The Abbey Bell

The Abbey Bell

Early morning, first bell warning,
A confrere still in his bed,
If you listen you’ll hear his alarm clock.
Statio shuffling, readjusting,
A cough, a sneeze, clear of throat,
Hilltop silence is shattered, you’ll hear…

The Abbey Bell…
The Abbey Bell…
It’s Office time at the Abbey…
(ring-a-ling, hear it ring)
Soon it will be prayer time…

A breakfast warning, for Midmorning,
Not to drink too much milk,
You’ll be clearing your throat, which sounds awful.
Sext is happy with the organ, at None we’re tired and slow,
Rosary’s over, how’ll we know where to go?

The Abbey Bell…
The Abbey Bell…
It’s Office time at the Abbey…
(ring-a-ling, hear it ring)
Soon it will be prayer time…

Then at Compline, we come stompin’
In to fight one last time,
Invoke our general St. Michael to battle.
We confess, then, we get blessed, and,
Invoke our Mother, our Queen;
When they hear it, the demons all flee….

The Abbey Bell…
The Abbey Bell…
It’s Office time at the Abbey…
(ring-a-ling, hear it ring)
Soon it will be prayer time…

W

The meaning behind
the song

Rewriting songs is a favorite hobby of mine. I wrote this cover of Bing Crosby’s “Silver Bells” as a first year novice, and it has become a little tradition for me to sing it each year since then at our community recreation around Christmas.

The lyrics of the song revolve around the abbey bell, which is rung to call us to prayers in the church. For major hours of prayer, i.e. early morning or evening, we stand in line (statio) behind the church waiting to process in. The song begins in the early morning, when the bell is rung twice, fifteen minutes and then five minutes prior to prayer time. The song then proceeds chronologically through the day and the various times of praying the psalms in Church.

These various times make up the Divine Office, nowadays more commonly known as the Liturgy of the Hours. The Hours are referred to in both English and Latin: Morning Prayers/Matins and Lauds, Midmorning/Terce, Midday/Sext, Midafternoon/None, Evening/Vespers, Night/Compline.

In the last lines of the last verse I say that the demons flee when they hear it. This refers to both the previous line about invoking the Virgin Mary, so pure and holy, that the demons can’t stand even her name to be spoken; but it also refers to the following line, the abbey bell. This is because the very bell, and those that will be used at the new abbey, being blessed, are sacramentals. One of the most remarkable effects of sacramentals is the virtue to drive away evil spirits whose mysterious and baleful operations affect sometimes the physical activity of man.

The use of sacramentals such as blessings, the holy rosary, chaplets, crucifixes, medals, holy water, and the like, are intended to make holy various occasions in life by reminding us of the power of God’s grace at work in us, the baptized. The Church makes use of many things which may help us to keep our minds fixed on the things of heaven and to express our faith in God’s abiding and provident love. The confrere who rings the abbey bell knows that he is making use of a sacramental when he rings the bell so that he can reap the benefits that his own devotion expresses.

May this fun song ever get stuck in your mind, and may you make the sign of the cross in an act of devotion the next time you hear the bell ring at the abbey.

Here’s a link to another article discussing the power of bells against the devil.

Fr. Pio Vottola, O.Praem.
Fr. Joachim Aldaba, O.Praem.