From the Papers: “Christmas offerings”

November 27, 2020

Mary Baker Eddy to Janet T. Colman, January 8, 1885, L03613.
Janet T. Colman to Mary Baker Eddy, January 5, 1885. 392.50.010. 


Our work on the Mary Baker Eddy Papers project has revealed an interesting exchange that’s particularly appropriate at the holiday season. In January 1885, Mary Baker Eddy and her student Janet T. Colman talked about Christmas gifts—both material and spiritual.

Colman wrote to Eddy:

I was glad to hear that your students had remembered you on Christmas. My thought in regard to it was this, how pleased you would be to be remembered by your students, then another thought came to my mind. How pleased you would be if each and every student would strive to follow out what you have taught them, and that would be the best Christmas present you ever had.1

Colman had studied with Eddy, completing the Primary (1883), Normal (1885), and Obstetrics (1887) classes. She definitely did strive to “follow out” what she learned from her teacher, playing an essential part in establishing Christian Science across the United States. She added to her letter, “I don’t seem to make a very brilliant student, but my aim is to do as near right as I can, and live up to what you have taught me. The best thing I ever had given me is the little I know of ‘Christian Science’.”2

Eddy responded:

Your kind letter just rec’d[.] I was pleased to hear from you and rejoiced at your report[.] God grant you this view until the heavens open of Love that fulfilleth the law and you shall feel the sweet sense of loving even your enemies the sweet sense of patience that hath its perfect work— the sweet sense of God good with us that never turns to person for help but is the perfect Love casting out all fear the peace that floweth as a river the one and eternal reality of your being[.]3

She ended her letter by saying, “Thanks for all[.] My Christmas offerings were most beautiful[.] Love all the members of the dear little band[.]”4

In the January issue of The Christian Science Journal, Eddy published further thanks for the Christmas gifts she had recently received: “Daily obligations, a large correspondence, school in session, all pressing their demands on my time, may apologize for one public expression to you all of my heartfelt thanks for your rare Christmas presents.” She then listed some of the gifts: “a magnificent French clock,” “a vase of bisque,” “an exquisite Madonna,” and “elegant pocket-handkerchiefs,” among others.5

Eddy added that she saw these gifts for their spiritual significance, as signs of gratitude:

If things and thoughts correspond, as we Christian Scientists understand, I can never on paper idealize my gratitude to you one tithe as beautifully as you have given expression to yours. Were the substance of my thoughts sent forth to you in packages, they would be found after the style of the Orient,—”gifts, gold, frankincense and myrrh.”6

Critics would later condemn Eddy for the lists of gifts that appeared in the Journal as evidence of greed. But her correspondence with Colman offers a different perspective. Eddy’s students were grateful for what she taught them, and she was grateful she could give. Further supporting this idea, Colman offered the following account in her reminiscence of Eddy:

I well remember two questions sent up to our Leader in Chickering Hall, written on a slip of papers, which she answered. One was, “Why do you wear purple velvet and diamonds?” Such a look of love came into her face, and she took a piece of her dress and said, “Why do I wear purple velvet? I like purple. Velvet? It is velveteen, twenty-five cents a yard.”

Then she looked at the large diamond on her finger and said, “You call this a diamond, I call it a metaphysical thought. A lady who had been long years bed-ridden, I was able to heal, through God, to arise and walk, and she gave me this out of gratitude and to remember her by.”7

Eddy closed her thank you note in the Journal with heartfelt sentiments. “I should greatly have enjoyed celebrating with you earth’s natal of the Christ idea,” she wrote, “and expressing my gratitude in propria persona for your priceless tokens of regard.”8

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  1. Janet T. Colman to Mary Baker Eddy, 5 January 1885, IC392.50.010.
  2. Janet T. Colman to Mary Baker Eddy, 5 January 1885, IC392.50.010.
  3. Mary Baker Eddy to Janet T. Colman, 8 January 1885, ICL03613.
  4. Mary Baker Eddy to Janet T. Colman, 8 January 1885, ICL03613.
  5. “Card,” Mary Baker G. Eddy, The Christian Science Journal, January 1885, 4.
  6. “Card,” Mary Baker G. Eddy, The Christian Science Journal, January 1885, 4.
  7. “Mrs. Janet Colman’s Reminiscences,” The Mary Baker Eddy Library, 30.
  8. “Card,” Mary Baker G. Eddy, The Christian Science Journal, January 1885, 4.