Prayers and Meditations
Throughout the ages there have been innumerable
examples of secular and non-secular literature that have
inspired people to contemplate their relationship to
their God and their fellow human. This space will serve
to present a changing selection of these varied works of
prose and poetry.
Dag Hammarskjold (1905-1961)
He was the Swedish Secretary General of the United Nations
and was killed in a suspicious plane crash in 1961. He
received the Nobel Peace Prize posthumously for his untiring
efforts for world peace. His book of personal meditations
Markings shows a man of deep personal religious faith.
It is now, in this very moment, that I can and must pay for all
that I have received. The past and its load of debt are
balanced against the present. On the future I have no claim.
Forgiveness is the answer to the child's dream of a miracle
by which what is broken is made whole again, what is soiled
is again made clean. The dream explains why we need to be
forgiven, and why we must forgive. In the presence of God,
nothing stands between him and us - we are forgiven. But we
cannot feel His presence if anything is allowed to stand
between ourselves and others.
In a dream I walked with God through the deep places of
creation; past walls that receded and gates that opened,
through hall after hall of silence, darkness, and refreshment -
the dwelling place of souls acquainted with light and warmth
- until, around me, was an infinity into which we all flowed
together and lived anew, like the rings made by raindrops
falling upon wide expanses of calm dark waters.
"To listen" - in faith - to find one's way and have the feeling
that, under God, one is really finding it again. This is like
playing blindman's bluff: deprived of sight, I have, in
compensation, to sharpen all my senses, to grope my way
and recognize myself and I pass my fingers over the faces of
my friends, and thus find what was mine already and had
been there all the time. What I would have know all the time
was there, had I not blindfolded myself.
Tomorrow we shall meet,
Death and I -
And he shall thrust his sword
Into one who is wide awake.
William Shakespeare (1564-1616)
As one of history's greatest, if not the greatest, playwrights,
Shakespeare's characters portrayed some of life's most
profound questions. One of these was best presented in the
Merchant of Venice
Portia to the merchant Shylock:
" The quality of mercy is not strain'd;
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath; it is twice blest;
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.
'T is mightiest in the mightiest: it becomes
The throned monarch better than his crown;
His sceptre shows the force temporal power,
The attribute to awe and majesty,
Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings;
But mercy is above this sceptred sway;
It is enthroned in the hearts of king,
It is an attribute to God himself;
And earthly power doth then show likest God's
When mercy seasons justice."
John Donne (1571-1631 )
John Donne is considered one of the greatest English
speaking poets. Works written in his later life show a very
deep and trusting relationship with God. Below are excerpts
from some of his most famous works.
Death be not proud, though some have called you
Mighty and dreadful, for, you are not so,
For, those, whom you think, you overthrow,
Die not, poor death, nor yet can you kill me.
From rest and sleep, which but your pictures be,
Much pleasure, then from you, much more must flow,
And soonest our best men do with you go,
Rest of their bones, and souls delivery.
You are slave to Fate, Chance, kings, and desperate men,
And do with poison, war, and sickness dwell,
And poppy, or charms can make us sleep as well,
And better than your stroke; why then do you swell?
One short sleep past, we wake eternally,
And death shall be no more; death, you shall die
Perchance he for whom this bell tolls, may be so ill, that he knows not
it tolls for him; And perchance I think myself so much better than I am,
as that they who are about me, and see my state, may have caused it to
toll for me, and I know not that.
The Church is Catholic, universal, so are all her actions; all that she
does, belongs to all. When she baptizes a child, that action concerns
me for that child is thereby connected to that Head which is my Head
too, and engrafted into that body, whereof I am a member. And when
she buries a man, that action concerns me. All mankind is of one
Author, and is one volume; when man dies, one chapter is not torn out
of the book, but translated into a better language; and every chapter
must be translated -- God employs several translators; some pieces
translated by age, some by sickness, some by war, some justice; but
God's hand is in every translation; and his hand shall bind up all
our scattered leaves again, for that library where every book shall lie
open to one another: therefore the bell that rings to a sermon, calls not
upon the preacher only, but upon the congregation to come; so the
bell calls us all: but how much more me, who am brought so near the
door by this sickness.....
...... The bell doth toll for him that thinks it doth- and though it intermit
again, yet from that minute that occasion wrought upon him, he is
united to God. Who casts not up his eye to the sun when it rises? But
who takes off his eye from a comet when that breaks out? Who bends
not his ear to any bell, which upon any occasion rings? But who can
remove it from that bell, which is passing a piece of himself
out of this world?
No man is an island entire of itself, every man is a piece of the
Continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea
Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well if a manor of
thy friend's or of thine own were; any man's death diminishes me,
because I am involved in mankind; And therefore never send to
know for whom the bells; It tolls for thee.