Ha Jolly Ha

Friday, September 21, 2007

The Ring of Truth

"Laudo Deum verum plebem voco congrego clerum Defunctos ploro, nimbum fugo, festa decoro."
"I praise the true God, I call the people, I assemble the clergy; I bewail the dead, I dispense storm clouds, I do honour to feasts."
The Golden Legend

One of the great deficiencies modern churches suffer is the absence of bell towers with blessed bells. Where a bell tower exists, a rarity indeed, it is often occupied by a speaker which broadcasts recorded hymns or bell sounds. A little inquiry into history and tradition reveals the poverty of such a substitution, for pealing music was not the only, nor the most significant, merit church bells boasted in days of yore. For, church bells are sacramentals, one means of spiritual assistance and material succor which the Church mercifully offers the faithful: "The effects of the sacramentals are to free us from spiritual, bodily, and temporal evils, and bring us spiritual, bodily, and temporal advantages. They heal suffering and wrong, dispel trouble of mind, moderate the passions, temper temptations, save us from barrenness, drought, storms, and devilish plagues, and send us growth, fruitfulness, and bodily strength."GTCC

During the Middle Ages, bells emerged as a common feature of church architecture: "The great development in the use of bells may be identified with the eighth century. It was then, seemingly, that they began to be regarded as an essential part of the equipment of every church, and also that the practice of blessing them by a special form of consecration became generally prevalent."CE The ritual of blessing is popularly known as "baptism of bells," a title, noxious to Protestants, and provoking an inordinate fuss since the 16th century. It persisted unofficially nonetheless, revealing the noteworthy reverence and weight which the faithful commonly attached to the benediction of bells. Here is the a description of the venerable rite taken from the Catholic Encyclopedia:

"The bishop in white vestments first recites seven psalms with his attendant clergy to implore the Divine assistance. The he mixes salt with water, reciting prayers of exorcism analogous to those always used in the preparation of holy water, but making special reference to the bell and to the evil influences of the air--the phantoms, the storms, the lightning--which threaten the peace of devout Christians who come to the church to sing the praises of God. Then the bishop and his attendants 'wash' (lavant) the bell inside and out with the water thus prepared and dry it with towels, the psalm "Laudate Dominum de coelis" and five others of similar import being sung meanwhile."

In other words, the blessing beseeches God to invest the bell with a holy power, that its ringing may drive away evil, both physical and spiritual, and inspire devotion in the hearts of the faithful.

"These are followed by various unctions, those on the outside of the bell being made with the oil of the sick in seven places, and those on the inside with chrism in four places. In the accompanying prayers mention is made of the silver trumpets of the Old Law and of the fall of the walls of Jericho, while protection is asked once more against the powers of the air, and the faithful are encouraged to take refuge under the sign of the Holy Cross."

These anointings signify the bell's purpose - to declare, far and wide, the glory of the Cross and recall the faithful to the sacraments.

"Finally, the thurible with incense (thymiama) and myrrh are placed under the bell so that the smoke arising may fill its cavity. Then another prayer is said of similar purport to the last, and the ceremony ends with the reading of the passage in the Gospel concerning Martha and Mary."

A blessed bell calls the faithful into the presence of the Lord. It should inspire eagerness for the spiritual life, recalling Mary, who set aside temporal concerns and sat at the Saviour's feet, hungry for His word.

There is a certain disposition absolutely essential in the spiritual life; you must acknowledge your need for God and accept His assistance. One may cultivate that disposition through an appreciation and fervent use of the spiritual aids provided by Holy Mother Church. In short, bring back the Bells please.

Catholic Encylopedia

The Glories and Triumphs of the Catholic Church


Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home