Notebook

Like the Ore of Bells

There’s a tendency abroad to deprive the Church of her definite article, her capital letter, her personhood. What’s left, the task of ‘constructing church’ is a bit like ‘studying maths’, an exercise in human ingenuity. What a contrast in Gertrud von Le Fort’s Hymns to the Church: ‘Your servants bear ageless ornaments, your language is like bell-metal ore. /Your prayers resemble millennial oaks, your Psalms have the breath of the seas. /Your teaching is like a fastness on unassailable hills. /When you receive vows, they resound to the end of time; when you bless, you build mansions in heaven. /Your consecrations are like great signs of fire on human foreheads, no one can put them out. /The measure of your faithfulness is not the faith of men, the measure of your years encompasses no autumn. /You are like enduring fire above whirling ash! /You are like a tower in the midst of tearing waters! /That is why your silence is deep when days are loud; at eventime they will nonetheless fall upon your mercy. /You are the one who prays upon every tomb! /Where today gardens bloom there’ll be a wilderness tomorrow; where a people dwells at dawn, there is ruin at night. /You are the sole sign on earth of what is eternal; all that is not remoulded by you, is transmuted by death.’