It flooded the crimson twilight
Like the close of an angel’s psalm,
And it lay on my fevered spirit
With a touch of infinite calm.
from “A lost chord”
Adelaide A. Procter, 1825-1864
I came across those lines in Mary Baker Eddy’s work, written in 1900 (“Message to The Mother Church for 1900,” p. 11). Mrs. Eddy, a New Englander, lived from 1821 to 1910. Perhaps it’s not surprising to find she’d quoted Ms. Procter, but suddenly it felt like a beautiful thing: that a 19th-century New England woman – particularly one I love and respect, whose life provides a deep and thrilling measure to my every day – would be quoting her British contemporary. Further digging revealed that Procter’s short book of verse, first published in 1858, went through eight printings, including one in Boston, which suggests the not-so-surprising connection.
Sitting at the organ, “weary and ill at ease,” Procter had struck a chord “like the sound of a great Amen.” Washed over by an “infinite calm,” she wrote that “it quieted pain and sorrow,/ Like love overcoming strife.”
An infinite calm. Too much to ask? Maybe.
Still the more I thought about calm as infinite – everywhere, without limit – the more it felt accessible. Simply present. To have. To share. To feel. To be.
The word “calm” has been described as a period, or condition, of freedom from storms, high winds, or rough activity of water; a state of tranquility.
Wow. Think of it. To be free, entirely free of storm or rough activity. To be perpetually tranquil.
Rudyard Kipling’s poem “If,” much quoted, suggests that if you keep your calm while those all around you lose theirs, you’ve done much. I love that, yet find nothing in his poem that tells me about the “how to.”
But Eddy does tell me. “[I]n speechless prayer, ask God,” she wrote, “to enable you to reflect God, to become His own image and likeness, even the calm, clear, radiant reflection...” (“The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany,” p. 150).
And this: “O glorious hope! there remaineth ... peace in Love. The thought of it stills complaint; the heaving surf of life’s troubled sea foams itself away, and underneath is a deep-settled calm” (“Message to The Mother Church for 1902,” p. 19).
The mere thought of Love divine stilling even deep-seated heavings.
Lacing each moment with grace in deep-settled infinite calm.
And why not.
In the morning, O Lord,
you hear my voice;
in the morning
I lay my requests before you
and wait in expectation.
Psalms 5:3, New International Version, 1984