Pathways through Lent, Uncategorized

Maundy Thursday

A Hymn to God the Father

Wilt thou forgive that sin where I begun,

Which was my sin, though it were done before?

Wilt thou forgive that sin, through which I run,

And do run still, though still I do deplore?

When thou hast done, thou hast not done,

For I have more.

Wilt thou forgive that sin which I have won

Others to sin, and made my sin their door?

Wilt thou forgive that sin which I did shun

A year or two, but wallow’d in, a score?

When thou hast done, thou hast not done,

For I have more.

I have a sin of fear, that when I have spun

My last thread, I shall perish on the shore;

But swear by thyself, that at my death thy Son

Shall shine as he shines now, and heretofore;

And, having done that, thou hast done;

I fear no more.

John Donne

Every year, the Episcopal Church celebrates John Donne, Anglican priest, preacher, poet. His work is essential to any English class syllabus, but it was not always so. Donne’s remarkable poetry fell far from favor and was condemned as “inept and crude” until 20th-century greats like T.S. Eliot and William Butler Yeats championed it. What did they understand that for centuries others had not? That one could be elected dean of St. Paul’s Cathedral, London, become a celebrated cleric (he preached before the king at court) and yet continue to nurture the imagination and artistry of a great poet—one with sharp wit, to boot.

We Episcopalians reawaken our relationship to John Donne during Lent. One of his poems, “A Hymn to God the Father,” was set to music and today is the first hymn—Hymn 140—in the Lent section of the Episcopal hymnal. Think of that placement as assigning Donne as our guide for a 40-day period of self-examination and contemplation. He’s not one to avoid hard truths, yet few can best the way he conveys confidence and delight in God’s unconditional love, often with a glint in his eye. Hymn 140 is such an example. Donne wrote the poem when he was about 50 and seriously ill. John Hilton, his contemporary, set it to music. (Note too the pun on “done”—how Donne pronounced his last name!)


Appointed readings for today: Exodus 12:1-14, Psalm 116:1, 10-17, John 13:1-17, 31-35


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