WHY THE CHIMES RANG
(Adapted from Raymond M. Alden- Re-written by BoSt)
All acts of kindness however minuscule do not escape the notice of Heaven, even though they may go unnoticed here on Earth.
Once upon a time in a far off land there was a magnificent church set on a hilltop. Tall stained glass windows, placed specifically to catch best angles of the sun’s rays, depicted brilliantly executed religious scenes praising God Almighty’s power and extolling the virtues of the saints. Pious carpenters had painstakingly carved magnificent wooden reliefs above and to the sides of the main entrance. The Church’s most prominent feature however was the gray stone tower with ivy growing over it as far up as the eye can see. In the steeple an array of Christmas chimes was housed.
Every Christmas Eve all the inhabitants of the city, re-enacting an old tradition, flocked to this church bringing with them many offerings to the Christ Child. Legends told of a time when, after the greatest and best offering was laid on the altar, there arose above the voices of the choir a beautiful sound, emanating from the top of the tower the most divine music of the Christmas Chimes.
Some claimed it had to be the wind that rang them, while other more pious ones believed in their heart of hearts, and exclaimed loudly so, that it had to be the angels that set the bells swinging to produce that heavenly sound.
Then came a time when, however great the offerings were, the chimes never again created blissful melody. As a result people were saddened, feeling there must be something amiss. Yet many Christmases came and went and no chimes were heard.
It so happened that there was an old man living modestly with his wife Madonna, in a ramshackle hut not far from the notable church. This kind old man recalled a time when his mother had spoken to him of hearing the chimes when she was but a little girl. In her waning years she mourned the fact that people had grown less generous in their hearts with their gifts for the Christ Child. Love and compassion for their fellow man had diminished; pomp and ceremony, hand in hand with greed and ambition taking root instead. As a result, when an offering was made without the purest heart and intentions and it became only a show, it did not move the angels and justly did not merit the music of the chimes. If the old man voiced this mournful insight it unfortunately fell on deaf ears. Everyone dismissed him as a senile old man. When he died some years later his poor old widow Madonna was left to fend for herself in a cruel, cruel world.
In a remote country village a number of miles from the city there lived a boy named Pedro and his little brother Pepito. Their parents had been dead for more than a year and Pedro as the sole provider had done his best to support them. Pepito had overheard so much about the city’s Christmas celebrations that he pleaded and pleaded with his elder brother to take him to the church. Not having the heart to say no, Pedro bundled some dry rations, mainly hard bread, a clump of hard, moldy cheese and some grain, in a cloth then tied its ends and slung it over his shoulder. They set out at dawn, both dressed in several layers to escape the bitter, bone chilling cold and skins of water hung at their waists. The day before Christmas was bitterly cold with frigid temperatures plunging below zero and made worse by thrashing winds that whipped and punished any wayward soul who dared venture outside.
For untold hours the boys trudged to cover the great distance to the city. Huddled together, they walked hand in hand bending their backs to brace themselves against the strong winds. The icy drizzle mercilessly chilled them to the very marrow of their bones. By dusk they were tired, famished and exhausted, almost unable to take another step, yet the lights of the big city now visible just ahead, egged them to soldier on.
Panting, they at long last approached the gates of the city. Fortunately the gates were still wide open, expecting more visitors. As they were about to enter, Pedro spotted something dark on the snow off to the side of the road, and so veered off to take a closer look. It was a poor beggar woman who had obviously suffered a mishap and fallen into the shallow ditch. Stranded, she lay there half-dead, too sick and shivering with cold to rise up or call for help. Rushing over, Pedro helped her to sit up and draped his threadbare coat over her shoulders to bring her some warmth. She looked so pale and had difficulty speaking. He helped her take some tentative sips from his water skin. Then, looking up, he addressed his little brother, “It’s no use, Pepito. I can’t leave her in this condition. You go on ahead to the church.”
“Alone?” cried Pepito in a fearful voice. “No, I can’t. I can’t let you will miss the Christmas Festival.”
“You are brave, just go on by yourself. I’ll be here when you come back. I can’t leave her.” Pedro answered sternly. He looked at her face and smiled encouragingly. “Poor old lady, her face looks like the Madonna in the chapel window.”
“Madonna” the old woman opened her tear stained eyes slightly and smiled at Pedro.
“Go on. I can’t leave her in this state; she will surely freeze to death if nobody stays with her.” Then Pedro reached deep into to his inner pocket and withdrew a treasured object for his little brother to take. Then with the choking sound of disappointment he added: “If you get a chance, little brother, to slip up to the altar without getting in anyone's way, please take this little copper piece of mine and lay it down as our offering when no one is looking. That way it will be the same as me going there. "
Pepito reluctantly left Pedro with a heavy heart. The great church was truly a magnificent place that night. The decorations, lights and glitter, all the displays, riches he’d never seen the like of before simply took his little breath away. A small urchin like himself was virtually invisible amidst the procession as they took their gifts for the Christ Child to the altar.
Some worshipers laid down wonderful jewels; some gave baskets with massive amounts of gold so heavy they could scarcely carry them down the aisle. A famed author laid down his prized work, a book he had, after many years, just completed.
Then the King appeared in all his majesty hoping, like the least petitioner, to win for himself the music of the Christmas chimes. A great murmur rippled through the church as the people witnessed the King taking his priceless golden crown, set with diamonds and rare precious gems, from his head and laying it to gleam on the alter as his offering to the Christ Child.
“Surely, “They intoned in unison, “Surely we shall hear the bells now.” But the chimes did not ring. Not even a whimper was heard. When the gifts were all on the altar, the choir began the closing hymn.
The disappointed crowd grumbling under their breath slowly began to disperse. Suddenly the organist stopped playing, and everyone looked aghast at the old Priest, who was holding up his hand for silence.
When the people strained their ears there came resonating through the air, softly but distinctly, the heavenly music of the chimes in the tower!
The divine music seemed so far away and yet so clear. The notes were so much sweeter than any sound they had ever heard. Melody rising and falling in the sky was so entrancing that the people in the church held their breath and stood perfectly still.
Then they all stood up together and stared at the altar, wanting to see what great gift had awakened these long-silent chimes. But all the nearest of them saw was the figure of Pepito, who had crept softly down the aisle, perfectly unseen and placed Pedro’s little piece of copper on the altar.