The Practice of Lighting Candles During Prayer and the Liturgy
The practice of lighting candles is an important tradition in Catholic churches, communities, and families. Its origins may be traced back to Old Testament times where an oil lamp was lit to keep a perpetual flame burning signifying the passing of the light of the Lord from generation to generation. In today’s Catholic tradition, this light has a very special place because it symbolizes Christ who said, “I am the Light of the world; the one who follows me will not walk in darkness but will have light and life.”
In many parts of Catholic celebrations and rituals, the lighting of candles plays a very significant role. Candles are lit during the celebration of the Mass, on liturgical and funeral processions, and during evening prayer ceremonies. Candles are lit before the tabernacle to signify the Lord’s presence in the Blessed Sacrament. A lit candle beside the tabernacle is a sign that the faithful should act with reverence in the presence of the Lord.
Candles are often lit before images of Christ and before the saints and Our Lady. Catholics use this practice not to honor the image itself but to honor the one that the image truly represents. The lit candle symbolizes a prayer offering where we present our petitions to the Lord and ask the saints to pray with us and to pray for us during our greatest need. This light, as it is kept burning, also shows our desire to remain in God’s presence as we go through our daily duties at home and in the workplace. Candles lit before Christ’s image also symbolize our reverence to He who deserves our adoration and thanksgiving and who alone can forgive our sins and bring us back into a deeper relationship with God.
Christian prayer and meditation are much easier and more peaceful when using lit candles:
1) Candles eliminate distractions
A lit candle in front of you while praying will help you to focus on your prayer. Having a dimmed light source may facilitate a better prayer experience too.
2) Candles create a more calming atmosphere
The light emitted from a candle brings a sense of calm into our soul. It is for this reason that candles are used therapeutically by many people and can have similar soothing effects in our own daily prayer life too.
3) Candles symbolize ancient prayer
Christians in the early Church right through to modern times and the invention of electricity prayed, and continue to pray, by the light of candles. Therefore the prayer in front of a lit candle recalls all those Christians who have gone before us in this sign of faith.
4) Candles remind us about the presence of GOD
The burning candle is intended to represent Jesus Christ. The bright flame represents the Divinity of Christ; the candle proper symbolizes His humanity - the wick concealed within the candle is a figure of His soul, the wax itself is an emblem of Christ’s purest body. Now we can look at the candle and feel God’s presence among us.
5) Candles symbolize our search for GOD
Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”. The flame of the candle reminds us of this reality and how we should follow that light by stepping out of the darkness of sin and into the light of life.
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