Meditation 17

I’m in one of my “clean up the office” modes, and when that happens, you never know what I’m going to come across.

The other day it was the text of John Donne’s Meditation 17.

Everyone is familiar with the beginning of the last portion of that meditation: “No man is an island, entire of itself…any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee.” It is one of those short passages many of us memorized decades ago.

I’m not sure I ever read the meditation in its entirety, although a copy of it found its way, seemingly randomly, into a folder in the bottom drawer of my file cabinet. In case I’m the only one for whom that is true, I encourage you to read the meditation in its entirety. (You can find a copy here.)

In the early part of his meditation, Donne links our interconnectedness with our brother and sisters with our relationship to God. He writes

The church is catholic, universal, so are all her actions; all that she does belongs to all. When she baptizes a child, that action concerns me, for that child is thereby connected to that head which is my head too, and ingrafted 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 die, one chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into a better language, and every chapter must be so translated. …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.

Our union with each other is not by virtue of some random force. Rather it proceeds from our being part of, in Christian terms, one Body in Christ. One body held together in the hands of our God.


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