– Br. Michael, ofm
Ding Dong! Ding Dong!
Their chime echoes through the sky!
Ding Dong! Ding Dong!
They carry our prayers to the Most High!
Growing up in rural Saskatchewan, there were two things that caught your attention in town – the bells of the churches or school and the bells of the fire hall. Either of these bells called us to pay attention and more often than not prayers came with them as they rang.
Our church bell always rang five minutes before Mass, for the most part it still does today. While I was growing up, a gentleman by the name of Sam would ring the bells. He would sit in the same spot in the choir loft near the bell chord right at the top of the stairs. Sam had a bright smile and was always welcoming. When he rang the bell, everyone in town knew that the Catholics were up to something. Bells ringing from a church are a powerful witness of where two or more are gathered in the name of Christ, he is present. It is also a great invitation to come and see, come for you are welcome or to pause and offer a prayer.
Here at the Retreat Centre where I minister, we ring bells several times over a retreat weekend. We ring them to call people to prayer, to meals, to presentations and to gather. They echo out across the yard down into the ravine and bounce off the hill. They catch your attention, delighting children and calling retreatants to notice the gift of the sacred they are encountering. They are rung for justice, freedom and peace.
This past summer at my Grandmother’s funeral, as we left the church with her casket, the church bells tolled. Slow, long gongs echoed down the streets as the family gathered to bid farewell. You could feel the vibration of the bells in your body. They were in a way uniting us as a family. As each bell tolled it was a testament to a life well lived, a life rooted in Christ and again invitation to pay attention. The invitation to pay attention was for each of us there to carry forth her legacy.
As we come to this mid point of Advent, with this Rejoicing-Joy Sunday, I have been thinking about the bells. Their different tones and the way they cry out (like John the Baptist) and the different invitations they are on our journey. As we enter this Third Week of Advent, I have also been thinking about bells that ring inviting donations to help those struggling. Another invitation to pay attention; this journey is not done alone we are always in relationship. Sadly, I have also been thinking about the bells which are not ringing out in churches and communities where war is wrecking havoc. This too calls us to pay attention. It is an invitation for us to be the vessels who will restore joy and hope, even in the simplest of ways.
As we enter this Third Week of Advent let us be attentive to the bells we hear.
What are they calling us to pay attention to? What is their invitation?
How are they reminding us of hope and joy as they echo out?
Do you have a bell in your home? Ring it a few times this week – it may even vibrate some joy!
For your listening and heart reflection as we journey in this Third Week of Advent:
Awake! Awake, and Greet the New Morn – Marty Haugen (Brent Holl cover is good)
This lively hymn is about invitation and paying attention. It speaks to our struggles and longings but like a bell chiming calls out with hope.
What are you being awakened to this Advent?
Let the Valleys Be Raised – Dan Schutte
This anthem speaks to the joy and hope that comes with the dawning of the birth of Emmanuel. The lyrics tell the story of John the Baptist. This song like a chorus of bells rings out with promise.
What area of your life is in need of being made smooth?
I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day – various artists have covered this song,
Casting Crowns and Johnny Reid have great versions.
This poem written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in 1863 during the American Civil War, is now a song which may touch our hearts deeply this year and remind us we too are vessels of hope, justice, joy, freedom and peace.
Who do you need to make peace with this season?
Who do you need to offer hope and joy to today?
As this Advent Season enters the midpoint,
may the gifts of bells and paying attention help us to attune to the song of our heart
and may the sounds and songs of the season guide us on the journey
as our God comes to us in unexpected ways.