Reading the Cathedral, Part 2: The Bell Tower
From all over town, one can see the bell tower of the Cathedral. This is a constant reminder of the presence of God among us in His Church and in the church building. More than this, a bell tower, and the bells within, are visible and audible calls to prayer: they remind us that we are free to pray, that we can come to the Church for grace and for the celebration of the sacraments, and that we can find the Lord in this holy place. There are in fact countries in this world that outlaw such towers and bells, and this is always in places of persecution for Christians. But, thanks be to God, we live in a place where we can still gather freely for prayer, whether in private or publicly. All of this is encapsulated in the single symbol of the bell tower.
There is still more, however. A bell, in Catholic tradition, is a powerful sacramental. When it is consecrated, it is washed with water, given a name, anointed with oil, and wafted with incense, just as if it were being baptized, confirmed, and offered in sacrifice, if you will. There is a unique blessing for the water used to sprinkle the bell, and this blessing offers insight into what the bells of a church are meant to do. The prayer asks that there may be kept far away from wheresoever this bell may sound, the power of those lying in wait, the shadow of specters, the ravages of whirlwinds, the stroke of lightning, the damage of thunder, the disaster of tempests, and every breath of storm; and when the sons of Christians shall hear its ringing, may their devotion increase, so that hastening to the bosom of their loving mother the Church, they may sing to Thee, in the Church of the Saints, a new canticle, bringing therein to play the proud sounding of the trumpet, the melody of the harp, the sweetness of the organ, the joyous exultation of the drum, and the rejoicing of the cymbal; and so, in the holy temple of Thy glory by their service and their prayers, may they bid come the multitude of the angelic hosts.
Whenever you hear the bells of the Cathedral, then, remember these things! Their very sound is meant to drive away demons and keep us safe in storms. The resonant peals are calls from heaven to the children of God, and they cry out “come to worship the Lord!” May our voices join with the bells in a triumphant chorus of praise to our God.
This week’s FORMED.org recommendation: Say YES to Christ by Scott Hahn