Why bring back the bells at the consecration? For most, but not all, the return of the bells during the Mass at the consecration is a welcomed addition. I would like to share with you my thinking as it pertains to this and the reason I have chosen to introduce the ringing of the bells within this faith community.
First, let us reference the Church’s teaching: The General Instruction of the Roman Missal refers to bell ringing in No. 150: “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.” This official text of the Church makes it clear that ringing a bell at the consecration is an option, not an obligation.
Now, let me share with you why I think it is appropriate to include the bells within our Sunday liturgies. There are three primary motivations on my part for this addition. I present them in no particular order.
I am often told that people have trouble staying focused during the Mass and I believe this introduction of sound will help gather our wandering minds back to the mystery being celebrated. In reading a biography of St. Elizabeth of Hungary, I was moved to learn that she loved hearing the bells at Mass because her life was so hectic that she could not maintain focus during the Mass and the bells drew her back from the worries of life to the glory of our Lord.
I know many of us can relate to that.
Research continually shows that those Catholics who do not attend Mass in accord with the precepts of the Church no longer believe in the true presence of our Lord in the Eucharist. Correspondingly, as a society, we are living in an age when people are enthralled by audiovisual means of learning (and less attentive to the abstract and/or silence). I feel that by calling special attention to the consecration we can regather everyone’s attention and help highlight and teach the truth of the True Presence of our Lord.
We have a strong group of parents who is attempting to teach the Mass to their children. This is most evident each third Saturday of the month when we gather for our spirited babies and young children Mass. The more engaged we make these very young Catholics the more they will learn about the Mass. Hopefully, that knowledge of the Mass and of our Lord will lead to a lifelong Love relationship with our God.
Whereas I do fully acknowledge that the historical and practical reasons for ringing the bells have all but disappeared, I believe it serves a purpose as an extra aid to call attention to the moment of the consecration, as a jolt to reawaken wandering minds, and as a useful catechetical tool for children and adults alike.
Remember, the ringing of the bells alerts the congregation to the calling down of the Holy Spirit and prepares them for the consecration that immediately follows. The bells are rung at the time of the epiklesis in the Eucharistic Prayer. At this point, the priest joins his hands and places them over the bread and wine to be consecrated. He prays for the Holy Spirit to come down upon the gifts so that they may become the Body and Blood of our Lord. After the priest says the words of consecration, he elevates the Sacred Host or the chalice of Precious Blood. The ringing of the bells at each elevation alerts the faithful that transubstantiation has taken place and that the Body and Blood of our Lord are truly present on the altar.
Information was gathered from http://www.ewtn.com/library/liturgy/zlitur94.htm and from Straight Answers By Fr. William Saunders http://www.catholicherald.com/News/Why_the_Bell_Tolls/