The Sound Was Intentional
April 16, 2020
If you listened to the livestream of the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on Holy Thursday night from the Cathedral of St. Peter, you heard a very different sound during the consecration.
One viewer thought someone dropped something during the broadcast.  But no, the sound was intentional and it was made by an ancient object that Father Jonathan Bakkelund, director of the Office of Divine Worship, says is only used in liturgy once a year.  Some call it a clacker, but the proper name is crotalus.
In the Roman Rite, altar bells are not supposed to be rung after the Gloria in the liturgy on the evening of Holy Thursday, and are supposed to remain unused until the Gloria on Holy Saturday. This is supposed to make things more somber as we remember the passion and death of our Lord Jesus Christ.
But, during this short period of time, is anything supposed to take its place? That’s where the crotalus comes in. The Church’s liturgical rubrics don’t prescribe a replacement for altar bells which signify joy, but there is a centuries-old tradition of using a wooden clapper in its place. This serves to mark the same events as the altar bells, but in a somber way.  Crotaluses can come in many different designs but are most always made of wood.
The term “crotalus” is a Latin term that comes from the Greek word “krotalon,” which means “rattle.”  In fact if you do a web search for crotalus, information on types of rattlesnakes comes up first.  The crotalus used to be universally used, but fell out of use in the last few decades. As interest in the traditional liturgy increases, items like the crotalus are making a comeback.
— Penny Wiegert
Shop Religious items at HOLYART.COM