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There are several different interpretations on when it is correct to ring the bell during Mass. It must bee borne in mind that the purpose of the bell is as a warning or signal to the congregation, in order to draw them from their own meditations and devotions , and to concentrate on what is happening at the Altar. Due to the Canon of the Mass being silent in the Western Rites, this was necessary.
Modern Roman practice dictates that the bell should be rung ONCE each at the epiclesis, and the at the elevations of the Host and the Chalice, and at NO OTHER TIME!!
However, the Tridentine Rite (and therefore the English Missal) dictated that it should be rung three times at the Sanctus (once for each Sanctus), once at the epiclesis, three times at both elevations (once when the Priest genuflects, once when he elevates, and once when he genuflects again- yes, that was how is was done!). and then at the Ecce Agnus Dei, once each for each of the people's Domine non sum dignus (Lord I am not worthy...). This last one was a signal that the people should approach the Altar to receive Communion, and when the Rite changed, and the Priest received immediatley before the people, the ring was changed to when the Priest received from the Chalice, again, so that the people would know when to come up. But this ring seldom means anything at a sung Mass, when Eucharistic Ministers receive, and servers, so the congregation does not approach for a little while after the bell, but that is its origin.
To answer Mr. Heffer's questions: The epiclesis occurs by universal custom in the prayer book rite at: "Hear us, 0 merciful Father, we most humbly beseech thee; and grant that we receiving these thy creatures of bread and wine, according to thy Son our Saviour Jesus Christ's holy institution, in remembrance of his death and passion, may be partakers of his most blessed Body and Blood" So the bell is rung before the words "hear us..."
But it should be borne in mind, that if one is doing the BCP properly, the Priest should stand at the North end of the Holy Table, and the whole service should be read in a loud voice, so there was no need for bells during the Liturgy (I recently discovered that hymns were only allowed by act of Parliament, at the beginning and end of the service- not during, as late as the late 19th, early 20th century!- so if hymns weren't allowed, Sanctus bells most certainly weren't!)
I would also hasten to point out that there is no liturgical precedent for ringing the bell at the end of the Canon, as this is often off putting if the Priest is singing, and drowns him out if he is saying "through Him, with Him..."
Right- there's my essay on the subject! Hope its of use!
Yours in Christ,
Sacristan of St. Peter's, Highfields,
Parish of the Presentation of Christ in the Temple,
thoughts on “Sanctuary of school” – Comp107.B05 Fall …
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