Daily Reflection 6th May

For whom the bell tolls

Jane Bowen from St. Mary’s Conwy brings us today’s reflection, based on the famous poem from which this title is taken. From my years of working in Liverpool Cathedral, with its heaviest and highest peal of bells in the world, I cannot but be reminded of the sonorous depth of sound its biggest bell makes: ‘Great George’ (which at 14.5 tons is bigger than Big Ben and second only to that of St. Paul’s in London). The tolling of that bell for a funeral, would echo across the city – whether that was in honour of one of its more famous sons and daughters, a member of congregation or a local resident. It would stop people in their tracks and in some way ‘join us together’ as the community had loved and lost.

Jane develops this beautifully, locally and for what we are experiencing now.

Liverpool Cathedral BellsBells of Liverpool Cathedral

by Reverend Eryl Parry

Wrth gwrs, os cyflawni gofynion y Gyfraith frenhinol yr ydych, yn unol â’r Ysgrythur, “Câr dy gymydog fel ti dy hun”, yr ydych yn gwneud yn ardderchog.

Iago 2: 8

You do well if you really fulfil the royal law according to scripture, “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.”

James 2: 8

Jane Bowen writes:

The famous poet John Donne (1572-1631) was also a priest and became Dean of St. Paul’s Cathedral. Donne was charismatic, innovative and eloquent. His elaborate metaphors, religious symbolism and flair for drama established him as a great preacher. He was also obsessed with death and wrote frequently on the subject.

This well-known passage of his was delivered to me by a book club member who has been sending out short stories, poems and observations each week. I was so taken with it and its current relevance that I wanted to share it:

“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 as 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 bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.”

from Meditation XVII

The plague was a recurring problem in Donne’s time and his observations resonate with our current situation. Bombarded every day with numbers and impersonal graphs, we could forget that every death from COVID-19 ‘diminishes me’. Whether or not they were known to us, died in the UK or another country, each person lost is like a clod (piece of earth) washed away from the same continent. All wound our one human family so that when we hear their funeral bell, it is not for a stranger.

With so much tragedy and anxiety around us, it is well to reflect on the importance, not only of our close relationships, but also how much we are all ‘involved in mankind’ and in this together: called to love our neighbour.


Dduw grasol,
amgylchyna ni a phawb sy’n galaru y dydd hwn
â’th dosturi gwastadol.
Na ad i alar lethu dy blant
na’u troi yn d’erbyn.
Pan fo galar fel pe bai’n ddiderfyn,
tywys hwy fesul cam ar hyd dy ffordd di,
ffordd marwolaeth ac atgyfodiad
yn Iesu Grist ein Harglwydd. Amen.      


Gracious God,
surround us and all who mourn this day
with your continuing compassion.
Do not let grief overwhelm your children,
or turn them against you.
When grief seems never-ending,
take them one step at a time
along your road of death and resurrection
in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

© Church in Wales 2008

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