As we come to the end of the Church year (Advent being the beginning of the next Liturgical Year), I wanted to begin to share with you some insight and catechesis behind some of the more noticeable changes I have made in the sanctuary, and during the offering of the Holy Sacrifice of Mass.
Father Taylor has undertaken the training of our altar servers, and you have most certainly noticed the reintroduction of the Sanctus bells, rung by our altar servers during the Liturgy of the Eucharistic within Mass.
Sanctus bells derive their name from being rung first during the Sanctus (Holy, Holy, Holy) in the Extraordinary Form of the Mass. They have been rung as part of the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in the Church for more than 800 years.
About the thirteenth century, outdoor tower bells began to be rung as "Sanctus bells" during the Mass, specifically at the Consecration (epiclesis) and the presentation of the Eucharist (elevation of Host and Chalice by the priest). Most Sanctus bells used today are small handheld bells, of three to five bells, that are rung in the Sanctuary during the Mass as directed in Chapter IV, paragraph 150 of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM).
Sanctus bells are first rung at the epiclesis, when the priest prays to the Holy Spirit to change the gifts of bread and wine into the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ.
The bells are rung a second time as the priest elevates and presents the Body of Christ, and are rung a third time as the priest elevates and presents the chalice filled with the Precious Blood.
Sanctus bells may also be rung at specified times outside of the Mass, such as during Holy Benediction and during adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament.
The Sanctus bells are more than an auditory signal meant to "wake up" the congregation to the consecration of the Eucharist. Sounding the bells at the moment Christ becomes present in the Eucharistic species of bread and wine is an audible sign of our joyous praise and thanksgiving.
I hope that the reintroduction of the joyful noise of the Sanctus bells helps to raise your hearts and minds to the Real Presence of our Eucharistic Lord on the Altar of Sacrifice.