martes, 7 de junio de 2016

The Charming Chiming of the Bells

Dear Pastor Al:

When I visit different parishes, sometimes I hear bells being rung at Mass-especially the consecration- and sometimes not. Why is this?
-Not a Ding-a-ling


Bells have a glorious and noble function in our churches. They call us to gather for prayer, they toll our grief at the death of a loved one, they add wild joy the singing of the Gloria during the Triduum. They help us make a joyful noise to the Lord, and they have been used in worship for thousands of years. Bells are a musical expression of a wide range of experiences in our life of faith.

The use of a small "Sanctus" bell at Mass developed for practical reasons-in an enormous church, it was difficult, if not impossible, to hear and see the priest. The sound of a bell carries remarkably well, and solved the problem of people not knowing what was going on at the altar during the consecration of the bread and wine.

Beginning in the Middle Ages, church tower bells, used during the Eucharistic Prayer, functioned as a way of alerting people outside to what was happening in the church. Giant bells rang out across the countryside, signaling the moment of consecration to people passing by and in the surrounding fields and buildings.
The reception of Communion was becoming less and less common, so this was a way for people to be part of the life of the church, though in a very remote and impersonal way. Churches dating from this period often have "sighting holes," or mirrors, that were used by bell-ringers to monitor the celebration of the Mass from bell towers so that the bells could be rung at the proper time. This isn´t exactly the way we are called to participate in the Eucharistic today. Bells aren´t needed to draw our attention to something so central to our lives as Catholics, prayed in our vernacular language, and happening right in front of us!

We all have an active part in the Eucharistic Prayer, and we should be praying and participating throughout. We join our prayer of thanks and praise together, and we take an active part in the preface Dialogue responses ("The Lord be with you...") and three acclamations of the prayer: the Holy, Holy, the Memorial Acclamation, and the Great Amen. With this much engagement in a prayer that lasts just minutes, our attention shouldn't wander enough that we need to be called back to the prayer by the sound of bells.

So, while the ringing of bells during the Eucharistic Prayer is allowed, perhaps another use of our time and energy would be to help people understand their active role throughout the prayer. We can form people in the understanding that the whole Mass is a high moment of the connection between God and humanity, and that every single one of us should be celebrated as the presence of Christ gathered in the Holy Spirit!

God bless you and God love you.
-Pastor Al

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