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Understanding Catholicism - Bells & Smells


Catholicism Overseer
Catholicism Overseer
Oct 21, 2019
Bells and Smells

Catholicism is noted for its “Bells and Smells” (the smells being incense of course), though neither are used as much as they used to be. However it’s not just bells and smells, all the senses are engaged at different times in prayer, worship and devotion. We are physical as well as spiritual.

The practice of ringing bells to create a joyful noise for the Lord during the Mass is based to some degree on the use of tintinnabula (or tiny bells) or crotal bells that were a part of ancient Judaic worship.
Ringing the bells also gave notice to those unable to attend the Mass (the sick, slaves, outside guards, etc.) that something divine and miraculous was taking place inside of the church building. The voice of the bell would allow people to stop what they were doing to offer an act of adoration to God. Additionally, the bells helped to focus the attention of the faithful inside the church on the miracle that was taking place on the altar of sacrifice.
(Matthew D. Herrera)

Incense was also part of Judaic worship.
On it Aaron shall burn fragrant incense. Morning after morning, when he prepares the lamps, and again in the evening twilight, when he lights the lamps, he shall burn incense. Throughout your generations this shall be the established incense offering before the Lord (Ex 30:7-8)

There is incense in heaven:
Another angel came and stood at the altar, holding a gold censer. He was given a great quantity of incense to offer, along with the prayers of all the holy ones, on the gold altar that was before the throne. (Rev 8:3)

God created the material world and declared what he had made as good. He created man and woman as both material and spiritual beings and declared they were very good.

We believe God has always dealt with man through material things. And Catholic life is full of material signs and symbols, particularly in its liturgies – bread, wine, water, salt, oil, candles, incense, as well as physical acts – bowing kneeling, washing, anointing, laying on of hands. We use colour in vestments and other objects at different times of the liturgical year.

All these, when properly understood and used, enrich our life in Christ.


Staff member
CF Ambassador
Dec 26, 2015
Very interesting post.
I enjoyed reading the part about how the small bells bring attention to something important that is taking place.

Like when the hosts are consecrated.
Everyone should be on their knees when these bells are sounded by a person, usually an altar boy. I believe they're called chimes.