In the Episcopal liturgical calendar, today, March 31, is the commemoration of John Donne (1572-1631), Anglican priest and poet.
Donne’s private meditations, Devotions upon Emergent Occasions, written while he was convalescing from a serious illness, were published in 1624. The most famous of these is undoubtedly Meditation XVII from which the following are excerpted:
- The church is catholic, universal, so are all her actions; all that she does, belongs to all. When she baptizes achild, that action concerns me; for that child is thereby connected to that head which is my head too, and ingraffed into that body, whereof I am a member. And when she buries a man, that action concerns me; all mankind is of one author, and is one volume; when one man dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into a better language; and every chapter must be so translated; God employs several translators; some pieces are translated by age, some by sickness, some by war, some by justice; but God’s hand is in every translation, and his hand shall bind up all our scattered leaves again, for that library where every book shall lie open to one another; as therefore the bell that rings to a sermon, calls not upon the preacher only, but upon the congregation to come; so this bell calls us all: but how much more me, who am brought so near the door by this sickness.
- No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main…. Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.
Wow-the implications of this thought is staggering. It really brings home certain scriptures as well as even some of what the Christian mystics say. Thanks for sharing this piece!
Jay, thanks for your comment. I am glad you like this. Donne beautifully expresses humanity’s interconnectedness and does so within the catholicity of the Church. Donne is representative of the metaphysical poets,
It is interesting to me that when I studied his poems long ago as an undergraduate, I failed to study his sermons which may have been more easily understood at that point in my life. Today, I relish both, and thank God for his faithful servant, John Donne.
All good theology is, it seems, poetic. Thanks for your comment and for reading my blog.