Why Do Catholics…Part 9 – Have Bells During the Liturgy of the Eucharist

sanctus bells                 Ring ring ring!  When my children were very young, I always anxiously anticipated this part of the mass because I knew that at that moment, my children’s attention would be captured by the lovely tinkling sound from the front of the church.  We would whisper to them, “Look!  It’s Jesus!” pointing up at our priest holding up the host.  It was no less impressive when those bells rang again for the consecration of the wine.  But as your children get old enough to appreciate what is happening with the sacrifice of the mass, they might want to know more about why we have bells at mass.liturgy of the eucharist

Biblically – Bells were rung in the Bible as part of Aaron’s priestly vestments both to make a joyful and reverent noise before the Lord and to protect him against evil spirits.  Bells were also used to show adoration of the Lord.

Historically – The ringing of the Sanctus bells does have a historical basis.  The practice began back in the Middle Ages when the mass was spoken in Latin and in lowered voices.  Some of the faithful could not see the altar or priest because of the design of the church.  For these reasons, the bells were rung to inform the congregation that the consecration was taking place.  Oftentimes, the tower bells of the church were rung at the same time as the Sanctus bells so that those who could not attend mass – the ill, infirm, slaves, guards – would know that a holy act was taking place inside the church.  The tower bells are still rung at St. Peter’s Basilica during the consecration of every mass.

Traditionally – Now that the mass is in English and everyone can see the priest at the altar, the practus of ringing the Sanctus bells has become more traditional than necessary.  It has beautifully become an expression of joy, awe, and thanksgiving as we celebrate the Liturgy of the Eucharist.

As additional evidence of the richness of our Catholic faith, do you happen to know why the bells are rung three times in a row?  It is to honor the Trinity of our Lord – one for each of the three Holy persons!

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