Bell, Book, and Candle

Bell, Book, and Candle In the Romish Church the ceremony of excommunication was formerly attended with great solemnity. Lamps or candles were extinguished by being thrown on the ground, with an imprecation that those against whom the excommunication was pronounced might be extinguished by the judgment of God. The summons to attend this ceremony was given by the ringing of a bell, and the curses accompanying it were pronounced out of a book by the priest. Hence the phrase of "cursing by bell, book, and candle." The following account, from the articles of the General Great Curse, found at Canterbury A.D. 1562, is set down by Thomas Becon, in the Reliques of Rome. This was solemnly thundered out once in every quarter — that is, as the old book saith; — "'The Fyrst Sonday of Advent, at comyng of our Lord Jhesu Cryst: The fyrst Sonday of Lenteen: The Sonday in the Feste pf the Trynyte: and Sonday within the Utas (Octaves) of the Blessed Vyrgin our Lady St. Mary.' At which Action the Prelate stands in the Pulpit in his Aulbe, the Cross being lifted up before him, and the Candles lighted on both sides of it, and begins thus, 'By Authority God, Fader, Son, and Holy- Ghost, and the glorious Mother and Mayden, our Lady St. Mary, and the Blessed Apostles Peter, and Paul, and all Apostles, Martyrs, Confessors, Vyrgyne, and the hallows of God; All thos byn accursed that purchases Writts, or Letters of any Leud Court, or to let the Processe of the Law of Holy Chirch of Causes that longen skilfully to Christen Court, the which should not be demed by none other Law; And all that maliciously bereaven Holy Chirch of her right, or maken Holy Chirch lay fee, that is hallowed and Blessed. And also all thos that for malyce or wrathe of Parson, Vicare, or Priest, or of any other, or for wrongfull covetyse of himself withholden rightful Tyths, and Offerings, Rents, or Mortuaries from her own Parish Chirch, and by way of covetyse fals lyche taking to God the worse, and to hemself the better, or else torn him into another use, then hem oweth. For all Chrysten Man and Women been hard bound on pain of deadly Sin, not onlyche by ordinance of Man, but both in the ould Law, and also in the new Law, for to pay trulyche to God and holy Chirch the Tyth part of all manner of encrease that they winnen trulyche by the Grace of God, both with her travell, and alsoe with her craftes whatsoe they be truly gotten.' And then concludes all with the Curse it self, thus, 'And now by Authoritie aforesaid we Denounce all thos accursyd that are so founden guyltie, and all thos that maintaine hem in her Sins or gyven hem hereto either help or councell, soe they be departed froe God, and all holi Chirch: and that they have noe part of the Passyon of our Lord Jhesu Cryst, ne of noe Sacraments, ne no part of the Prayers among Christen Folk: But that they be accursed of God, and of the Chirch, froe the sole of her Foot to the crown of her hede, sleaping and waking, sitting and standing, and in all her Words, and in all her Werks; but if they have noe Grace of God to amend hem here in this Lyfe, for to dwell in the pain of Hell for ever withouten End: Fiat: Fiat. Doe to the Boke: Quench the Candles: Ring the Bell: Amen, Amen.' And then the Book is clapped together, the Candles blown out, and the Bells rung, with a most dreadful noise made by the Congregation present, bewailing the accursed persons concerned in that Black Doom pronounced against them."

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