I love bells, don’t you? Bells are permitted at Mass, but not mandatory. Still, I think they add something beautiful to the experience.
When I was chaplain at Northridge Prep school for boys, the 6th and 7th graders always wanted to serve and always wanted something active to do, like ringing the bells. If it were up to them, they’d ring the bells all Mass long. But no, only three times: once at the ‘epiclesis’ when the priest puts his hands over the gifts and invokes the blessing of the Holy Spirit, again for the second time when the priest elevates and shows the host to the people, and third time is when the priest elevates the chalice and shows the Blood of Christ to the people.
So what’s up with the bells? We ring bells to get people’s attention and let them know something important is going on and something has changed; school bells tell us something has changed, for instance that period 3 is now over and now we begin period 4. Fire bells in the village alert everyone to take action and come and help. And bells at Mass tell us that a miracle has just happened: the transubstantiation.