Yesterday (31st March) was the day in the church calendar when we commemorate John Donne, priest, poet and former Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral in London from 1621-31. The following is probably his most famous passage, contained within a book of meditations named Devotions upon Emergent Occasions which he wrote in 1624 after recovering from serious illness. Clearly his own fragile state of health led to some very serious thinking on his part about life and mortality, and the fact that death is the one ultimate certainty for us all.
Meditation XVII by The Very Reverend John Donne
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 promontory were. As well as if a manor of thy friend's Or of thine own were: 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.
We are now in a time of emergent occasions of our own. In this season of isolation we are required by law to remain locked down in our own houses in order to restrict the spread of a pandemic virus. We may currently feel that we are marooned on our own ‘island’ (of home, and garden if we are lucky), especially if we live alone. And yet, Donne reminds us that we are part of a larger picture, and this reminder has never been more welcome. We are divinely designed to be part of an interconnected network of family and friends in community. Many of us are now contacting loved ones electronically, by telephone or by letter in a way which we perhaps hadn’t done regularly in years, and this is an unexpected blessing. I don’t believe for one moment that God has sent this virus upon our world but God is certainly able to make good come out of it in most unexpected ways. We are in touch with our friends and family. We are re-discovering the power of community in this shared experience. We find comfort in the knowledge that we belong to our church, our village or town. We are finally remembering that we have a shared humanity, and in our global community, we are discovering that what affects our brothers and sisters elsewhere in the world is also our own concern. May this motivate us to take more action in the future and not simply ignore what happens on the other side of the street or on the other side of the world.
Sarah Bourne – 1st April 2020 email@example.com