O Tower of the Flock

“Lift up your eyes on high, and see”

Having walked by the church a few times during our recent construction, a man came off the street into the church office with a few dollars in his hand. “I’d like to make a donation in support of your bell tower. I’m glad you’re building it. It’s a good thing to do.” Later we received an email from another person who had been pondering the bell tower’s construction. “Why,” he had contemplated, “would anyone build a bell tower these days? It’s so archaic, so out of date and crude in a way. But I just can’t stop thinking about it. It’s a monument of sorts, a visible sign that there is still faith, and hope, and truth in the world.”

Christians have been using bells in churches since fifth-century Byzantium. From calling people to worship, to marking the time of day, to tolling the loss of a loved one, or calling the community together to face an emergency such as fire or foreign invasion, church bells have been an integral part of Christian society for 1500 years. The most beautiful towers in the world are bell towers. Well-made bells do not age or lose their voice. They even work when there is no electricity.

The use of bells is not only practical but spiritual. They are referred to as “singing icons,” for they establish the acoustic space of an Orthodox temple just as painted icons and hymnography define its visual and noetic space. There are church services for blessing a new bell tower, bells, and bell ringers. Bells are weapons for spiritual warfare, and their role in the Christian life is rooted in Numbers 10:1–10: “And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: Make for yourself two silver trumpets, and they shall be for you for the calling of the assembly, when you sound an alarm, if you shall go forth to war, and in the days of your rejoicing.”

The bell tower itself is an icon calling us to “lift up your eyes on high, and see” (Isaiah 40:26) that God is great and “though the Lord is on high, He regards the lowly” (Psalm 138:6). Historically, “the appearance of Church buildings changed nothing essential in the Church, but on the contrary, the building itself acquired a new significance” (Fr. Alexander Schmemann). May the significance of our new bell tower be fulfilled in time with the addition of bells, with an enduring spirit of gratitude for everything God has blessed for us, and may our temple be a “tower of the flock” (Micah 4:8) that He preserves and uses accord ing to His will.

Source: St. Lawrence Orthodox Church




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