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Friday
Sep202013

"A Grace of Sense"

 

                     The bells keep on repeating solemn names

                     In choruses and choirs of choruses,
                     Unwilling that mercy should be a mystery
                     Of silence, that any solitude of sense
                     Should give you more than their peculiar chords
                     And reverbations clinging to whisper still.   

                                            Wallace Stevens

 

In the cities and towns of “old Europe,” it is difficult to image life without the persistent sound of church bells.  Even in places where church attendance has dwindled to a handful of the faithful, the bells remain as a public presence, ringing out the hours of prayer throughout the day.  Those who live within earshot know the rhythm of their calling, even if they rarely enter a church to worship.  The bells are as they have been for centuries constant reminders of a spiritual horizon that shapes the days.  Their song bears witness to the divine, even if in ways that often remain hidden beneath the surfaces of life’s triumphs and tragedies. They are, to recall Thomas Merton’s claim, “the voice of our alliance with the God of heaven.”  Wallace Stevens put it in a more circumspect way in his justly celebrated poem, “To an Old Philosopher in Rome”:  their repetition of “solemn names” suggests, according to the poet, that they are “[u]nwilling that mercy should be a mystery of silence.” (. . .)

For the complete article, see Spiritus.  A Journal of Christian Spirituality 13 (2013): 235 - 38.  NOW AVAILABLE.  http://muse.jhu.edu/login?auth=0&type=summary&url=/journals/spiritus/v013/13.2.burrows.html