Sunday, July 12, 2009

The bells, the bells

St Patrick's Bell Shrine
St Senan's bell

Tea at Trianon has an interesting article on Irish bells:


The Irish for a bell is cloc, clocc, or clog, akin to the English clock. The diminutive form cluccene is used to denote a small bell, called also lam-chlog, 'hand-bell. St. Patrick and his disciples constantly used consecrated bells in their ministrations. How numerous they were in Patrick's time we may understand from the fact, that whenever he left one of his disciples in charge of a church, he gave him a bell: and it is recorded that on the churches of one province alone - Connaught - he bestowed fifty. To supply these he had in his household three smiths, whose chief occupation was to make bells. The most ancient Irish bells were quadrangular in shape, with rounded corners, and made of iron: facts which we know both from the ecclesiastical literature, and from the specimens that are still preserved....

I like the use of handbells during Mass, we use them as normal in England at the epiclesis, elevation and priests communion, and we ring the tower bell at the elevation too. I keep thinking we should ring bells at the Sanctus in the Ordinary Form as in the Extraordinary Form.


I remember being told that before the Reformation in England tower bells were rung during the proclmation of the Gospel on solemn occassions. If this were so it would fit in well with the idea of the bell as being "the voice" that comes from on high saying, "This is my Son...".


One of my predecessors used to take Viaticum to the local sick preceded by a boy with bell and candle, a custom I am inclined to revive one day. I think it is still the norm, isn't it?




I have always wondered whether the ringing of the bell in ancient excommunication rites -bell, book and candle- was connected a sign of divine approval for excommunication -loosing in heaven as on earth- or was about ringing the death knell for the excommuicated. I suspect this has some connection with St Patrick's numerous bells.


11 comments:

elena maria vidal said...

Thank you for the link, Father, and for your additional reflections on the matter.

gemoftheocean said...

Not to mention bells being "baptized."

Anonymous said...

Yes Father in Italy it was, may still be custom, that a Priest who had the Blessed Sacrament would have an boy holding a candle for him
Beautiful
Scott

Andrew, York said...

Father, the medieval sources for England strongly suggest that the tower bell was, indeed, rung at the elevation. Moreover, many bishops offered indulgences to those workers in the field who, being unable to attend Mass, knelt down upon hearing the bell. Indulgences could also be gained by praying at a new bell's first sound. Bells were so important that bishops rather than parish priests performed the blessing and 'baptism', or naming, of tower bells, even in parish churches.

gemoftheocean said...

A friend of mine is high church Episcopalian. I went to her once when her youngest was baptized. It was a "C" service as they call it, and after the majority of the communicants recieved at the altar rail, the priest went down to an elderly parishioner who'd stayed in the pews. He was preceded by a server with a lit candle. I thought that was a nice touch.

Independent said...

As the elevation of the host dates only from the 1190's in Paris then the ringing of the tower bells in England can only be regarded as a late Medieval custom.

However to jump a few centuries, I can remember both Catholic and Anglican churches in Manchester ringing their tower bells at the consecration. I can also remember men raising their hats when they passed a church in honour of the Blessed Sacrament.

Patricius said...

Independent- some of us still raise our hats - or bow if bareheaded.

Kala said...

A pastoral associate brings me Holy Communion. Amid a lot of chatter the pyx is fished out of a large bag, the Our Father is said and the Host is handed over and conversation resumes. *sigh*

For my first Holy Communion at home I set up my Sick Call set. The PA said, "that's lovely, what is it?"!

Crux Fidelis said...

In Ireland it is (or was) the custom to make the sign of the cross in honour of the Real Presence when passing a church. It was not unusual to be on a Dublin bus and see all your fellow passengers make the sign of the cross simultaneously as a church was passed. I still maintain this practice as do many of the older generation Irish exiles in this part of the world.

dillydaydream said...

It also seems to be the custom in Ireland to make the sign of the cross when passing a cemetery. My dear mother in law (86) does so while driving at full speed in an ancient ford fiesta, which is a tad unnerving.

Crux Fidelis said...

As long as there is a Padre Pio on the dashboard you'll be perfectly safe. ;¬)