Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Heaven’s aftersmile

Got a fun question over the weekend from a site visitor named Carol:

Just wondering what your thoughts are regarding Mrs. Eddy's meaning of the words "When heaven's aftersmile earth's tear-drops gain."

This of course is a line from Mary Baker Eddy’s Mother’s Evening Prayer, a comforting poem that compares mother love to the watchful care a bird takes with her nestling. The final verse reads:

No snare, no fowler, pestilence or pain;
No night drops down upon the troubled breast,
When heaven's aftersmile earth's tear-drops gain,
And mother finds her home and heav'nly rest.

So, keeping in mind we’re dealing with bird imagery here, I picture a mother bird with her wings spread over her little ones in a nest, protecting them from the snare and fowler, etc.

Earth’s tear-drops I see as a rainfall, and heaven’s aftersmile as a rainbow. So even the tears bring a glowing radiance that uplifts and blesses.

Have you ever seen a young child’s brilliant smile right when you cheer them up after they’ve been weeping over a broken toy? That’s the kind of aftersmile I picture here. Eyes may be wet with tears, but irrepressible joy breaks through.

And I believe that’s what Eddy means here. Earthliness — materiality — may get our attention for a time, yet it is our disappointment with earth that draws our eyes heavenward, and we see the rainbow of God’s spiritual promise to care for us always. Our earthly troubles always point us Spiritward, and we find that “heav’nly rest” waiting for us.

What does that line mean to you?

Your ideas and inspiration are welcome! Please comment below or Contact Laura.
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At 7/05/2006 08:39:00 PM, Anonymous Rev. veronika said...

You have put it so beautifully, Laura!

Yes, to know that every tear has its compensation and is turned into joy if we turn whole heartedly and trustingly to God, this is Heaven smiling at us and drying all tears. Not the way we might have wanted to but in a much better and harmonious way than we could ever imagine - a way which blesses all equally.

At 7/06/2006 09:54:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I never understood that line but just assumed that somehow it would work out to be right.
And it is! Thanks to you for decoding it for me.

At 7/07/2006 11:21:00 PM, Blogger Kim said...

Hi Laura! I got the same question from a web reader,Carol. She must have been making the rounds with this question!

Here was my response:

Perhaps the phrase "When heaven's aftersmile, earth tear-drops gain" is more understandable when you reverse the two sections - "earth teardrops gain heaven's aftersmile."

This reminds me of Mary Baker Eddy's quote from the chapter on "Marriage" in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. (p.66)

Sorrow is salutary. Through great tribulation we enter the kingdom. Trials are proofs of God's care. Spiritual development germinates not from seed sown in the soil of material hopes, but when these decay, Love propagates anew the higher joys of Spirit, which have no taint of earth. Each successive stage of experience unfolds new views of divine goodness and love.

You're not alone in asking about the word "aftersmile." When I looked it up in my favorite online compilation of dictionaries (, there was nothing.

I did a Google search though and found a beautiful article from The Christian Science Monitor from January 28, 2002, entitled "In the aftermath of war." I know I'll never sing those words the same again!

This article truly is a gem.

Love ya,


At 7/09/2006 06:31:00 AM, Blogger Miki said...

I just love the way you put things, Laura. Thank you for blessing me with clarity and joy through the word pictures you paint!



At 6/22/2008 07:23:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

MBE has created her own word here. Aftersmile is not to be found in the dictionary but does follow the structure of other similar constructions: afterward, aftertime, afterglow, etc. She has demonstrated her connection to divine Minds, even in a small way, by creating the word she needed. Jeff, Mexico

At 11/10/2010 11:16:00 PM, Blogger Abdij said...

gee laura.....beautiful and so thotful....have often wondered and while singing her hymn tonite...led to google. here we are years later gaining an insight using rain and rainbow as a fine metaphor

from suzy and peter in caliv....abdijhoek@gmail

At 11/11/2010 01:04:00 AM, Anonymous Laura Matthews said...

So glad it was meaningful to you, and thanks for writing.


At 9/20/2013 06:15:00 PM, Blogger Victoria Lea said...

Here it is 2013 and I don't know if this thread is still active, but I want to add my thanks to you Laura for elucidating the aftersmile sentence.
Having song this and had it sung to me hundreds and hundreds of times down through the years, I sort of glossed over it just taking it as a poetical way of stating happy outcome. Today, I finally questioned it, wanting something more specific. It's such a nice word. It should catch on and join the common lexicon.
I also like what the commenter said about reversing the sentence.
Anyway, it now has more Substance for me. Thanks!

At 9/20/2013 09:38:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi, Victoria! Thanks for your nice note! While I don't post entries to the blog anymore, I always see new comments. So glad you found it!

Laura Matthews

At 10/15/2013 01:43:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Matthews,
I liked your comments about aftersmile, but the disrespectful way you referred to our beloved Leader, Discoverer, Founder of Christian Science as "Eddy" is sooo sad. I'm curious why you didn't sign off as "Matthews"??? "MRS." Eddy is one of the two witnesses mentioned in the Bible, and to refer to her just as "Eddy" is the same as referring to Christ Jesus as just plain Jesus or President Obama as Obama is rude and disrespectful no matter how times have changed in literary style.

Seriously Signed,
Mrs. Anonymous

At 10/15/2013 02:23:00 PM, Anonymous Laura Matthews said...

Interesting comment! I often refer to both Jesus and Obama as you've listed here, as do many people I know, and I don't think we ever see it as disrespectful. I've also been called Matthews many times in professional settings, and I've appreciated the equality with the men this represents.

I've come to think that the "Mrs." is unduly patriarchal and sexist, as there's no male equivalent prefix of the married state. Likewise, when someone achieves prominence historically, such as people like Churchill and Einstein, we begin to refer to them with just their last names. I believe MBE belongs in that category, with the Kennedys and the Pasteurs and the Shakespeares of history. But thanks for writing.

Laura Matthews
(who can only hope to achieve the stature that being called "Matthews" as the only definitive Matthews would indicate)

At 4/28/2014 10:39:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here it is April 2014 and I was asking myself: what is heaven's aftersmile so I googled it. Found your lovely explanation above.

What are you doing these days?

At 4/28/2014 11:14:00 AM, Blogger Laura said...

It is so fun that people keep finding my blog. I have thought about starting to post here again. In the meantime, I'm in California working as a freelance editor ( for book authors who are self-publishing. Many of the books I edit have spiritual themes. I also write my own stuff and am active in the community.

Thanks so much for posting!

At 11/05/2014 02:33:00 AM, Blogger Holly said...

Thank you soooo much for this answer. Made that hymn even deeper and more healing and comforting to me!


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