October 27, 2019 – Ruminations by Fr. Pat

Lately, unfortunately, there has been a great deal of tragedies around the world. But with these tragedies there are signs of unity and faith and hope. We see people lighting and leaving candles at the site of the tragedy. Thinking of this sign of faith and remembrance, I would like to talk about lighting a votive candle.

If you look at the Books of Exodus and Leviticus, light was used to signify the presence of God in the Holy of Holies. Later, Jewish teachings prescribed a lit lamp at the Ark of the Covenant, where the Torah and other writings of Sacred Scripture were kept, to show reverence to the Word of God. Roman pagan culture also used candles in religious practice. Lit candles were used in religious and military processions, showing the divine presence, aid, or favor of the gods.

For Christians Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life (John 8:12).” He also said “I came into the world as light, so that everyone who believes in me might not remain in darkness. (John 12:46).” With this concept Christians adapted the use of lit candles. There is evidence that lit candles or oil lamps were burned at the tombs of Saints, particularly Martyrs, by the 200s, and before sacred images and relics by the 300s.

At the Easter Vigil the Paschal Candle is lit, which is a sign of Christ’s Paschal Mystery – His Passion, Death and Resurrection. Christ, the Light of the World, is surrounded by His faithful followers, each holding their own candles as Witness to the world. In the Sacrament of Baptism, during the Vigil, as a person is Initiated into the Church, a candle is lit from the Paschal Candle. Being a symbol of what was called “Illumination,” the person being Baptized receives the Light of Christ: “This light is entrusted to you to be kept burning brightly. You have been enlightened by Christ. You are to walk always as a child of the light. May he keep the flame of faith alive in your heart. When the Lord comes, may you go out to meet him with all the saints in the heavenly kingdom.” It is these connections that reminds us of Christ’s presence in our lives. They show Faith. They show reverence to God. They recall our following in His footsteps.

Lighting of candles remind us that we are united to Christ, and that Christ is united to us. In Him we live, and move, and have our being. In times of trouble, we are not alone. In times of thanksgiving, we share in the love of Christ. In times of petition, we know that Christ will hear our prayers.

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