Friday, March 29, 2013

Ordinary Resurrection

Here is John Donne, in a very Lutheran moment.  It is his 1625 Easter evening sermon at St. Paul's Cathedral, on St. John 5:28-29:
That then which Christ affirmes and avows, is, that he is the Son of God; and that is the first thing, that ever was done in Heaven, The eternall generation of the Son: that by which, he proves this to these men, is, That by him there shall be a resurrection of the body; and that is the last thing that shall be done in Heaven, for after that there is nothing but an even continuance in equall glory.  
Before that saies he, that is before the resurrection of the body, there shall be another resurrection, a spirituall resurrection of the soule from sin; but that shall be by ordinary meanes, by Preaching and Sacraments, and it shall be accomplished every day; but fix not upon that, determin not your thoughts upon that, marvaile not at that, make that no cause of extraordinary wonder, but make it ordinary to you, feele it and finde the effect thereof in your soules, as often as you heare, as often as you receive, and thereby provide for another resurrection: "For the houre is comming in which all that are in the graves shall heare his voice and shal come forth, they that have done good unto the resurrection of life, and they that have done evill unto the resurrection of damnation."
And there it is:  the unique Resurrection of Christ is a token of the general resurrection of the dead -- but no less important is that by preaching and the sacraments, we are made part of a daily spiritual resurrection.

"Ordinary," in Donne's preaching, is a word which comes up often.  Here, he seems to be using it, purposefully, in a double sense.  The daily resurrection of the soul is ordinary, in that God has ordained it, set it in order, to take place on a certain schedule and by certain means.  Like ordinary time, or the ordinary of a diocese.

But he also encourages each of us to make that resurrection "ordinary," in the modern sense of familiar and even routine, because we so frequently participate in the services of the Church, which are God's ordinances.  In a time when the once-yearly Easter communion was still common, at least among the lower classes, Donne is encouraging something more in line with the Reformation vision of frequent church attendance and widespread communion:  Come to church often, hear the sermon and receive the Eucharist.  Do not wait for the end of time, when your soul can have new life today.


Mark C. Christianson said...

OK. That's Donne for another year. ;-)

Actually, I enjoy your John Donne posts. This one was especially interesting.

Paul Barlow said...

I've enjoyed both your Donne posts, and quoted from this sermon in my Easter morning sermon - but I think it was 1625 (I don't think he was a pre-reformation Dean of St. Paul's. Thanks for posting and Happy Easter!