Christ's Faithful People
|SPACE enclosed within the walls of a church reminds us
of God. It has been made over to him as his own possession and is filled with his
presence. Walled round, vaulted over, shut off from the world, it is turned inward toward
the God who hides himself in mystery.
But what of space unenclosed, that vast expanse that stretches over the level earth on all sides, boundless, high above the highest hills, filling the deepest valleys which those hills encircle? Has it no connection with things holy?
It has indeed, and the symbol of this connection is the steeple with its bells.
The steeple is an integral part of God's house, and rises out of it up into the free air, and takes possession of all wide space in God's name. And the heavy bronze bells in the belfrey tower, so beautifully molded, swing about their shaft and send out peal on peal in waves of good loud sound. High and quick, or full- toned and measured, or roaring deep and slow, they pour out a flood of sound that fills the air with news of the Kingdom.
News from afar, news of the infinitely limitless God, news of mall's bottomless desire, and of its inexhaustible fulfilment.
The bells are a summons to those "men of desire" whose hearts are open to far-off things.
The sound of bells stirs in us the feeling of distance. When they clang out from a steeple rising above a wide plain and their sound is carried to every point of the compass, and on and on to the hazy blue horizon, our wishes follow them as long as they are audible, until it comes home to us that there is no satisfaction of desire in far distant hopes, or indeed in anything outside ourselves.
Or, when the pealing bells of a mountain-built church flood the valley with their clamor or send the sound straight up to the zenith, the listener, straining to follow, feels his heart expand beyond its usual narrow limits.
Or again, the bell tones in some green glimmering forest may reach us faintly, as from a great distance, too far off to tell from where, and old memories stir, and we strive to catch the sounds and to remember what it is they remind us of.
At such moments we have a perception of the meaning of space. We feel the pull of height, and stretch our wings and try to respond to infinitude.
The bells remind us of the world's immensity and man's still more immeasurable desires, and that only in the infinite God we can find our peace.
O Lord, this my soul is wider than the world, its longing from depths deeper than any valley, the pain of desire is more troubling than the faint lost bell notes. Only thyself canst fill so vast an emptiness.