Hidden but not Destroyed
From the Christian Science Sentinel, July 25, 1901, by Cyrene Emery
Hundreds of years ago, in the very dawning of the fourteenth century, a great painter, Giotto the Glorious, took up his brushes one day and painted a portrait on the wall of one of the rooms of the Bargello in Florence. For many months that fair Italian city had been plunged in civil war, and the hearts of her true children had been heavy within them as every day they heard the clash of swords in the streets. But now, in 1302, peace was once more established, the volatile Florentines had forgotten their feud and chattered like friendly sparrows in the Old Market, while the dark streets and viale once more echoed the songs of the flower-girls calling their sweet wares. It was in commemoration of this happy peace that Giotto painted his picture on the walls of the Bargello, — a group of the leading minds of the hour, among the rest, Dante, — painted it as only Giotto could paint, in glowing splashes of color that time, with all its vaunted power, can scarcely dim.
Years passed. The peace was broken once and again. Giotto and Dante and the singing flowergirls no longer walked by the Arno. The room in the Bargello little by little changed its uses, and gradually filled with rubbish. The walls grew dingy with dirt and dust until only dimly could any eye discern the faces in Giotto’s picture — scarcely even dimly unless memory guided the glance. Then came a day when somebody whitewashed the wall, and after that the years did their worst. Dante’s pictured face was lost to every eye on earth. Five long centuries and more kept the secret, until in 1851 or thereabouts a certain student of art found, in legend or history, a hint that somewhere in Florence was hidden a masterpiece, precious alike for the artist’s sake and for the dark, stern face that it portrayed. He studied and he searched, — found first the building, then the room, then the wall. Careful hands went to work, delicately, daintily, and now Giotto’s picture is revealed once more, almost as fresh and bright as in those far-away days when it was painted.
And the story of Giotto’s picture points, like all things else to Truth!
“In the beginning,” a noble picture was conceived by the Master-Mind — even the idea of a creation that should mirror and express all that was in that Mind. For Mind to conceive was to create. Man, made in the image and likeness of God, expressed the perfection of God a perfection in which was no evil, no blemish or defect, neither indeed could be. In all that fair universe, there was no power — since God, Good, was the All-Power — that could hurt, or destroy, or make afraid. In all the universe was no evil presence, since all that was, was God, Good, and His manifestation. And God’s perfect law, which is harmony, brooded over and governed flower, and beast, and man. But presently a mist seemed to rise, — a mist of misunderstanding, of ignorance and fear, — and it grew and thickened until to mortal thought this perfect creation of God became dim, as a star shines but faintly through some wandering cloud. In the mist mankind began to fancy that phantoms moved, creatures not of God’s creation, evil shapes which the pure, good Mind that made all could never have conceived, — sick, tired, discouraged men and women, little children writhing in the agonies of inherited tortures, sinful creatures shrinking from even that dim light, a horrible medley! Little by little, as the misunderstanding grew, the perfect creation was hidden from sight, and mortal eyes saw only the phantasmagoria that came and went and came again, — the ghostly people of the realm of Dream.
What wonder that earth became a place of tears and groans, or that men turned to the most mysterious vision of all, and decked it in soft, sombre robes, and named it “our friend, Death, who somehow will set us free”!
And yet, not all men, for here and there some seer still dimly discerned the Truth of creation. Here and there pure eyes pierced the mist and caught the glow of a great Light. But just what the Light should reveal, or how to come nearer, they knew not, until at last, in the fulness of time, came a Guide to them. Straightway he led to where God’s work lay hidden. Revealing “in thought and deed” the Father, he interpreted men to themselves. Before his feet the mist melted, at his voice the darkness grew light, and those who cared to see beheld again God’s world and His child made in His image and likeness.
Those who cared to see! They are only a little band, all told, and after a while the Master went his way. Some of those who had followed him and caught a glimpse of the hidden glory, made a record of his words and deeds, so that in all the ages those who would might find the way too. Many men, good and true, longing for the Light, read and pondered and started on their quest, hoping, yearning, despairing, for in the darkness they had misread the words of the Way-shower, and how could they find the Way?
Then one day it was learned in Christian Science, which was discovered and founded by Mary Baker G. Eddy, that the mist lose no higher than men’s thoughts and that it could no more change and make imperfect God’s perfect creation than the whitewash on the walls of the Bargello in Florence could change the picture that it hid; that fear and ignorance and misunderstanding can only, at the most, hide for a little time what can never be destroyed, even the harmony and perfection and glory of God’s work.