Candles play an important part in Roman Catholic religious practices; they even have their own day of blessing, February 2, called Candlemas, or the Purification of the Blessed Virgin. Candles are used to administer all of the sacraments except for penance, which is done in private. Purity of light and the nourishment of life represent the symbolic nature of candles. In addition to assisting with the administering of the sacraments, candles are used for many other Catholic blessings as well.
Makeup of Candles
Candles used in Catholic blessings should be made from at least 25 percent beeswax. The purity of beeswax signifies the purity of Christ. Pure beeswax candles are ideal; however, tallow or paraffin are allowed in small doses. The wick of the candle is symbolic of Christ’s soul, and the flame represents his divinity. Most candles are molded by pouring a mixture of wax into frames; however, pure beeswax must be dipped into vats. Large altar candles are made by rolling wax sheets around a wick.
Votive candles are not blessed by a clergyman but are increasingly used in churches for solitary parishioners to administer their own personal blessings. The word votive derives from the Latin word, “votum,” which means “vow.” When someone lights a votive candle they are giving honor and devotion to a specific person or concept.
Candles and Advent
Another Catholic blessing that incorporates candles is the blessing of the Advent wreath. The wreath is symbolic of Advent, which is the period of time leading up to Christmas. Four candles, three purple and one pink, represent the four weeks. The wreath is blessed on the first week of Advent during Mass or evening prayer. The lighting of the candles may be preceded or followed by a reading from the scripture or the singing of a hymn.
A Sacred Role
Candles are often used in the many blessings and prayers recited by Catholics and are a major component of Roman Catholic blessings. The sacred, symbolic nature of the accessories has a holy and considerable role in the Catholic faith. An excerpt from a prayer used to bless candles states: “Lord Jesus Christ, true light that enlightens every man who comes into this world, bestow thy blessing upon these candles, and sanctify them with the light of thy grace.”
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