Catholics/Catholic ritual


Can you help me with a question I have.

Bell, Book and candle feature in which Catholic ritual?

I have seen two different answers exorcism & excommunication, so I am now confused.

Dear Jane:

Bell, Book, and Candle is an old ritual of the most serious form of excommunication, the anathema, dating back to the 9th century or thereabouts.

The bell is tolled to announce the spiritual death of the excommunicant. The book from which the bishop reads the ritual (representing the authority of the Church) is closed -- as in the matter is closed, judgment as been rendered. The candles are extinguished (perhaps even thrown on the floor).  Lit candles represent the light of Christ. As long as the candles are lit it is thought the offender may repent. When the offender does not repent and they are extinguished it represents the quenching of grace in the offender's soul.

From the Encyclopedia Britannica is this description:

"The ceremony was performed in some conspicuous place, and, upon its termination, letters were written to bishops of other sees to report the fact. When the assemblage had been convoked, a bishop appeared with 12 priests, and all 13 held lighted candles. The bishop, wearing violet vestments, then recited the formula, ending thus: “We separate him, together with his accomplices and abettors, from the precious body and blood of the Lord and from the society of all Christians; we exclude him from our holy mother the church in heaven and on earth; we declare him excommunicate and anathema; we judge him damned, with the devil and his angels and all the reprobate, to eternal fire until he shall recover himself from the toils of the devil and return to amendment and to penitence.” Those present answered, “So be it!” Then the bishop and the 12 priests extinguished their candles by dashing them to the ground, and (as a general rule) the ceremony then ended."  


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Bro. Ignatius Mary, OLSM, L.Th.


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