of our being. And good flows into our lives as the natural result of our understanding of God's love.

God-given dominion

You can make this transition to the life of liberty in Christ when you mentally abandon the belief of life and sensation in the body. This is because what appears as a material body is no more than a projection of limited, material thinking. But, the power of spiritualized thought frees you from the enslavement of finite thinking. It lifts you to the glorious heights of your God-given dominion. And you find health and freedom in the Christ, Truth, of your being.

But true liberation isn't simply freedom from evil. It's freedom in ever-present good. Freedom for constant enjoyment of peace and health, of beauty and harmony. True liberation lets you feel and understand your spiritual unity with God. It lets you bring out your real character as the expression of God's nature. It's important to think correctly about character, because sometimes false traits of character can be the most binding, the most limiting and upsetting things in our life.

The transforming effect of identifying ourselves as wholly spiritual reaches deep into our inmost thoughts. It frees us from a false sense of personal characteristics, and we begin to live more in accord with God's nature.

Mrs. Eddy brings this out when she writes in "Science and Health": "The Divine Being must be reflected by man, else man is not the image and likeness of the patient, tender, and true, the One 'altogether lovely'" (p. 3), and she further in part defines man as ". . . the compound idea of God, including all right ideas" (p. 475).

Our real character consists in living these right ideas or divine qualities. The love, the good and the beauty of true character show forth the glory of the Christ-idea. We shouldn't allow the friction of the world to spoil the integrity of our God-given character. We don't need to accept erroneous traits as though they were our own!

The basic error is false identification, the identification that believes you are separated from God and that you have a mind of your own.

It is that false image of yourself that keeps you from enjoying the full potential of your spiritual selfhood, and binds you to the limitations and faults of a finite personality. But by acknowledging your oneness with the divine Mind you can reflect the right ideas or divine qualities and free yourself from these faults and limitations. The radiant reflection of the spirit of God is the light of the Christ that dispels the darkness of evil. In the Bible, Paul refers to this light when he says, "God . . . hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ" (II Cor. 4:6).

Perceiving divine image

Have you ever stopped to think that you can show forth the light of the glory of God in your face? Paul knew this, for he says, "We all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord" (II Cor. 3:18). Let's then be spiritual see-ers! Let us look into the face of divine Love, and be "changed into the same image . . . even as by the Spirit of the Lord."

And so we can find release from the mortal sense of ourselves, and feel the comfort of liberation through Christ.

When we get acquainted with the spiritual reality of our being we're not only liberated from the human sense of personality we're able to express more of God's grace and power.

Grace may not be a word that's used much today, but it's one of the most powerful and beautiful words in the Bible. It points to God's love and mercy, always here to help and save us in every situation. Grace is overflowing love that provides freely for every need. It reaches us when we seek God's comfort and enlightenment. It's with us in distress, in fear, in sickness. Even when we feel the urge to sin. God's grace gives the strength, the freedom and understanding to help us overcome the temptation. Grace relieves our anguish and satisfies our longing.

Grace is the power that delivers mankind from evil. This purpose and power were shown in Jesus' coming. Jesus' life revealed the Christ, the truth of our spiritual sonship with God. Jesus came as the personal Saviour, bringing mankind liberation from evil.

But Jesus knew that after his departure the continuing grace of God would provide another Comforter, who "shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you" (John 14:26).

The Science of Christianity is that Comforter Jesus promised. Christian Science brings liberation to everyone through spiritual enlightenment and understanding.

Mrs. Eddy's life is a clear illustration of purposeful liberation. As she studied the Bible she came to realize the magnitude of Jesus' life and the meaning of the truth he lived. Mrs. Eddy saw that the Christ wasn't just the personal Jesus, but the spiritual Truth of man's sonship with God. This Truth was the universal Saviour, the Comforter Jesus promised the Father would send.

Vision of spiritual reality

As this Truth dawned on her, she felt overwhelmed. She was filled with awe and gratitude. She later wrote, "Thus it was when the moment arrived of the heart's bridal to more spiritual existence" ("Retrospection and Introspection," p. 23). And that dawning light of spiritual understanding never left her. Its glory was sometimes clouded by the hatred and treachery of the world. But divine grace sustained her, and she never lost the vision of spiritual reality that spiritual reality that is basic to the revelation of Christian Science and to the understanding of its teachings.

As Mrs. Eddy's understanding grew she found she could heal through spiritual means alone. She also taught others to heal. For this she faced society's ridicule and scathing criticism. But she bravely continued to obey the urge to impart the Truth to the world, and save humanity from its slavery to matter.

Mrs. Eddy lived the mother-love of God in her tender compassion for suffering of every kind. She showed it in the natural way she healed sickness by perceiving the wholeness and perfection of man's being as the Son of God. She exposed evil and Truth, as taught by Jesus.

In one instance a mother came to Mrs. Eddy seeking help and comfort. She had brought her baby whose eyes were so terribly inflamed there was no evidence of sight; neither the pupil nor the iris was discernible. Mrs. Eddy took the child in her arms and, as she looked at it, she felt a rush of love and compassion. Lifting her thought to God in prayer she felt sure that God in His infinite power and tender care would not allow evil materiality to blind this child. When she returned the baby to its mother, the child was healed ("The Life of Mary Baker Eddy," Sibyl Wilbur, p. 70).

The scientific understanding of her own true identity lifted Mrs. Eddy out of sickness and suffering, out of loneliness and misfortune, into the mainstream of life as a religious leader.

Poverty and disdain yielded to respect and prosperity in her experience. But her life purpose never wavered from sharing her discovery of Christian Science and its liberating power.

Recognition of true identity

Perhaps one of the greatest blessings we can experience through the teachings of this Science is to learn how to overcome fear.

Fear is the first emotion in the face of danger. But it also presents itself in subtle forms:

such as fear of other people, fear of accidents, of sickness, even the fear of death.

As we awaken from a false sense of our own identity, and recognize everyone's true identity as the son of God, we begin to lose the fear of other people the fear of what they think, of what they may say or do. The healing of this fear brings a great sense of liberation in our lives. We learn to trust our own capacity to express the Christlike qualities, and to love the presence of God in others.

A young man I know suffered from an extremely nervous temperament and wasn't able to finish high school. He felt frustrated and incapable of working or taking a job of any kind. He lost all interest in life, and felt shy and fearful in the presence of other people. He spent many years of his life in this way until he found Christian Science. He began to understand the spiritual truth of his being, and gradually freed himself from the limited personal concept of himself.

With the help of Christian Science he started to study again. That year, at the age of 25, he was able to graduate from high school. He passed the required examinations successfully, whereas formerly he had never been able to face these examinations. This gave him a new lease on life, and he began to work at odd jobs. Later he went to another country, away from family and friends who still thought he would never "make it." He worked and saved enough money to return home and lead a normal life, working in his own country.

Liberation from a false sense of personality freed him from fear fear of himself and fear of other people. He found he could express his own God-given capacity. He felt the joy and fullness of living.

The understanding of the Christ presence in our lives gives us an assurance of God's love. It enables us to banish the hopelessness of sin, the deep misery of guilt, the haunting burden of evil. We can feel safe in the presence of danger. Your conscious sense of identity is held in divine Mind, in Life and Love. You can rely on your oneness with eternal Life in the Christ. And so you gain a timeless sense of life that begins to dispel the fear of death.

This is what Jesus proved by his resurrection. Jesus' triumph over the crucifixion is the supreme example of liberation liberation from evil of every kind: from death, from suffering, from human brutality and mortal anguish.

Overcoming the world

It is said that some of the earliest portrayals of the crucifixion depicted Jesus as looking out from the cross with love and compassion on the world, as though he were exemplifying his own words, "Be of good cheer; I have overcome the world" (John 16:33).

To overcome the world is to understand the Christ, Truth, of being that enables you to come out from the claims of matter to overcome the fear of material conditions, to be untouched by merely worldly ambitions, or by the slight of men. It's complete surrender to God's infinite grace and power. It brings you the radiant, triumphant sense of conscious oneness with God.

Mrs. Eddy once predicted that "The astronomer will no longer look up to the stars, he will look out from them upon the universe" ("Science and Health," p. 125). The words are more than a prophecy of space travel and the achievements of modem astronomy. They may be an admonition to us to break away now, from earthbound thinking to reach the grander view of man and the universe as seen from a higher spiritual standpoint.

Then you can behold man and the universe as God sees them. You will see creation as an infinite panorama of harmony, beauty, and perfection. And in true spiritual humility, you recognize your own true identity as the son of God the conscious expression of infinite Mind and divine Love.

No longer clinging to a human sense of personality, you are freed from a sense of captivity in a physical body, freed from mortal history and the errors and limitations of a finite personality. You can rest in the Love that sees through the mists of material beliefs to the light and freedom of God's universe. And you feel the comfort of liberation through Christ.

 

[Delivered March 6, 1977, in The Mother Church, The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston, Massachusetts, and published in The Christian Science Monitor, March 7, 1977.]

 

 

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