The Bell Tolls

On Sunday morning as a crisp, autumnal breeze blew over me, lightly tossing my hair about, I listened to the bells ring from the nearby Presbyterian church. I closed my eyes, wrapped up in something profoundly spiritual. The descending tones felt sudden, like an angel dropping down from heaven to announce the good news. Finally, the dark world hears of it’s Redeemer. Joy, elation, wonderment at the divine which so graciously touched the earth! My heart stirred and I clutched my arms to my chest. Then the feeling came, of deep sadness, longing and exile.

I remembered the church of St. Mark’s in Peoria, it’s beautiful steps and red-brick spires, the cross lifted high into the sky. Its bells always rang before Sunday Mass, stridently and boldly singing out the Word of God, calling me, hurrying me, welcoming me. As a college student, I rushed from some other activity to the church’s hallowed, arched doorway. In Alsip, I sat inside the modern and barren-looking church of St Terrence, hearing the bells twinkle, waiting for Mass to begin. I’d glance over my shoulder, searching for the priest. Any minute now, the Lord Jesus would greet us and the Holy Sacrifice begin! At the bells’ summons, I’d leave everything behind and go. My spirit shrank away and withered, missing so greatly this brassy, sensuous call, this voice from heaven. From my innards, a cry rang out, a groaning, a stretching towards those higher realms.

Where was I that the bells did not ring? Was not the same Holy Sacrifice that visited Peoria and Alsip happening at my own parish at this very hour? The Presbyterians had no sacrifice yet they had the call. They took whatever good, beautiful and noble thing lie in their tradition and used it. Simple, humble, unafraid. Where we but huddled in our pews, our silent bell-tower too timid to proclaim God. There is indeed no place like home, no place like heaven and no better thing then our own senses to remind us where we will, at last, belong.

By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion.”

– Psalm 137:1

R 6 St. Mark's spire

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