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Nov 11

Signs, Symbols, and Reality


"…The recently published General Instruction of the Roman Missal makes only one reference to bells, #150 states, "A little before the consecration, when appropriate, a server rings a bell as a signal to the faithful. According to local custom, the server also rings the bell as the priest shows the host and then the chalice." The important words are "When appropriate." I wonder if it is ever appropriate in the restored liturgy. Bell ringing during Mass is an appendix, a leftover that no longer has a purpose."

"…Parishes that still ring bells must do so because they have always rung bells. Bell ringing is a habitual behavior that is easier to continue than to break. Over time the ringing of bells during Mass will disappear. I just hope that we do not wait for a letter from Rome telling us to stop doing something that no longer makes any sense.

"…Another issue that needs a second look is why the celebrant still washes his hands during the offertory. This behavior used to make sense when people brought up produce and animals during the offertory. Now we have nice, clean, antiseptic budget envelopes carried up in a basket. Still the priest is supposed to wash his hands. Why?

I think this priests attitude is indicative of a sad mentality in the Church today. There is a loss of respect and appreciation for symbolism. We are sensate creatures and as such learn through our sense. The mass and the various specific rites are not only times of worship but also catechesis. By not seeing people "buried" in the waters of baptism, many Catholics will not know the full meaning of baptism. By not ringing bells, using incense, kneeling, washing hands, or performing other similar acts, people stop treating the Eucharist with the respect it deserves. In a recent survey of Catholics, more than half did not believe in the True Presence. That's the result of poor catechesis and unwillingness to confront heresy. We can help to resolve both by restoring the mass to its former grandeur.

I whole-heartedly recommend Teaching Truths by Signs and Ceremonies or The Church, Its Rites and Services Explained for the People by Rev. Jas. L. Meagher (1882, New York: Russel Brothers). I'll be posting some more from it someday soon. Read my previous posts about it here:

Signs and Ceremonies
The Real Presence
The Incarnation
The Virgin Mary
The Redemption

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