Church of England Diocese of Hereford Billingsley

Thought for the week, 17th April; John Donne's insight

I write this reflection shortly before the funeral of Prince Philip, on Saturday (17th). I suspect I, along with many others throughout the country, will be watching it. I find it hard to ignore the sight of any funeral; a hearse with a coffin always stops me. It of course speaks of my own mortality; it makes me reflect on the Christian hope, that life in Christ never ceases. Death brings us all to the ultimate reality that is God, but along the way it also brings us into contact with shared grief and loss at the ending of a person’s life.

Some four centuries ago, the priest and poet John Donne picked up on some of these themes when he heard the tolling of a funeral bell, for a person unknown to him. I think he felt the same emotion as I do; in the Kingdom of God, we are all involved in mankind.

“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 any manner of thy friends 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.”