ANGELS AND BELLS, CANDLES AND SMELLS
ANGELS are pure, created spirits, with no body, and therefore do not depend on matter for their existence. The word angel is from the Greek for messenger; angelos. God has often used them to be His messengers to us on Earth. At the Annunciation, when Gabriel informed Mary that she was to be the Mother of God, he addressed her as "full of grace". This phrase very clearly conveyed the information to us that she had been conceived without sin. Only God could compose such a message for He is the only one who could possess the knowledge that Mary was filled with the Holy Spirit. Gabriel was only the messenger.
In Matthew 1:18 we read that when Joseph decided to 'divorce' Mary quietly, so as to avoid scandal to her, an angel appeared to him in a dream and said: "Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit." The angel was bearing a message from God, telling Joseph that the baby who had been conceived in Mary was to be the Savior of the world, Matthew 1:20.
Again, an angel appeared to Joseph warning him of the plans of Herod to murder all male children under two years of age, so as to guarantee that the Savior would be destroyed with the other children. The angel instructed Joseph to: "Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until the death of Herod.", Matthew 2:13. Once again an angel was used by God to convey a message to a human.
Even in the time of Christ, as now, some people doubted the existence of angels, as we read in Acts, 23:8, the Sadducees denied the existence of angels. The Sadducees were a part of the Sanhedrin who considered themselves above the Pharisees, and would be the equivalent, in today's terminology, of sola scriptura Christians. The Pharisees, however, believed in the existence of angels, or spirits, for they accepted both oral and written tradition, while the Sadducees did not.
As Catholics, we are to accept and believe the teaching of our Holy Mother Church. The Fourth Lateran Council, in 1215, stated: "We firmly believe and profess without qualification that there is only one true God... creator of all things visible and invisible, spiritual and corporal, who, by His almighty power from the very beginning of time has created both orders of creatures in the same way out of nothing, the spiritual or angelic world and the corporeal or visible universe."
Some current 'thinkers' consider us naive to accept such a mythological belief as faith in the existence of angels, much less practice religious devotion to them.
Angels are creatures, but they more closely resemble God than any of His other creatures. In the perfection of their spiritual nature they are called from the beginning, by virtue of their intelligence, to know the truth in a more perfect way than can be known by man. As do all intelligent creatures of God, angels have a free will. They were all created to be good and pure, but with their free will, they were able to choose evil if they so desired. Many of them did, and although they actually are angels, we no longer call them angels in the same sense that we refer to the obedient angels. They are more commonly referred to as demons or devils. The decision of the angels to either be obedient to God, or to deny His authority over them was an irreversible decision, according to Church teaching. The obedient angels will be good forever, and the disobedient angels will be condemned forever. They will never enjoy the gift of salvation, for they have denied the Holy Spirit, just as we, when in the sin of despair, have denied Him.
The "bad" angels were guilty of a blindness caused by an overrating of the perfection of their being, driven to the point of ignoring God's supremacy, which requires an act of docile and obedient subjection to His will. Mankind, just as angels, must be subject to His will and obedient to His commandments under pain of ETERNAL DAMNATION!
BELLS are first mentioned in the Bible in Exodus, 28:34, and Exodus 39:25. The writer was describing the vestment to be worn by Aaron when he approached the Lord God in the Ark of the Covenant, when he wrote: "a golden bell then a pomegranate, and thus alternating around about the hem of the robe. And it shall be upon Aaron when he ministers, and its sound shall be heard when he goes into the holy place before the Lord, and when he comes out, lest he die." This verse places heavy emphasis on bells as a needed sign or symbol of reverence when approaching the Lord.
In Zechariah, 14:20, the writer tells us that even the bells on the horses which are taken to Jerusalem for the feast of booths, shall have engraved on their bells: "Holy to the Lord." Again we see bells being used in the earliest times to signify adoration to God.
St. Paulinus of Nola is credited, by tradition, with the first installation of bells in a church building. He died in 431 AD and was a good friend of Saints Jerome and Augustine. At the time of his death he was the bishop of Nola.
Bells were used to attract the attention of worshippers that Mass was about to begin (before watches were common). They were also used to signify the solemnity of certain parts of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, and to 'toll' for the dead at Funeral Masses. Today, in order to instruct us in what they would have us believe Vatican II teaches, modernists have eliminated the ringing of bells for certain parts of the Mass. Their reasoning is that the bells were only rung because the people attending Mass prior to Vatican II did not know when to pay attention to the solemnity of the moment of Consecration. These 'modernists' will also try to convince us that in the early days of the Church, before we used pews and kneelers, everyone was standing, and a person of short stature would not know that the Sacred, Consecrated Host was being held aloft for adoration if the bells were not rung! This is a line of reasoning that could be called spurious or even specious, for these same people are now trying to remove kneelers from the church building so we will all be forced to stand during the Eucharistic Canon, in violation of the explicit directions of the National Council of Catholic Bishops in the United States, who stated that we will kneel during the period from the Sanctus, (Holy, Holy, Holy,) until the end of the Great Amen. If we are all standing, how will the short stature person who is a bit 'hard of hearing' be informed of the elevations without the ringing of bells?
Very slowly, but surely, all of the reverent traditions are being eliminated from our worship services, and slowly but very surely, Catholics in some parishes are being forced to endure what can only be described as quasi-Protestantism, under the guise of 'ecumenism'.
CANDLES at one time in our Church history were required to be made of beeswax. The Paschal candle and the two altar candles were required to be pure beeswax and other candles were to contain 60% beeswax. Beeswax was used for two reasons. The first is that it was the most reliable substance of which a candle could be made. The other reason was symbolic, for it was made from a very special type of bee that remained virginal until it had stopped secreting honey. The symbol applies to the purity of Our Lord and the blessed Virgin Mary, His mother.
The Easter, or Paschal candle, has the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet on it; Alpha and Omega. On the candle are the numbers of the current year. They are added as the following prayer is recited: "All time belongs to Him and all the ages; to Him be glory and power through every age forever, Amen." Five grains of incense are embedded into the candle with red wax nails, accompanied by the prayer: "By His holy and glorious wounds may Christ our Lord, guard us and keep us. Amen."
During the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass two candles are required, one on each side of the altar. If a cardinal is celebrating Mass, six candles are required. For a bishop, either four or six candles are used. If the cardinal is celebrating a pontifical Mass, nine candles are to be used, the ninth candle being placed before the processional-cross stand. For a High Mass, usually four or six candles are used.
Many churches have an additional pair of candles, one on each side of the tabernacle, the custom being to light these candles when anyone is going to open the tabernacle where the Blessed Sacrament is reserved.
Another candle is the sanctuary lamp, which may be white or red. Red was the color usually used by custom, but white is acceptable. This lighted candle indicates that the Blessed Sacrament, Our Lord and Savior, is present in the tabernacle, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. This is the reason we genuflect when entering a church and whenever we pass in front of the tabernacle. Church law allows for no other substitute sign with only rare exceptions, such as a case of physical inability to kneel, or a lack of space. The Sanctuary lamp was started in England in the 13th Century and became law for the rest of the Church in the 17th century.
Occasionally, during special Masses, six additional candles are carried into the sanctuary and remain there until the Sanctus, (Holy, Holy, Holy,) to bring to the attention of the congregation and to foster their reverence for the great miracle which is about to take place. Incense is used in the procession of these six additional candles. They are called sanctus torches, but are rarely seen in the average Mass today.
Another candle, which we will never see again, was known as a bugia. This was a candlestick on a long handle. It was beeswax, and the handle was gold for a cardinal and silver for a bishop or archbishop. It was held to the right side of the book so a bishop or cardinal could read the order of Mass. Paul VI discontinued use of the bugia in 1969. Only the highest-ranking prelate present at the Mass was permitted to use it.
Candles are not used only for illumination, for our earliest Church records indicate they have always been a symbol of Christ being the light of the world.
At a baptism a single candle is presented to the new member of the Church, or to the parent or Godparent of a newly baptized baby. In the new rite of Baptism a beautiful prayer has been added, reminding the parents that the child is always a child of the light, he or she should always walk as a child of light, and keep the flame of faith alive in his or her heart.
Candles are blessed in all churches on the feast of Candlemas, February 2. We should arrange to have a blessed candle in our home, in case the Blessed Sacrament is to be given to the sick. The custom has been that the priest is met at the door by a lighted candle, and proceeded into the sick room by the person holding the candle, provided there is no oxygen in use. This is another 'tradition' that apparently has fallen by the wayside in our pursuit of modernism.
SMELLS bring to mind the wonderful use of incense in our liturgies. Incense denotes great honor and respect, as we can see in both the Old and the New Testaments; Let my prayer be directed as incense in thy sight, Psalm, 140:2; Thou shalt make an altar to burn incense, Exodus 30:1. In Exodus 31:11 we read: The oil of unction and the incense of spices in the sanctuary, all things which I have commanded thee shall thee make. Again, in Apoc. 8:3 we read of an angel standing before the altar with incense, that he should offer up the prayers of all saints, and the prayers ascended to the throne of God, in the smoke of the incense.
Incense was one of the gifts brought by the Magi to the newly born Savior, along with gold and frankincense. It had great monetary value as well as spiritual value in ancient times, and in those times it was usually a gift reserved for kings and rulers.
The early Christians used incense very sparingly, for it was associated with pagan worship of idols. As this pagan practice diminished, Christians began using it more frequently in their religious services. Many people think that prior to Vatican Il incense was used more frequently than now; however, the rubrics now permit the use of incense during the entrance procession, to honor the altar, at the beginning of Mass, at the Gospel, at the presentation of the gifts, and at the elevation of the Host and Chalice.
The smell of incense during a devoutly celebrated Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, in my opinion, greatly enhances the awesome beauty of the miracle we are witnessing.
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