I remember quite clearly the first time I heard bells being rung during the consecration. I got chills. I thought it was beautiful: It sounds dramatic, but it was as if I woke up and realized that God was in front of me – a goosebump-worthy experience, for sure.
Shouldn’t we get chills every time we witness this miracle at Mass – bells or no bells? I wish I didn’t need help in this regard, but sadly, sometimes when you see something often, it starts to become commonplace, even if it is a miracle. It’s like we’re bystanders watching, instead of participants experiencing.
After that first Mass, I discovered other parishes that also rang bells at consecration. I found myself getting more out of those Masses because I was being alerted to the fact that bread and wine were changing before my very eyes into the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of the Lord.
That worked for a while. But as I started attending Mass at more traditional parishes more often, it meant that I was increasingly hearing bells, which also meant that I was becoming accustomed to the sound of the bells. Eventually they started to lose their affect a little bit. Pathetic, isn’t it? Pathetic but not surprising: I think it is human nature. My problem wasn’t that I didn’t believe or wasn’t awe-inspired, it was that I had a hard time remembering to think about the miracle before me. I needed something more to keep me focused on the miracle.
I found the solution to my problem just a few months ago when I went to my first Mass celebrated in the Extraordinary Form (some refer to this as the Tridentine Mass). I really didn’t have much of a clue as to what I was supposed to do, nor did really have a clue as to what anyone on the altar was doing or saying, and so the provided Mass booklet really came in handy for me. I spent most of the time reading and looking up, reading and looking up.
When it came time for the consecration, the Mass booklet explained to me that when the priest holds up the Host, at that moment I am to proclaim in a whisper,
“MY LORD AND MY GOD.”
The chills returned.
Thank you, St. Thomas, for such a beautiful, profound and simple statement of faith.
Ever since then, whether I attend Mass in the Extraordinary Form or in the Ordinary Form – with or without bells – I make that profession of faith when the priest holds up the Host and I can actually adore Him – because at that moment I’m actually thinking about the fact that it’s Jesus in front of me.
Plus, it’s personal: Do I really believe the words coming out of my mouth? Yes! He’s MY Lord and MY God, and He’s right there on the altar, and I’m about to receive Him. Luckily, I’m pretty sure that these words can’t lose their affect as time goes by. These are powerful words, not easily dismissible.
We all need a little help from time to time in order recognize Jesus Christ. It’s amazing how much help five little words have provided for me.
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