Prayer Candle: a petition, to stay vigil, a promise
Candles: God's Light
Candlemas, Easter, or in a time of need.....god will illuminate
The word “candle” comes from the Latin verb candeo meaning
“to shine, glow, or burn.”
“light signifies our prayer offered in faith coming into the light of God. With the light of faith, we petition our Lord in prayer, or petition the saint to pray with us and for us to the Lord.” The word “vigil” comes from the Latin vigilia and refers to keeping watch. The vigil candle that is lit remains so for a period of time (either a certain number of hours or a few days) and symbolizes how the person desires “to remain present to the Lord in prayer even though we may depart and go about our daily business.” It also reminds the individual how the saint is constantly praying for their petitions.
Another word for these candles is a “votive” candle and comes from the Latin votum, meaning promise, dedication or simply “prayer.” It reinforces the idea that the candles represent our prayers before God.
As humans, we are body and soul and our prayers often need to be expressed in a physical, tangible way. This helps our soul be at rest and is a way to deepen our spirituality. Similar to incense, the light of the candles is a physical reminder that points our souls to God. We light them not because we believe our prayers will be better heard by God, but because we need something visual to connect our body and soul.
Candles have always been used in the Church in a symbolic way. From ancient times the lighted candle has been seen as a symbol of the light of Christ. This is clearly expressed at the Easter Vigil, when the deacon or priest enters the darkened church with the single Easter candle. Jesus came into our world of sin and death to bring the light of God to us. He expressed this idea clearly in the Gospel of John: “I am the light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12).
There are some who also point to the use of candles as a remembrance of the early Christians who celebrated Mass in the catacombs by candlelight. It is said that this should remind us of the sacrifice they made as well as the possibility that we too could be in a similar situation, celebrating Mass under threat of persecution.
Besides offering a meditation on light, candles in the Catholic Church are traditionally made of beeswax. According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, “The pure wax extracted by bees from flowers symbolizes the pure flesh of Christ received from His Virgin Mother, the wick signifies the soul of Christ, and the flame represents His divinity.” The requirement to use candles that are, at the very least partially made with beeswax, is still present in the Church on account of this ancient symbolism.
Candles also have been used to add a more festive character to the celebration of Mass. According to the GIRM, “The altar is to be covered with at least one white cloth. In addition, on or next to the altar are to be placed candlesticks with lighted candles: at least two in any celebration, or even four or six, especially for a Sunday Mass or a Holy Day of Obligation, or if the Diocesan Bishop celebrates, then seven candlesticks with lighted candles.”
The number of candles is meant to remind the faithful that there is something different about a certain day and should spike the interest of those present.
In the end, while candles may seem antiquated and unnecessary, the Church believes that the natural beauty of candles can have a spiritual impact on our souls. The Church, in her wisdom, realizes the power behind the symbolism of using candles and how they can reignite a drooping spirit and fill it with the fire of divine love.
Songs of Worship:
This Little Light of Mine! I'm Going To Let it Shine!
The blessing of candles which are carried in a procession honoring Christ,
'the light to enlighten the Gentiles' (Luke 2, 32)
Book of the Day!
Say the rosary with candles
Slowly the candles will light and the Rosary will become illuminated. Breathtaking!