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The bells do not only call people to pray, they also have a spiritual relevance that is not so well known.
In the oldest cities, especially in the old town, the bells ring every hour from the belfry of the church or local cathedral. Sometimes it is difficult to listen to them in the traffic jam, but when we visit a rural parish the bells can be heard for miles around.
The bells of the churches accompany us since the fifth century and were commonly used in the Middle Ages. They were used especially in the monastic communities to call the monks to gather to pray in the chapel since, throughout the day, they were in various places in the monastery. Later, the custom spread more and more between parish churches and the bells were used to call the people to the celebration of the Eucharist , as well as for the recitation of the Angelus during the day.
However, the bells also have great spiritual power . When a new bell is installed in a church, it is traditionally “baptized” or “consecrated” by the local bishop or priest. The ancient ceremonies imitated the baptism and the current ceremony still requires the use of holy water . The bells also receive a name in honor of a particular patron saint, although many are named in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
The Roman Ritual contains a very solemn blessing of church bells and speaks of the spiritual symbolism and the sacramental power that these bells now possess.
God, who decreed through the holy Moses, your servant and lawgiver, to create and sound trumpets of silver at the time of sacrifice, to remind the people through their clear tones to prepare for your worship and gather together to its celebration. Grant us, we implore you, that this bell, destined for your holy Church, be sanctified by the Holy Spirit through our humble ministry, so that when it rings and tolls, the faithful are invited to the house of God and the eternal reward .
May the faith and piety of the people grow stronger every time they hear its melodious peal. May its sound drive away every evil spirit; that thunder and lightning, hail and storm vanish; May the power of your hand subdue the malignant powers of the air, that tremble with the sound of this bell and flee immediately after the vision of the holy cross engraved on it.
May Our Lord grant us this, He who overcame death on the cross and who now reigns in the glory of God the Father, in the unity of the Father and the Holy Spirit, for ever and ever.
Attention to how the priest calls the power of God to ward off the “evil spirits” besides the “thunder (…) lightning, hail and storm” through the sound of these bells . The blessing continues with a final prayer that, again, evokes the spiritual weight that the bells receive.
Oh, Christ, almighty ruler, as once you calmed the storm in the sea when waking up in the boat of the dream of your human nature, so now you go with your benign help to the needs of your people, and spill on this bell the dew of the Holy Spirit.
Whenever it sounds, the enemy of good will flee, the Christian people will listen to the call to faith, terrorize the empire of Satan, strengthen your people by being called to join the Lord and may the Holy Spirit be with the faithful. who delighted to be with David when he played his harp.
And just as once the thunder in the air drove away a horde of enemies, when Samuel sacrificed a suckling lamb as a holocaust to the eternal King, so when the ringing of this bell resounds in the clouds bring a legion of angels to watch the assembly of your Church, the first fruits of the faithful and aspire to your eternal protection in your body and spirit.
We ask this through you, Lord Jesus Christ, that you live and reign with God the Father, in unity of the Holy Spirit, God, for ever and ever.
What do you think of that last line? The priest asks that “when the ringing of this bell resounds in the clouds, bring a legion of angels to watch over the assembly of your Church.” These bells are not ordinary at all!
So, the next time you hear a church bell, remember the spiritual power you have and offer a brief prayer to God, thanking Him for the many blessings in your life.