28 June 2009

Christian Gerber

in his little book on the church ceremonies of the Lutheran Churches in Saxony observed even into the late 1700's the use of a bell during the Words of Institution - rung once at the words over the bread and then over the cup. Rome has, of course, continued this. This morning at the early service, the organist used a chime to ring out over the consecration. One of my elders asked if Dr. Coan had done that on his own; I said, no, it was my request. The elder observed: "Why haven't we always done that? That's great." I concur! It draws attention to the Sacrament's "for-you-ness." It's a way of saying: Look, there it is! The body given for you! The blood shed for you! Now come and feast with Him! My family experienced this at Immanuel Lutheran in Alexandria this summer and I was so blessed by it, that I wished to share it with St. Paul's parish. Now, if only the ushers would always remember to turn the chimes on (the switch is with the lights and gets neglected inexplicably at times, hence no chimes at late service today!).


Past Elder said...

So what's the organist gonna do when it's a clapper instead of a bell?

Next time I'm in Hamel I'll stop by for services. Used to ring the hell out of a three-belled set back in the day.

christl242 said...

Rome has, of course, continued this.

Pastor Weedon, during the time I was Catholic I was very suprised to find out that this has become optional. Several Catholic parishes that I visited no longer ring the bell, considering it unnecessary for a more "educated" laity (as to the veracity of that view, well . . .).

Another innovation of "options" since Vatican II.


Jon Townsend said...

Zion in Detroit did this and it was wonderful - I am guessing they still do, it has been a few years since I dropped in.

One day during the divine service, someone's cell phone rang during the Words of Institution at our church. Maybe someday we can get the real thing :)

Anonymous said...

I think this is a lovely Gospel-oriented custom drawing our attention to the body and blood given and shed for us. I would love to see it make a come back!

Bethany Tanis

Matthias Flacius said...

We are certainly free to use a sound or not use a sound at the words of institution. It depends on the intention of our confession of doing so as to whether we should.

I would compare it to the elevation of the host. The medieval understanding of the elevation was that the priest sacrificed the Lord's body and blood to God the Father. This is why some Reformers rejected this practice. Luther preferred to retain the practice and many others with an evangelical interpretation.

What about breaking the host at consecration? Many Lutherans recoil at this practice, but could it not also be adiaphora?


Chris said...

Using bells in worship! Is outrage! Anathema!

Aaron said...

At my church, the organ blower can easily be turned off when the ushers are dimming the rest of the lights on Christmas Eve. All the switches are in the same fuse box. So, I have mentioned it enough that someone put a label next to the switch that reads, "Leave on - Organ."

As to the bells during the consecration, I have no problem with it. However, some would say that this sound represents the exact time that the elements become the body and blood. Others would say it is not necessary because the Words are proclaimed audibly and the bells were used when the Words were whispered by the priest.

Good catechesis, as is always done at the church Pastor Weedon serves, should precede the implementation this kind of adiaphora.

Past Elder said...

Still wanna know whatcha gonna do during clapper season -- have the organist drop a hymnal?

Greg said...

I arrived here at Mt. Calvary two years ago, and was surprised to hear the chime during the verba. I had no idea what the historical roots of this practice were, and I must admit my apprehention. It struck me as a "there, at that moment, it just changed," sort of thing, which in my mind was confessing transubstantiation.

I'm glad to finally learn a bit more about this, and would love to understand how the chime is heard as highlighting the "for you" aspect, rather than the "moment of change."

Seriously, this has bothered me a bit while here at Mt. Calvary, and would love for it to be something I rejoice in hearing.

William Weedon said...

Count me among those who recoil at breaking the host! :)

But the ringing of the bell, especially if accompanied by the elevation, is a "Look there, Christian! The body that was on the cross for you! The blood that has blotted out your sin!" Think of it - I hope I don't offend anyone by this - as the dinner bell! "Children, supper's on! Ding! Ding! Ding!"

Rich said...

As a former Roman Catholic, I always understood the ringing of the bells during the Words of Institution to be "the exact moment in which the bread and wine were transformed (transubstantiated) into the the Body and Blood of Christ". For this reason, as a Lutheran looking back I've never considered this to be a good practice.
Does anyone know the history of this practice? Is my understanding of the Roman Catholic teaching on this correct?

William Weedon said...

Actually, I think "exact moment" for Rome is the uttering of the consecrating words, but the bell occurs not during, but following them. Lutheran practice in Saxony (at any rate) for some time following the Reformation retained the ringing, and for us certainly the consecration happens precisely through the Verba, where Christ joins His speaking to our own, to bring about exactly what He promises.

Greg said...

To clarify, our current practice goes like this: "Take, eat; this is My body, (ding) which is given for you..." And then again, "Drink ye all of it; this cup is the New Testament (ding) in my blood..."

This is the practice that has bothered me...and I have though confesses transubstantiation.

According to your comments, however, this was not your practice. Was the bell rang before or after The Pax Domini?

William Weedon said...


I hesitate to call what we did once this past Sunday "our practice"! :) But what we did was this: after the words concerning the bread, the host is elevated, during which the chime sounds, and then Christ's body is adored by a genuflection. Then the words over the cup, after which the cup is elevated, during which the chime sounds, and then Christ's blood is adored by a genuflection. THEN I take in hand, both our Lord's body and blood and turn to face the people and chant the Pax.

christl242 said...

Does anyone know the history of this practice? Is my understanding of the Roman Catholic teaching on this correct?

It was certainly not part of the practice of the early church.

As I understood it as churches became larger and larger and the altar was set further and further away from the laity the bells were rung so that those way in the back who couldn't see the elevation would know that transubstantiation had taken place.

At a time when few of the laity received Communion because of feelings of unworthiness it is said that many ran from church to church to observe the sacrifice even if they didn't partake.


Greg said...

Thanks for the clarification! Now I understand the dinner bell analogy.

William Weedon said...

Ringing aside for the moment, I must confess that the revival of the elevation with attendant genuflection is something of an amazement to me. Right in this district, I think it is practiced at Zion, Staunton; Trinity, Worden; St. Paul, Hamel; St. John's, Maryville; Concordia, Granite City; Trinity, Herrin; and I'm sure I'm leaving out others! It is, of course, nowhere prescribed (nor forbidden) in our rubrics, but the people seem to "get" exactly what is being confessed. And it's NOT about offering the sacrifice of the mass; it's about "beholding, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world" and so hastening to His Marriage Feast.

Past Elder said...

I think this is another of those many things where our difference with Rome is not so much in what we do as why we do it.

Certainly I was told back in the day the reason to ring the bell is to call attention to the miracle which had just happened through the transsubstantiation of bread and wine into the Body and Bloos of Christ -- part of which mindset is this is a miracle that cannot happen in other churches even if they go through the motions because they have no valid orders from Christ to do it.

I think it answers both questions to retain the bells -- that there is a miracle happening though we do not understand it as transsubstantiation, and that there is a miracle happening which does not depend upon a Roman understanding of valid ordination.

While it may in some way make the point that there is no such thing as transsubstantion, I think the better point to make is that there is such thing as the miracle of the Body and Blood of the Lord.

Brian P Westgate said...

The Altar bells still ring at Zion Detroit.

christl242 said...

While it may in some way make the point that there is no such thing as transsubstantion, I think the better point to make is that there is such thing as the miracle of the Body and Blood of the Lord.

Quite right. In an evangelical catholic form the bells could certainly be a joyous acknowledgement of the miracle that is taking place among us in the Divine Service as Christ comes with His gifts.