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Online Edition - Vol. VIII, No. 10: February 2003

Let Freedom RING! 

by Reverend Mr. Roger Marks

Can you imagine Christmas without "Jingle Bells" and "Sleigh bells ring ..."? These bell songs bring feelings of comfort and great joy.

What do ringing bells mean to us?

One of the best answers is a story told to me by a Veteran of World War II. He describes all the splattered blood, the trees blown into toothpicks, the holes in the ground. The saddest part is the death of his friends and buddies. He sobs as he remembers how they tried to talk to their mothers in the last moments of agony before they died. There was one good memory that was the best one of all. A memory that gave him great joy in the midst of terrible suffering and constant death.

What was that memory? The bells. He remembers the bells ringing. The bells of freedom. As the allied soldiers would chase out the enemy soldiers and enter the towns, the people in the town would ring the church bells.

Bells that rang out the joy of freedom from oppression. Bells that rang out the joy that their lives were restored to normal. Now we can live our lives the way we did before we were oppressed by the enemy.

The bells of freedom. "My country tis of thee.... From every mountain side, Let freedom ring." The Liberty Bell is a prized American symbol of freedom. The Holy Father often speaks about freedom and love; freedom and faith that leads to the great hope of everlasting friendship with God and each other. This is the deepest yearning of all mankind. It is what our hearts desire the most. Bells express freedom better than any other musical instrument.

At Christmas we ring the bells because we are celebrating our freedom from the slavery and oppression of sin and death. Our Savior is coming into our world, into our town to free us. The Salvation Army rings bells that bring in donations, signaling freedom from hunger, homelessness and all types of poverty.

At the Easter Vigil, we ring the bells because we are celebrating our freedom. Our Savior rose from the grave of our sins that He took upon Himself. We too, rise with Him from the darkness of our graves of sin to the light of life in Christ.

Everyone of us sins many times a day. We constantly need to be freed from our sins, from slavery and oppression. So Jesus gave us the Last Supper, the time when His Sacrifice of the Cross and Resurrection, which is always before the Father in eternal time, comes into our historical time, into our town, our church and sets us free.

At every mass we celebrate our freedom from the grave of sin and death. At every elevation of the Body and Blood of Christ at Mass, we ring the bells. Let freedom ring. We are free, free at last from our sin. We rise with Jesus to our Father. We enter into that deep relationship that we long for more than anything, a friendship with our God and each other in Faith, Love and Hope. The bells at Mass impress upon us the joy of freedom and express our joy at being saved from our sins. Bells are the instruments that convey the essence of the Mass.

May the joyous bells of freedom resound in your ears and hearts at every Mass.

Deacon Roger Marks received his degree in Theology from the University of Dallas under Professor Douglas Bushman. He is presently serving Bishop Dennis Schnurr in the Diocese of Duluth and lives in Brainerd, Minnesota.

Editor's Note: The ringing of "Sanctus bells" at the consecration and elevation calls our attention to the transubstantiation of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Our Lord -- the culmination of the entire Mass. Ringing bells emphasizes solemnity of this moment and our profound joy at receiving this Inestimable Gift to mankind!

Church bells are silent during the Triduum of Holy Week, following the Gloria on Holy Thursday until the Alleluia of the Easter Vigil .

Here is what the Missal says about bells at Mass:

IGMR 150 A little before the consecration, a minister may ring a bell as a signal to the faithful. Depending on local custom, the minister also rings the bell at the showing of both the Eucharistic bread and the chalice.

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