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Author Topic: 12 Bells on Censer  (Read 5641 times) Average Rating: 0
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« on: May 21, 2008, 01:01:06 PM »

Split from the following discussion http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php/topic,16041.0.html

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We, Ukrainians, do the same thing on St. Thomas Sunday. 

We go to the gravesites of our relatives to share the Joy of Pascha and the Risen Lord with them. 

There is a Panachida performed in the Church, immediately following the Holy Liturgy, where all the names of the deceased are read and prayed for.  Then there's the mass exodus to the cemeteries. 

This can be an all-day affair.  The priest, does go from grave to grave, with the crowd of people following behind him.  It's actually quite touching. 

Once the panachidas are completed, we stay behind and share some eggs, paska bread, candies, etc. with others, in remembrance of those who have passed on.  After all, they are still a part of the "Church" even though they are no longer with us, here on Earth.




That censor the priest is using doesn't seem to have the 12 bells on it or any,,why is that,, Huh Huh....Радујсе..Христос Воскресе...SmileyCentral.com" border="0
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« Reply #1 on: May 21, 2008, 01:39:04 PM »



I may be mistaken, however, I always understood that the censers with the 12 bells are used by the hierarchs of the Church (such as Bishops, Archbishops, Metropolitans and Patriarchs).  This is because censer bells symbolize preaching of the twelve Apostles whom the hierarchs represent. 


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« Reply #2 on: May 21, 2008, 01:43:57 PM »


I may be mistaken, however, I always understood that the censers with the 12 bells are used by the hierarchs of the Church (such as Bishops, Archbishops, Metropolitans and Patriarchs).  This is because censer bells symbolize preaching of the twelve Apostles whom the hierarchs represent. 




Very interesting, about the bells! I didn't know that! There's so much to learn!
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« Reply #3 on: May 21, 2008, 01:57:03 PM »


I may be mistaken, however, I always understood that the censers with the 12 bells are used by the hierarchs of the Church (such as Bishops, Archbishops, Metropolitans and Patriarchs).  This is because censer bells symbolize preaching of the twelve Apostles whom the hierarchs represent. 




I don't think so..as a alter boy i never seen a bell less censor in church ever...they allways had the twelve bell.for priest or bishop..... Huh ???Mir Boziji...Hristos Voskrese...SmileyCentral.com" border="0also the twelve bells are symbolizing the twelve apostles there prayers and ours that rise with the incense ..
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« Reply #4 on: May 21, 2008, 02:22:32 PM »



You can purchase censers without bells.  So, they DO exist.

     A brass censer with a spherical body, a removable copper pan, and no bells.


     Item Number: RN103
     Body dimensions: 4" × 9¼" (10.2 cm × 23.5 cm)
     Length of chains: 20" (50.8 cm)
     Made in Russia

Besides, I believe the "bells" aren't the most important part of censing, it's the prayers that go along with it, not the jingling of bells.

Don't get me wrong, I think the bells sound lovely.  However, the result of the censing is the same, with or without bells.

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« Reply #5 on: May 21, 2008, 05:50:20 PM »

Huh why would any Holy Orthodox Church chose a bell less censor just seem odd to me to.....Thank You,,for your answers...i wonder if the eastern orthodox church will bring back the Fans with the bells and start using them ..like the oriental orthodox churche's do ......i love the old time traditions ....Radujse,,Hristos Voskrese..... 
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« Reply #6 on: May 21, 2008, 09:16:40 PM »

Also, one of the bells is usually silent, representing Judas.
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« Reply #7 on: May 21, 2008, 09:29:21 PM »

I've never been to a church that didn't have bells on the censor. I know they're taken off at points during Lent, but I guess it's just a small-t tradition if not everyone has them.
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« Reply #8 on: May 21, 2008, 11:53:17 PM »

I've seen bell-less censers used in Eastern Orthodox churches. 

Someone may correct me on this.  But I've been around numerous censers.  Even the almost brand new censer I have seen, carried, lit, etc.. doesn't have a silent bell.  Yes I have checked.  Many censers don't have all the bells on them, they fall off, etc...   If there are censers out there that have a silent bell to represent Judas, I haven't them. 
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« Reply #9 on: May 21, 2008, 11:55:59 PM »

At my home parish in Dayton, OH, they had a special censor without bells that was used only for Great Lent. However, that was the only instance that I've ever seen a bell-less censer in an Orthodox Church.

I haven't been back in a few years, so the parish may not still have it.
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« Reply #10 on: May 22, 2008, 12:06:40 AM »

Specifically the time that recently sticks out in my mind for bell-less censer usage was St. Vladimir's Feast Day at the ROCOR Cathedral a few years back at the Vigil. Usually I experience bell-less censers at Russian tradition parishes. My friend who knows stuff about this, she said that it is a Russian custom to use no bells during the weekdays and then bells on Sunday.   Even at my family's parish we have a bell-less censer that matches a belled censer. Probably did use it at some point, but I can't remember them using it.
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« Reply #11 on: May 22, 2008, 03:27:26 AM »

There are all sorts of local traditions and things that become sacred in association with the censer that it can make your head spin.

Here are some items you might not know but might find interesting...

1. The censer that was used in the East was a hand censer (just like the ones that the Greeks still use during Holy Week) until the chain censer was introduced in Constantinople sometime between the 8th and 12th centuries.

2. There are a few schools of thought with bells on the censer... A) Before the Turkish regulations every censer had bells and they were taken off when the bells were outlawed and then put back on after the Turkish yoke was removed. B) Before the Turkish regulations censers didn't have bells but after the Turkish Yoke was removed bells were added to all the censers. C) Some censers have bells and others don't and this is just how it is.

3. As a general rule only clergy use the chain censer while the hand censer can be used by anyone. In monasteries without priest the Eclesiarch (both male and female) is appointed to cense the church with the hand censer. This is still kept in the Greek tradition when the priest does the opening censing of Orthros during Holy Week with the hand censer.
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« Reply #12 on: May 22, 2008, 03:51:33 AM »

There are all sorts of local traditions and things that become sacred in association with the censer that it can make your head spin.

Here are some items you might not know but might find interesting...

1. The censer that was used in the East was a hand censer (just like the ones that the Greeks still use during Holy Week) until the chain censer was introduced in Constantinople sometime between the 8th and 12th centuries.

2. There are a few schools of thought with bells on the censer... A) Before the Turkish regulations every censer had bells and they were taken off when the bells were outlawed and then put back on after the Turkish yoke was removed. B) Before the Turkish regulations censers didn't have bells but after the Turkish Yoke was removed bells were added to all the censers. C) Some censers have bells and others don't and this is just how it is.

3. As a general rule only clergy use the chain censer while the hand censer can be used by anyone. In monasteries without priest the Eclesiarch (both male and female) is appointed to cense the church with the hand censer. This is still kept in the Greek tradition when the priest does the opening censing of Orthros during Holy Week with the hand censer.


In the serbian church on some day they beat on a board...no church bells....must be from turkish times has some meaning ....can't remember what thought.....Mir Boziji...Hristos Voskrese...Radujse....SmileyCentral.com" border="0
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« Reply #13 on: May 22, 2008, 08:11:19 AM »

At my home parish in Dayton, OH, they had a special censor without bells that was used only for Great Lent. However, that was the only instance that I've ever seen a bell-less censer in an Orthodox Church.

I haven't been back in a few years, so the parish may not still have it.

Uh-huh - the only times I've seen bell-less censers used is during Great Lent on weekdays; Sundays and Saturdays still use/used bells.  The hand censer (Katzion) is used during the 20th/21st Psalms at the beginning of the Matins during Holy Week (Sun night - Thursday night; I don't think those Psalms are in the service Fri night), and during monastic services (I think most of the year, but I'm not sure).
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« Reply #14 on: May 22, 2008, 08:04:46 PM »


In the serbian church on some day they beat on a board...no church bells....must be from turkish times has some meaning ....can't remember what thought.....Mir Boziji...Hristos Voskrese...Radujse....SmileyCentral.com" border="0

Maybe they do so on Good Friday?  The Lemko/Rusyn parishes here all use wooden hand clackers on Good Friday instead of bells.  Maybe the Serbians do something similar or the same?
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« Reply #15 on: May 23, 2008, 12:30:27 AM »


In the serbian church on some day they beat on a board...no church bells....must be from turkish times has some meaning
The board that you are describing does come from the days of Turkish oppression when using bells was outlawed. Monasteries that come from areas of Turkish oppression still use the boards, some being as long as 10 or 12 feet, as a call to prayer. A monk will carry the board on should hitting the board with a hammer in a rhythmic manner. It is also common to see the boards hanging horizontally just outside the church building.
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« Reply #16 on: May 23, 2008, 12:57:18 AM »

Your right about that , but i think there allso another meaning for us srbs could be Great and Holy Friday ... also i noticed iv been spelling censer wrong....oh well live and learn...SmileyCentral.com" border="0...Hristos Voskrese..SmileyCentral.com" border="0
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« Reply #17 on: May 26, 2008, 01:46:20 AM »

also i noticed iv been spelling censer wrong....oh well live and learn...
Yup, a censer puts a sweet-smelling smoke into the air, while a censor just tells you to shut up (not that I'm doing that to you Wink).
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« Reply #18 on: May 26, 2008, 08:41:04 AM »

Yup, a censer puts a sweet-smelling smoke into the air, while a censor just tells you to shut up (not that I'm doing that to you Wink).

Very common spelling mistake there. Just like one that we have in this very thread: altar, the holy table, misspelled as alter, which means to change or remove, something that should be foreign to Orthodoxy.  Tongue
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« Reply #19 on: May 26, 2008, 05:29:18 PM »

Yup, a censer puts a sweet-smelling smoke into the air, while a censor just tells you to shut up (not that I'm doing that to you Wink).
Brother i tried to correct both words but spell checker didn't help at all..they were spelled correctly but different meanings?Huh what to do what to do,,so i left them the way they were .....including the alter [altar] but the message was understandable....SmileyCentral.com" border="0 .....Christ Has Risen......Rejoice....,,,,,,SmileyCentral.com" border="0
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« Reply #20 on: May 26, 2008, 06:42:32 PM »

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« Reply #21 on: May 28, 2008, 10:34:54 PM »

As an altar server, these are the traditions of my church:

When we fast, the censor has no bells.

The censor has bells when we are not fasting. Quite simple!


By the way, frankincense is my favorite flavor! When I'm in charge of the censor, I pile that stuff on and smoke out the whole church!!! Hahahaha!
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« Reply #22 on: May 28, 2008, 10:46:36 PM »

As an altar server, these are the traditions of my church:

When we fast, the censor has no bells.

The censor has bells when we are not fasting. Quite simple!


By the way, frankincense is my favorite flavor! When I'm in charge of the censor, I pile that stuff on and smoke out the whole church!!! Hahahaha!


to me it seem's so odd not to have bell's on the censer be it great lent or little lent....Great and Holy  Friday.i've never ever seen a bell-less censer in the serbian church  ...i use to make them real smokers the Father was older and he didn't like ...i still would over load the censer.....SmileyCentral.com" border="0
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« Reply #23 on: June 04, 2010, 10:12:04 PM »

The bell-less censer really makes a point during Lent, that things are different during this time.
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« Reply #24 on: June 07, 2010, 04:50:52 PM »

My parish has four censers.  Only one of them has bells on and we only use it at Pascha and if we have an outdoor procession.  Neither my parish priest nor I like the bells.  He tried using it for Pentecost and it was very awkward, especially during the Apostle reading.  I was almost shouting it to make it heard above the disruptive din caused by the bells, and I'm still not sure it was very clear, so I don't think we'll be doing that again.  I went to a diocesan conference at the weekend just gone, which wasin a conference/retreat centre.  Two censers were brought from the cathedral: one had bells while the other did not.  The main censer used at the cathedral in my diocese has two bells.  The others have none.  It seems very common in my experience to have censers without bells, for which I remain grateful.
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« Reply #25 on: June 07, 2010, 09:54:42 PM »

In my (GOA) parish, we have censers with bells on them, and Fr. Steve loves to put on copious amounts of incense, so that the smoke rising up will be evident to all.  We use a katzion (hand-censer) during the chanting of Ps. 19-20 (LXX) at Orthros during Holy Week.

At St. Anthony's Monastery in Arizona, the Ecclesiarch censes the church with the katzion during the reprise of the Trisagion Hymn at Liturgy; they also use the semantron (board struck with mallets) to summon the monks and faithful to services.
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« Reply #26 on: June 08, 2010, 01:48:35 AM »

TO REPLY NO. 24, Subdeacon Michael, Censeing during the Epistle Reading can be done by holding the censer upright, and holding the chain in the middle of it, moving the chain back and forth slowly, without disturbing the reading.
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« Reply #27 on: December 11, 2011, 09:51:44 PM »

This video goes into the symbolism of the censer, including the 12 bells:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uOKaDDVh1xM
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« Reply #28 on: December 14, 2011, 03:04:54 AM »

the number of bells may have this story behind it, however I know some priests take off some bells because if the bells are too loud it is hard on those who wear hearing aides.
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« Reply #29 on: December 15, 2011, 02:36:45 AM »

I wear hearing aids, and have to turn them down when the censer gets going, but I love watching those little puffs of incense rising.
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« Reply #30 on: December 15, 2011, 03:09:48 AM »

Neat to hear all of the different traditions surrounding the censer. I also didn't know that the Greek priests will use only a hand censer for Orthos in Holy Week! For us, of course, it's not a special thing. Priests never use it in our tradition, always the chain censer. Deacons never use it, either, unless he is censing at a reader's service. I've censed our church before at reader's services with such a hand censer.

My parish has three chain censers, one with bells and two without. The bells are used on Sundays and feast days, and of course throughout Paschatide. During the week, we do not have bells. We never use bells during one of the fasting periods (Lent, Advent, Dormition, Apostles).

At the Liturgy, the servers actually move the charcoal from the belled censer into a censer without for the Epistle reading, so the people can hear. Our priest (no deacon is currently attached to our parish) breaks up the censing. He will cense the Holy Table and altar while the prokeimenon is proclaimed, then dialogue with the reader from the high place. Once the Epistle is being read, he will cense the iconstas and the servers. He will then go back to the high place and hand the censer off, and a server will move the charcoal back into a belled censer and return it to the priest. The priest then finishes the censing during the Alleluia, bells going! I personally like this because the bells bring a very festive feeling to the Alleluia, which we sing quite excitedly, and is remarkably different from the silence during the Epistle reading. It really makes you excited for the Gospel reading!

I also have to second what was said above about the lack of bells really making a point during Great Lent. They're definitely missed when they aren't there, and remind me what season we're in!
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« Reply #31 on: December 15, 2011, 09:10:31 AM »

Is the censer with twelve bells by any means related to the robe with twelve bells in Judaism?

And when she was twelve years old there was held a council of the priests, saying: Behold, Mary has reached the age of twelve years in the temple of the Lord. What then shall we do with her, lest perchance she defile the sanctuary of the Lord? And they said to the high priest: You stand by the altar of the Lord; go in, and pray concerning her; and whatever the Lord shall manifest unto you, that also will we do. And the high priest went in, taking the robe with the twelve bells into the holy of holies; and he prayed concerning her. And behold an angel of the Lord stood by him, saying unto him: Zacharias, Zacharias, go out and assemble the widowers of the people, and let them bring each his rod; and to whomsoever the Lord shall show a sign, his wife shall she be. And the heralds went out through all the circuit of Judæa, and the trumpet of the Lord sounded, and all ran. (Gospel of James, chapter 8 )
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« Reply #32 on: December 15, 2011, 09:20:19 AM »

One meaning of the twelve bells is that they represent the Twelve Apostles: Their sound has gone forth into all the world is the prokeimenon for an apostle. Bells on a robe is something seen on a bishop's mantle, at least in Greek tradition.
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« Reply #33 on: December 15, 2011, 10:27:32 AM »

Neat to hear all of the different traditions surrounding the censer. I also didn't know that the Greek priests will use only a hand censer for Orthos in Holy Week! For us, of course, it's not a special thing. Priests never use it in our tradition, always the chain censer. Deacons never use it, either, unless he is censing at a reader's service. I've censed our church before at reader's services with such a hand censer.

My parish has three chain censers, one with bells and two without. The bells are used on Sundays and feast days, and of course throughout Paschatide. During the week, we do not have bells. We never use bells during one of the fasting periods (Lent, Advent, Dormition, Apostles).

At the Liturgy, the servers actually move the charcoal from the belled censer into a censer without for the Epistle reading, so the people can hear. Our priest (no deacon is currently attached to our parish) breaks up the censing. He will cense the Holy Table and altar while the prokeimenon is proclaimed, then dialogue with the reader from the high place. Once the Epistle is being read, he will cense the iconstas and the servers. He will then go back to the high place and hand the censer off, and a server will move the charcoal back into a belled censer and return it to the priest. The priest then finishes the censing during the Alleluia, bells going! I personally like this because the bells bring a very festive feeling to the Alleluia, which we sing quite excitedly, and is remarkably different from the silence during the Epistle reading. It really makes you excited for the Gospel reading!

I also have to second what was said above about the lack of bells really making a point during Great Lent. They're definitely missed when they aren't there, and remind me what season we're in!

Wouldn't it be easier to just swing the censer gently so as to not cause the bells to chime? I see the Slavic liturgical mindset running through your post, haha (not a bad thing).
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« Reply #34 on: December 15, 2011, 10:43:16 AM »

Neat to hear all of the different traditions surrounding the censer. I also didn't know that the Greek priests will use only a hand censer for Orthos in Holy Week! For us, of course, it's not a special thing. Priests never use it in our tradition, always the chain censer. Deacons never use it, either, unless he is censing at a reader's service. I've censed our church before at reader's services with such a hand censer.

My parish has three chain censers, one with bells and two without. The bells are used on Sundays and feast days, and of course throughout Paschatide. During the week, we do not have bells. We never use bells during one of the fasting periods (Lent, Advent, Dormition, Apostles).

At the Liturgy, the servers actually move the charcoal from the belled censer into a censer without for the Epistle reading, so the people can hear. Our priest (no deacon is currently attached to our parish) breaks up the censing. He will cense the Holy Table and altar while the prokeimenon is proclaimed, then dialogue with the reader from the high place. Once the Epistle is being read, he will cense the iconstas and the servers. He will then go back to the high place and hand the censer off, and a server will move the charcoal back into a belled censer and return it to the priest. The priest then finishes the censing during the Alleluia, bells going! I personally like this because the bells bring a very festive feeling to the Alleluia, which we sing quite excitedly, and is remarkably different from the silence during the Epistle reading. It really makes you excited for the Gospel reading!

I also have to second what was said above about the lack of bells really making a point during Great Lent. They're definitely missed when they aren't there, and remind me what season we're in!

Wouldn't it be easier to just swing the censer gently so as to not cause the bells to chime? I see the Slavic liturgical mindset running through your post, haha (not a bad thing).

Yes, probably, but we're so Slavic (as you've pointed out)! I definitely don't consider it a bad thing, I'm quite proud to be of a "Slavic tradition parish"!

Father does what you've suggested sometimes, particularly when the Epistle reading is short. And, regardless of whether we got to switch out the censers or not, he always censes very gently, and only the faintest sound of rustling chains can be heard.
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« Reply #35 on: December 15, 2011, 11:04:16 AM »

It's funny, but I never counted the bells as an altar boy and never heard any discussion of the subject over the years until this thread. There are priests and deacons who swing a 'heavy' kadilo and those who use a more gentle approach. The 'heavy hitters' must be friends of the carpet industry from what I have seen! Smiley
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« Reply #36 on: December 15, 2011, 05:32:38 PM »

There is a priest who visits our parish on occasion, when our regular priest is out, and the visitor is definitely from the 'vigorous swing' school of censing. I was pretty surprised. You can definitely tell the difference.
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« Reply #37 on: December 15, 2011, 08:13:20 PM »

If the parish has a deacon, or even a single priest and sings the proper alelluia and verses then there is no need to cense during the epistle.  This censing during the epistle came from a time when the people would ( and still do) only sing the alleulia and not the verses in between.  So to make sure the censing for the gospel got done the priest would cense during the epistle.  Funny, the priest instructs us to listen to the epistle and then immediately starts censing, which makes it hard to hear the epistle.  This is one custom I don't mind getting rid of because it was brought to fruition because of a lack of proper liturgics.  In liturgy there isn't to be any silent times, so if the people sing alleulia three times real quick and the priest has to do the entire censing (altar then the icon screen then the people) there would be a huge pause.  But old habits die hard.  If I was the priest I wouldn't cense at all during the epistle. The problem is you have to be able to get the reader to do the verses and have them done in tone and slowly.  Give the priest time to fully cense before the gospel so he doesn't have to do it during the epistle.  Just like when the priest says bow your heads to the Lord, you must sing "to you oh Lord very slowly so he can say the silent prayer.
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