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St Matthews Church Oxhey Hertfordshire

Fr. David's sermon


25th March 2005

Fr David Shepherd

Good Friday

Today, Good Friday is also Lady Day, the Feast of the Annunciation. The Church calendar doesn't allow this; you can't have a fast and feast on the same day, so Lady Day is transferred to 4th April. 'So what?' you might be wondering. We no longer get very excited about such concurrences in the way our ancestors did. The concurrence of Good Friday & Lady Day is actually rare. It only happened thrice in the C20th (1910, 1921 & 1932) and will only happen twice in the C21st (2005 &2016) After that it won't happen again for over a century.

I half remembered that the Anglican priest and poet John Donne had written a poem about it. A Google search duly came up with the title & text. I've included a hyperlink for you at the end of this page, as it is not the easiest of works. I had to read it over several times to get the sense of it.

In the poem John Donne addresses his own soul, encouraging her to reflect on the deeper meaning of 'the annunciation and the Passion'. He meditates on the totality of the story of Christ, of Christ coming and going on the same day. He ponders Mary's experience as the mother of Christ, 'at almost fifty and scarce fifteen; at once a son is promised to her and gone.' He brings out the unity of the gospel story. Just as east is really west on a map of the world, so annunciation and passion form one circle. John Donne praises the Church, as close a guide to God as the nearest star is to the pole, for giving us the 'all' of our faith on one day.

However what struck me most is Donne's perception that the by letting these two days join the church shows us that 'death and conception in mankind is one'. That seems to give a proper perspective on life. Our lives are embraced, encircled by God. No doubt it is a perception of the middle years that I find myself reflecting that the very old were once very young and that the very young will one day be very old but that I will know neither the youth of the aged or the old age of the young.

Not all lives are so neat. Sometimes lives are cut tragically short they seem incomplete. This seemed true of Jesus' death on the cross - witnessed by his mother. This poem as our faith, tells how from God's view point all lives are complete, rounded in him from conception to death, from Ave to consummatum est. When St John contemplated the cross of Christ those words of Jesus, in Latin 'consummatum est', in English 'it is complete, finished' came to him. John Donne's poem reflects the fact that by the cross of Christ our broken lives are finished and made complete. Jesus' resurrection is the seal upon this. Herein is hope.

I commend John Donne's poem to you for your reflection.

Amen

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