Friday, March 30, 2007

JOHN DONNE- Priest, Poet, and Preacher

Today [Tomorrow] is the feast day of John Donne.

From the Lectionary:

"All mankind is one volume. When one man dies, one chapter is torn out of the book and 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 shall bind up all our scattered leaves again for that library where every book shall lie open to another."

In light of the previous discussion here about the Alpha Series and in light of the fact that I am a retired librarian, you can guess that these words of Donne speak to my heart.

I like this from James Kiefer:

...he saw in his wife Anne (as Dante had earlier seen in Beatrice) a glimpse of the glory of God, and in human love a revelation of the nature of Divine Love. His poetry, mostly written before his ordination, includes poems both sacred and secular, full of wit, puns, paradoxes, and obscure allusions at whose meanings we can sometimes only guess, presenting amorous experience in religious terms and devotional experience in erotic terms, so that I have seen one poem of his both in a manual of devotion and in a pornography collection.

Reminds me of "Song of Songs".

Of course, I can't leave off without this quote from Donne, which is also pertinant to the Alpha discussion:

No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promentory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were. Any man's death dimishes me because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.

The entire "Meditation 17" which includes the above quote is well worth reading at the Lectionary site. In the Bible readings appointed for the day, I find, once again, the beautiful words from the "Book of Wisdom":

For wisdom is more mobile than any motion;
because of her pureness she pervades and penetrates all things.
For she is a breath of the power of God,
and a pure emanation of the glory of the Almighty;
therefore nothing defiled gains entrance into her.
For she is a reflection of eternal light,
a spotless mirror of the working of God,
and an image of his goodness.
Although she is but one, she can do all things,
and while remaining in herself, she renews all things;
in every generation she passes into holy souls
and makes them friends of God, and prophets;
for God loves nothing so much as the person who lives with wisdom.

What a feast of words for the feast of the day!


Almighty God, the root and fountain of all being: Open our eyes to see, with your servant John Donne, that whatever has any being is a mirror in which we may behold you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

UPDATE: Julie+ in the comments tells me that I have jumped a week ahead in the celebration of John Donne's feast day. She is absolutely correct.

But I needed John Donne today, and God knew that. "The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit." John 3:8

What are calendars to the Spirit?

And didn't I ever get the jump on everyone? Ha!

UPDATE 2: I leave you with John Donne once again on the day before the proper day of his feast, as I head off for New Orleans. Au revoir.


  1. um...not to be persnickety or anything, but Donne's feast day is actually 31 March. (However, since I have to preach that day, it's clear to me that you read my mind and posted this to give me a headstart on sermon prep, for which I thank you :-)

  2. Julie, thanks for the correction. God has his purposes of which we know nothing. I did an update.

    In the meantime I ignored Oscar Romero, another favorite of mine. I might have to do another post.

  3. "...he saw in his wife Anne (as Dante had earlier seen in Beatrice) a glimpse of the glory of God, and in human love a revelation of the nature of Divine Love." And you know, I see this very thing in my own priest, Anne+, EVERY time I receive Eucharist from her hand and I look up into her eyes and there He is...I know it sounds so simplistic but it's true...everything else falls away at that moment and only He IS. Have you ever had that happen? A 'God-sighting' in your own priest?

  4. Catherine, I have not seen Jesus in my priests, but I have seen him in others. We are to see him in everyone we meet, but I confess that I do not.

    I have seen him in the one-legged, one-eyed man who waits outside of our parish hall after church. Someone carries him a plate of whatever we have for "coffee". Sometimes it's just cookies, and sometimes it's a feast.

    I have seen him in a pregnant woman whose car had stopped and she had no money for gas and came into the parish hall during our Bible study.

    By the way, my rector is a kind man with a true shepherd's heart, so it says nothing against him that I don't have that experience with him.


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