Pathways through Lent

Death Be Not Proud

Psalm 27:5–11 1 Corinthians 15:20–28 Wisdom 7:24–8:1 John 5:19–24

John Donne was a great poet. He was also a pastor and visionary Anglican preacher, but first he was a poet, and that is how we remember him. Something of the divine permeated his poetry. His poems, like all good art, allowed limited human beings to grasp something infinite.

His poem Death, Be Not Proud is one of the greatest meditations on death in the English language. You may remember it in the movie Wit, in which Emma Thompson plays an English professor dying of cancer. She recalls being sternly lectured by her mentor on how the last line of Donne’s poem should be punctuated. It should not be, her mentor says,

Death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die but rather death shall be no more, death thou shalt die.

Death should not be followed by a semicolon, Wit says, because it is not “an insuperable barrier.” No—death is but a comma, a pause.

Death is not to be struggled against at all costs. Death, in the end, is powerless.

Next week, through the drama of Jesus’ resurrection we remember that death is a pause on the journey we share together. The pause is real, and it can be painful. In the end, though, what we learn from our faith is that death is just a pause. Death is not the end of the story for us, for those we love.

Death, be not proud.

–Rev. Mike Angell

(Click for a clip from the Movie “Wit” with Emma Thompson, Copyright HBO, 2001)