You would be surprised at how long and complex the rite is for the consecration of a bell. They are “baptized”, as it were, by a bishop. They are washed with holy water, anointed with the Oil of the Sick and Sacred Chrism, filled with smoke from burning thyme (or really thymiama, the recipe for which – equal parts of galbanum, stacte, frankincense and onycha) is, given by God to Moses, is a little hard to make now… but that’s another story), frankincense and myrrh, and then solemnly given a name. Bells move and speak to us. They speak with joy and they call us to joy, prayer and action. They mark the passing of time. They warn us when there is danger. They cry to the heavens when we suffer. They mourn when we mourn. Their silence can be deafening.
The rite of the consecration or “baptism” of a bell speaks to their use. They are intended to thwart the snares of enemies, increase our devotion, avert hail and storm and mitigate the wind, and “lay low the powers of the air”.
“Lay low the powers of the air lay low the powers of the air, so that hearing this bell they may tremble and flee before the standard of the holy cross of Thy Son depicted upon it.”
We want to “flatten the curve”, right? Isn’t that’s what people are saying? “Let’s flatten the curve! Anfractum complanemus!” We want to produce by our human efforts (and non-efforts) a right-skewed bell curve.
Just as we are body and soul together, so too all the stuff of the cosmos is intertwined with the invisible realm, which when we recite the Creed we profess that we believe exists. Great writers have surmised that an angel guides each thing that moves. That’s a lot of angels. Also, Scripture points to the number of fallen angels: a third. That’s a lot of demons, including the greatest of all the angels.
Politicians will do what they do in this time of pandemic, and doctors will do what they do. Should not bishops and priests do what they alone are ordained to do? Rather than acting as if they are representatives of the CDC, the sacerdotes of the Church should wield the mighty spiritual weapons the Church has in her arsenal, crafted and refined from the experience of centuries. We’ve been here before and the Church has her ways of dealing with threats, both spiritual and physical. It is not by chance that virtually all the of the Church’s proposed blessings in the traditional Rituale Romanum ask God for health of both soul and body.
I am not a huge fan of the Archbishop of Chicago. However, I can definitely get aboard one thing that he did (after cancelling all Masses and closing all churches). He asked that the bells of the many churches of the archdiocese be rung to call people to prayer five times a day. HERE
Hmmm… something from a tower sounding to call people to prayer five times a day.
Here’s the list.
- 9 a.m. – Prayer for those infected with the virus and all those who are ill
- 12 p.m. – Prayer for healthcare workers and those attending to the sick
- 3 p.m. – Prayer for first responders and essential workers
- 6 p.m. – Prayer for people of every nation and their leaders
- 9 p.m. – Prayer for those who have died today
Okay, pretty good. If I were a bishop I would have said for 12 Noon and 6 PM, “The Angelus for….” And if we go into Eastertide, “The Regina Caeli for….”
Also, I note that some places will have electronic or recorded bells. A shame, but that’s what happens.
Nevertheless, it is good to use our bells, even recorded bells.
Finally, I’ll repeat…
- Bishops should immediately give all their priests permission publicly to use Title XI, Ch. 3 of the Rituale Romanum.
- Priests should exorcise the entire grounds where they are, and the buildings and, afterwards, bless them with Holy Water and the proper blessings in the Rituale.
- Bishops should pronounce the exorcism in Title XI, Ch. 3 over their entire dioceses. One bishop I heard of went to all the deaneries of the diocese, with the diocesan exorcist, and blessed the whole territory and people under his care.
Now that’s what I’m talkin’ about!
Here are the bells of Notre-Dame in Paris, which had its fire about a year ago.