St. Mary's Anglican Catholic Church

Diocese of the Midwest

The English poet & preacher John Donne was born into a Roman Catholic family in 1572; and though his family at times suffered for it, especially after Queen Elizabeth I was excommunicated by Pius V in 1570, Donne eventually conformed to the Church of England. Though well-educated at Oxford, Donne led a rather dissolute youth that brought him to poverty. Donne much preferred the life of an Elizabethan courtier-poet, but King James I basically compelled him to take holy orders in 1615; and he received a doctorate in divinity the same year. After a period of diplomatic service, Donne was appointed Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral, London, in 1620. He was an eloquent preacher, leaving 160 sermons to posterity. Much of his poetry focused on thoroughly human subjects, such a romantic love; but he also devoted his poetic gifts in the praise of the divine. Donne died in 1631; and significant examples of his poetry & prose dwelt upon the subject of death, as is attested by the effigy he designed for his tomb in the cathedral. The following is the conclusion of his sonnet The Corona that celebrates Christ’s Ascension.
Salute the last, and everlasting day,
Joy at the uprising of this Sunne, and Sonne, 
Ye whose just tears, or tribulation 
Have purely washed, or burnt your drossy clay; 
Behold the Highest, parting hence away, 
Lightens the dark clouds, which he treads upon, 
Nor doth he by ascending, show alone, 
But first he, and he first enters the way. 
O strong Ram which hast battered heaven for me, 
Mild lamb, which with thy blood, hast marked the path; 
Bright Torch, which shin'st, that I the way may see, 
Oh, with thy own blood quench thy own just wrath. 
And if the holy Spirit, my Muse did raise, 
Deign at my hands this crown of prayer and praise.


 In the sonnet as a whole, Christ is portrayed as a heroic figure, whose struggles and suffering brought about the salvation of mankind. With the Ascension, Christ made the way into heaven for us; and with His blood, He marks the path we are to follow that we might enter in. Jesus said: I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know. Thomas saith unto him, Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way? Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. (St John 14:2-6)