On re-reading Good Friday, Riding Westward by John Donne

On re-reading Good Friday, Riding Westward by John Donne

Follow Jesus around in the Gospels and you’ll see a radical embrace of outsiders, evocative and unceasingly rewarding mysteries, a call to deeper water, and you’ll see on the cross evidence of things not seen, true heroism, true love, evidence of the only things you can give your life for without regret.

When we experience ‘the Great Chime and Symphony of nature’ it is natural to feel with Henry Vaughan that ‘prayer is the world in tune,’ that we hear a call and give an irresistible response. When we experience beauty or the sublime- a touching piece of music, a mathematical apprehension of infinity or an overwhelming cliff- it is natural to believe in God and be moved toward what Aristotle called the prime or unmoved mover. When we experience doubt, it should be like wind to a tree- it should encourage roots and growth.

That push and pull movement when we draw closer to God and then, and sometimes simultaneously, misdirect our souls is expressed in Donne’s divine poem. I heartily ask you to read the poem and a paraphrase of the narrator, a shadow of himself, struggling to turn to the sun doesn’t even come close to cutting how Donne has expressed the psychology of the Passion. Donne wrote that memory is salvation, and the turn in his poem is a recollection, a voice that harmonizes with all the other voices puts them back into key for the first time.


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