Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Ring Them Bells

In his profound work, Towards a Renewed Priesthood, Anglican priest Fr. Arthur Middleton writes:

"The Book of Common Prayer requires that every deacon and priest shall say daily and publicly Mattins and Evensong, unless 'let by sickness', when he is to say it with his family. Before saying The Daily Office he must first 'cause' the bell to be tolled, an action more significant than we realize, for it is the carrier of a message to the community at large. Thomas Merton tells us that bells are the voice of our alliance with the God of heaven, reminding us that we are His true temple and calling us to peace with Him within ourselves:
The bells say "We have spoken for centuries from the towers of great Churches. We have spoken to the saints your fathers, in their land. We called them, as we call you to sanctity. What is the word with which we called them?

'We did not merely say, "Be good, come to Church." We did not merely say "Keep the commandments" but above all, "Christ is risen, Christ is risen!" And we said: "Come with us, God is good, salvation is not hard, His love has made it easy!" And this our message, has always been for everyone, for those who came and for those who did not come, for our song is perfect as the Father in heaven is perfect and we pour our charity out upon all.'
Writing of the sacramental quality of church buildings, Solzhenitsyn, in a Russia where the human Christian voice was muted, writes of hearing the stones cry out proclaiming the Word in Christ.
People were always selfinsh and often unkind. But the evening chimes used to ring out, floating over villages, field and woods. Reminding men that they must abandon the trivial concerns of this world and give time and thought to eternity.... Our forefathers put all that was finest in themselves, all their understanding of life into these stones, into these bell-towers.
Three years ago at a conference, a woman asked me whether I rang the bell before worship. O relied that I always do, not only before the Eucharist, but also before the Offices. She had convinced her vicar that ringing the bells was worthwhile and rang it for him every day. She invited me to join with her in the prayer she uses as she rings, 'Lord renew me, renew your Church'. I myself now say these words, as well as the prayer of the Angelus in celebration of the Incarnation (Middleton, pp 49-50)."

Fr. Middleton's book is a treat, indeed, a must-read for LCMS pastors, as we face nearly the same set of problems as sacramental Christians caught in a gnostic culture. Middleton's book is not only for the clergy, but for the laity as well. It is a gem. A hat tip to my colleague, classmate, and fellow Polycarpian, the Rev. Dave Juhl for introducing me to this beautiful meditative work.

1 comment:

Peter said...

Thanks for posting the song . . . it's been a while.