There are a few poetic lines I know by memory simply because my boss is fond of repeating them. Ravi Zacharias often quotes a song titled The Lost Chord, which was penned by Adelaide Proctor and later set to music by Arthur Sullivan. It is a hymn that describes a moment of transcendence, a hint of wonder that appeared momentarily and left the narrator yearning for more. The song tells her story:
Seated one day at the organ
I was weary and ill at ease,
and my fingers wandered idly
over the noisy keys.
I know not what I was playing
or what I was dreaming then,
but I struck one chord of music
like the sound of a great “Amen.”
It flooded the crimson twilight
like the close of an angel’s psalm,
and it lay on my fevered spirit
like the touch of infinite calm.
It quieted pain and sorrow
like love overcoming strife;
it seemed the harmonious echo
of our discordant life.
It linked all perplexed meanings
into one perfect peace,
and it trembled away into silence
as if it were loathe to cease.
I have sought but I seek it vainly—
that one lost chord divine—
that came from the soul of the organ
and entered into mine.
It may be that death’s bright angel
will speak in that chord again;
it may be that only in heaven
I shall hear that grand “Amen.”
The wonder of this world is amplified by the fact that it ends, that it “trembles away into silence.” But what are these fleeting moments, which touch us with an infinite calm, and link perplexed meanings with peace? In our lost chords, something comes and vanishes. But it creates a hunger for more, a longing for something that we can almost taste, a thirst that points us to what we were ultimately made to hold and know and be. God has set eternity in our hearts, Solomon said; in moments such as these, we seem to know it.
Tellingly, Arthur Sullivan actually tried to set Proctor’s words to music for years, but he was unsuccessful until he faced the death of his brother. Painfully aware of the fragility of life, grieving the untimely death of one he dearly treasured, Sullivan was able to pen the magnificent music to words that were undoubtedly of great comfort. Through tears he looked toward a God preparing many rooms, and it quieted pain and sorrow like love overcoming strife.
Through music, his grief found expression; the possibilities in the words he loved were finally enacted for him. Love overcoming strife. This is the certain and resonating song of God in our lives: one who values creation so much that he joins it, hence, enabling possibilities, signaling signs of the kingdom, embodying new life, cultivating life’s flourishing. In his place, the very particular past in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus meets us very presently. The vicariously human Son meets us as strength and peace for today, hope for what is to come.
The psalmist says of God, “You show me the path of life. In your presence there is fullness of joy; in your right hand are pleasures for evermore.”(1) There are few analogies in language that lend a hand in our comprehending of eternal pleasures and fullness of joy. But there are sounds and glimpses all around us, the resounding gifts of life re-made by the God who comes near even in death.
Jill Carattini is managing editor of A Slice of Infinity at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia.
(1) Psalm 16:11.