|"CHRIST AND CHRISTMAS"|
CHRIST AND CHRISTMAS An Illustrated Poem
This poem and its illustrations are as hopelessly original as is Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. When the latter was first issued, critics declared that it was incorrect, contradictory, unscientific, unchristian; but those human opinions had not one feather's weight in the scales of God. The fact remains, that the textbook of Christian Science is transforming the universe.
Christ and Christmas voices Christian Science through song and object-lesson. In two weeks from the date of its publication in December, 1893, letters extolling it were pouring in from artists and poets. A mother wrote, Looking at the pictures in your wonderful book has healed my child.
Knowing that this book would produce a stir, I sought the judgment of sound critics familiar with the works of masters in France and Italy. From them came such replies as the following: The illustrations of your poem are truly a work of art, and the artist seems quite familiar with delineations from the old masters. I am delighted to find Christ and Christmas in accord with the ancient and most distinguished artists.
The Christian Science Journal gives no uncertain declaration concerning the spirit and mission of Christ and Christmas.
I aimed to reproduce, with reverent touch, the modest glory of divine Science. Not by aid of foreign device or environment could I copy art, never having seen the painter's masterpieces; but the art of Christian Science, with true hue and character of the living God, is akin to its Science: and Science and Health gives scopes and shades to the shadows of divinity, thus imparting to humanity the true sense of meekness and might.
One incident serves to illustrate the simple nature of art.
I insisted upon placing the serpent behind the woman in the picture Seeking and Finding. My artist at the easel objected, as he often did, to my sense of Soul's expression through the brush; but, as usual, he finally yielded. A few days afterward, the following from Rotherham's translation of the New Testament was handed to me, I had never before seen it: And the serpent cast out of his mouth, behind the woman, water as a river, that he might cause her to be river-borne. Neither material finesse, standpoint, nor perspective guides the infinite Mind and spiritual vision that should, does, guide His children.
One great master clearly delineates Christ's appearing in the flesh, and his healing power, as clad not in soft raiment or gorgeous apparel; and when forced out of its proper channel, as living feebly, in kings' courts. This master's thought presents a sketch of Christianity's state, in the early part of the Christian era, as homelessness in a wilderness. But in due time Christianity entered into synagogues, and, as St. Mark writes, it has rich possession here, with houses and lands. In Genesis we read that God gave man dominion over all things; and this assurance is followed by Jesus' declaration, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth, and by his promise that the Christlike shall finally sit down at the right hand of the Father.
Christian Science is more than a prophet or a prophecy: it presents not words alone, but works, the daily demonstration of Truth and Love. Its healing and saving power was so great a proof of Immanuel and the realism of Christianity, that it caused even the publicans to justify God. Although clad in panoply of power, the Pharisees scorned the spirit of Christ in most of its varied manifestations. To them it was cant and caricature, always the opposite of what it was. Keen and alert was their indignation at whatever rebuked hypocrisy and demanded Christianity in life and religion. In view of this, Jesus said, Wisdom is justified of all her children.
Above the fogs of sense and storms of passion, Christian Science and its art will rise triumphant; ignorance, envy, and hatred earth's harmless thunder pluck not their heaven-born wings. Angels, with overtures, hold charge over both, and announce their Principle and idea.
It is most fitting that Christian Scientists memorize the nativity of Jesus. To him who brought a great light to all ages, and named his burdens light, homage is indeed due, but is bankrupt. I never looked on my ideal of the face of the Nazarite Prophet; but the one illustrating my poem approximates it.
Extremists in every age either doggedly deny or frantically affirm what is what: one renders not unto Cæsar the things that are Cæsar's; the other sees Helen's beauty in a brow of Egypt.
Pictures are portions of one's ideal, but this ideal is not one's personality. Looking behind the veil, he that perceives a semblance between the thinker and his thought on canvas, blames him not.
Because my ideal of an angel is a woman without feathers on her wings, is it less artistic or less natural? Pictures which present disordered phases of material conceptions and personality blind with animality, are not my concepts of angels. What is the material ego, but the counterfeit of the spiritual?
The truest art of Christian Science is to be a Christian Scientist; and it demands more than a Raphael to delineate this art.
The following is an extract from a letter reverting to the illustrations of Christ and Christmas:
In my last letter, I did not utter all I felt about the wonderful new book you have given us. Years ago, while in Italy, I studied the old masters and their great works of art thoroughly, and so got quite an idea of what constitutes true art. Then I spent two years in Paris, devoting every moment to the study of music and art.
The first thing that impressed me in your illustrations was the conscientious application to detail, which is the foundation of true art. From that, I went on to study each illustration thoroughly, and to my amazement and delight I find an almost identical resemblance, in many things, to the old masters! In other words, the art is perfect.
The hands and feet of the figures how many times have I seen these hands and feet in Angelico's Jesus,' or Botticelli's Madonna'!
It gave me such a thrill of joy as no words can express, to see produced to-day that art the only true art that we have identified with the old masters, and mourned as belonging to them exclusively, a thing of the past, impossible of reproduction.
All that I can say to you, as one
who gives no mean attention to such matters, is that the art is
perfect. It is the true art of the oldest, most revered, most
authentic Italian school, revived. I use the words most authentic
in the following sense: the face, figure, and drapery of Jesus,
very closely resemble in detail the face, figure, and drapery
of that Jesus portrayed by the oldest of the old masters, and
said to have been authentic; the face having been taken by Fra
Angelico from Cæsar's Cameo, the figure and garments from
a description, in The Galaxy, of a small sketch handed down from
the living reality. Their productions are expressionless copies
of an engraving cut in a stone. Yours is a palpitating, living
Saviour engraven on the heart. You have given us back our Jesus,
and in a much better form.
(Miscellaneous Writings 18831896, Mary Baker Eddy, pp. 371:26376:15)