Q: Why do we light candles at Mass? — Libby Flaherty, Grade 8, All Saints Catholic School, Davenport.
A: The liturgical use of candles during Mass calls for at least two lit candles to be placed on or next to the altar. We could use even four or six candles for special feasts, and then those may be carried in procession (GIRM no. 117).
The original use of lit candles was functional; there was no electricity. Therefore, candles were necessary even in daytime because churches tended to be dark. Candles are no longer functional, but symbolic. In the context of the Gospel, they help us remember that Christ is the Light of the World and we, as the body of Christ, are to be a light that shines in the darkness of our world.
In some of our parishes, the pastoral practice is to also have candles at the ambo. This practice underscores the importance of both the table (“ambo” comes from the Greek word meaning “reading table”) of the Word and the table of the Eucharist. In the Roman Catholic Church, the liturgy of the Word cannot be separated from the liturgy of the Eucharist. We must remember that neither is “finished;” we are to continue to live this out in our lives, schools, homes and communities. We are truly to be Christ to others we encounter.
To read the rest of this article, subscribe to The Catholic Messenger’s e-edition.