Wilt thou love God as he thee ? then digest,
My soul, this wholesome meditation,
How God the Spirit, by angels waited on
In heaven, doth make His temple in thy breast.
The Father having begot a Son most blest,
And still begetting—for he ne’er begun—
Hath deign’d to choose thee by adoption,
Co-heir to His glory, and Sabbath’ endless rest.
And as a robb’d man, which by search doth find
His stolen stuff sold, must lose or buy it again,
The Sun of glory came down, and was slain,
Us whom He had made, and Satan stole, to unbind.
‘Twas much, that man was made like God before,
But, that God should be made like man, much more.
Holy Sonnet XV – John Donne
Poetry like this can feel antiquated. The language is confusing and disorienting, but I’m still drawn to it. I think I’m drawn to things like this because it forces me to slow down. It forces me to read carefully, then to reread it. I’m thankful for things in my life that force me to do this because I’m always reminded of how much richness I miss. This poem is beautiful, but it takes work to understand.
I first encountered this poem in one of my favorite seminary classes. We boiled this poem down to a simpler, more understandable idea. It’s a poem about downward mobility. It’s about God humbling himself for us. It’s a Trinitarian poem showing how God the Father, Son, and Spirit, has exhibited this downward mobility for our sake. It’s in the Spirit, served by angels, making His home in us. It’s in the Father who has a Son, making us co-heirs with Him. It’s in the Son, putting on flesh and being slain to unbind us from sin.
Prayer and Reflection
God humbled himself for us and for our benefit. How can we have a heart like that? What can we do to live into that beauty? In what ways can we humble ourselves? I’ll leave you with a prayer. Pray it with me.
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace:
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.
O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
– Peace Prayer of Saint Francis