Saturday, February 6, 2010

Candles - Not just for setting the mood

Ever since I was a wee lad I have always loved the glow of candle light. Something about it is so much nicer and more relaxing than the standard electric bulb. Maybe it's the taming of a potentially violent and destructive element of nature in order to use it for light and decoration, maybe it's the mystery and romance of a simpler time gone by.. maybe I'm just a nut who likes to play with matches.

Growing up Catholic, I always loved to light candles for prayer intentions at Church... and I still do. When remembering a special prayer intention for a person or petition, I usually light a candle before or after Mass to burn in my absence. I jokingly refer to this practice as sending up a smoke signal to God.. you know, just in case he didn't hear me shouting earlier. I think it's a beautiful and ancient tradition.. and I like the idea of giving something to God... a flame... signifying that He is the light of the world.. our light in the darkness.

As I get older.. creeping closer towards 30... I have become more sensitive to artificial light, and as the hours progress, turn off the electric lights, I replace them with the soft glow of candle light. I have a small "collection" of what are referred to as Fairy Lamps. I have them scattered around the sitting room and bedroom to cast enough light to illuminate the darkness so I don't run into furniture. Oh.. they're pretty too! Can't forget that.

I sometimes use even these little lamps as "smoke signals to God". Each time I light one of the tea lights, which I know will be consumed by the time I go to bed, I offer a prayer with that candle. I might be asking for God's help.. I may be thanking him. I even have lamps which are designated for offering prayers for specific people and their intentions. The purple lamp is for my Grandparents (my one grandmother's birthstone was Amethyst), and the milk glass lamp is for my Mom.. who always had a few pieces of milk glass in the cupboard growing up. Odd how little things imprint themselves on my memory... but then again.. I'm an odd person.

Below, I have copied a nice explanation for the Catholic custom of lighting candles. Why re-invent the wheel after all? This person did a good job explaining the custom.. if you still need more answers, GOOGLE IT! :)

Oh... and so I don't get sued for plagiarism... Special thanks and a shout out to a fellow blogger over at "A Catholic Life"... from whose blog I poached this from.

The Sight of burning votive candles -real or electronic - is common in most Catholic churches. The candles are usually placed before statues of saints or at shrines. But how did this tradition get its start?

According to A Handbook of Catholic Sacramentals, by Ann Ball (Our Sunday Visitor Books), the practice of lighting candles in order to obtain some favor probably has its origins in the custom of burning lights at the tombs of the martyrs in the catacombs. The lights burned as a sign of solidarity with Christians still on earth. Because the lights continually burned as a silent vigil, they became known as vigil lights.

Vigil Lights (from the Latin vigilia, which means "waiting" or "watching") are traditionally accompanied by prayers of attention or waiting. Another common type of candle offering is the votive light. Such an offering is indicative of seeking some favor from the Lord or the saint before which the votive is placed.

Lighting a candle is a way of extending one's prayer and showing solidarity with the person on whose behalf the prayer is offered.

After the 9/11 tragedy, lit candles figured prominently in a televised concert affirming the power of goodness over the darkness of evil. The symbolism was similar to the Catholic custom of lighting candles as a form of prayer.

Source: "St. Anthony Messenger" Septmber 2003, Page 26

In the lighting of candles we remember and truly live the words of Our Lord: "I am the Light of the World." In the lighting of candles we not only pray, but our prayers become smaller symbols of the One Light of Christ. In burning candles, our prayers rise up to Heaven day and night; prayers for the saint's intercession are also common because of their friendship with God in Heaven. Saints are powerful intercessors. The lighting of candles has been observed since the early the time of the early martyrs.

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