.Bells at Mass -by Paul Turner
When a priest shows the consecrated bread and the chalice to the people, the server may ring a bell or the server may not ring a bell. It's an option. Some Catholic communities exercise it; others do not.
Bells have harmonized with church life since the sixth century, when they first summoned worshipers to church before the invention of beeping wristwatches.
In the early 13th century, the faithful were going to communion so infrequently that the church had to require it once a year. When they attended Mass, the faithful wanted to see the host. The priest, presiding with his back to the people, lifted the host during the recitation of the words of Jesus at the Last Supper so that the faithful who would not receive it could adore it. During the same century, the server started ringing the bell to let the people know the elevation had come.
Today when the priest shows the consecrated bread and cup to the people, the ringing of the bell is optional.
We approach the eucharistic prayer differently today than we did in the 13th century. The differences are spiritual, practical, and theological.
First, at that time people came to Mass primarily for adoration, not for eucharistic communion. So the elevation of the host and chalice became the central feature of Sunday worship. Today we emphasize the importance of every one's participation in the Eucharist. Next, people faced a practical problem. They could not physically see what they had come to adore unless the priest held it aloft. Some parishes put a dark colored cloth behind the altar so people could see the host more clearly during the elevation. The bells drew people's attention to actions, which otherwise excluded them.
Today we pay attention to the entire eucharistic prayer. Finally, we have a more expansive theology of the eucharistic prayer today. We focus less on the "moment of consecration" and more on the consecratory power of the entire eucharistic prayer, from preface dialogue to amen.
Consequently, the bells during the eucharistic prayer no longer serve the purpose they did when they were introduced. They are permitted, but an assembly, which prays attentively at Mass, will not need them.
COMMENTS SENT BY E MAIL
The bells give the false notion to some
that what is happening at that moment
in Mass is the most important moment of
the Mass. It takes away from realizing
that the entire eucharistic celebration
is transformative, and it is more than
the bread and wine that is being
changed into the Body and Blood of
I like the bells. I used to use them
as a teaching tool for my children.
When you hear the bells, be attentive
to the most sacred part of the Mass.
Now I use it for my grandchildren, who
don't get taken to Mass on a regular
basis. I'm big on tradition, and
besides - Father liked them.
I like the use of bells at mass -- it
signifies the blending of the "old"
with the "new" aspects of mass.
I love the bells!!!!Iwantmy BELLS!!!!!
The bells are part of my childhood. My
catholic tradition. My past!
I find the bells to be a distraction,
at a time in the celebration of the
Eucharist that to me is a time for
adoration of Christ. I can live
without the bells.
Short bells are fine, but prolonged
they can be a distraction.
I like the bells very much. When I hear
the bells for me that is the most quite
time of the Mass and that is I say that
special prayer the one I want God to
hear most clearly.
I think that the bells should be used
sparingly - only for solemn feasts such
as Christmas and especially at Easter.
I find the bells to be a distraction
and would have no problem if they were
not used at daily, including Sunday,
The bells signify "tradition". Over
the past 20+ years or so, Mass has
changed so much, it's heartwarming to
still hear the bells during Mass. It
reminds me of my childhood and gives
some level of comfort that some
traditions don't change.....Keep the
I like the bells. They announce that
something very special and holy is
taking place. They bring everyone's
attention, even young children, staight
to the altar and the mystery of God.