Liturgy We Live
By Dr. Gil Haas
Since the fifth century, church bells have called the faithful to worship. Thus, it seemed only logical beginning in the ninth century to construct bell towers next to churches. The influence of church bells instigated an evolution of bell construction. This developed from hammered sheets to form hand-struck bells to casting ever larger bells culminating in the 17.5 ton bell of St. Paul’s Cathedral, London. New bells were blessed with holy water and chrism in a ceremony labeled the bell’s “baptism”. The Eucharistic sanctus bells identify the Sanctus (“Holy, holy, holy...”), the Eucharistic words of institution (“this is my body/blood”), and the celebrant’s communion (which invited the people to communion). Despite an unintelligible Latin mass, the bells’ ringing allowed the congregation to follow the service. Some Episcopalian theologians believe that bells should be rung only at the Great Amen to avoid emphasis of particular elements of the Eucharistic prayer. Due to its solemnity, the sanctus bells are not rung during the triduum sanctum - the three days preceding Easter. Church bells developed significance outside of worship. The Anglican “passing bell” announced a parishioner’s near-death (canon #67 [passed by parliament in 1604]) and dispelled evil spirits.