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A History Of The Mass And Its Ceremonies In The Eastern And Western Church -Rev John O'Brien A.M.

As there is a mixture more or less of joy and solemnity in the ringing of bells, it has been customary from time immemorial to suspend their use during the last days of Holy Week, when the entire Church is in mourning for the Passion and death of our Divine Saviour. Hence it is that in many ancient documents this week is called the “Still Week”; in others, the “Week of Suffering.” The bells are silent from the “Gloria in excelsis” in the Mass of Holy Thursday until the “Gloria” on Holy Saturday, when a joyful and solemn peal is rung in memory of the glorious resurrection of our Saviour. During the silence of the bells little wooden clappers are used after the manner of the ancient semantrons, and are rung at all those parts of the Mass, such as at the “Sanctus,” Elevation, Communion, etc., At which the usual bell would be sounded.

According to Pope Benedict XIV. (De Festis, No. 174), bells are silent this week for the mystic reason that they typify the preachers of the word of God, and all preaching was suspended from our Lord’s apprehension until after he had risen from the dead. The apostles, too, when they saw his bitter torments, and the indignities he was subjected to by the Jews, stole away from him silently and left him alone. Durandus gives many more mystic reasons for the silence observed these three days (Rationale, p. 512).

The reader will do well to bear in mind that inasmuch as the divine offices of Holy Week have a greater antiquity than any others within the annual cycle, they bear the Impress yet of many early liturgical customs, all of which, as we have taken care to note elsewhere, the Church clings to with fond tenacity.








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