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07-Jun-2017 10:29

At a baptism a burning candle is put into the hand of the catechumen or of the godfather as representing the infant.

It is not lawful to say Mass without lighted candles, and if the candles are in danger of being blown out by the wind they must be protected by lanterns.

This symbolism we may say is still accepted in the Church at large. Cyprian in 258 was buried praelucentibus cereis ), we learn from the so-called Fourth Council of Carthage, really a synod held in Southern Gaul (c.514), that in conferring the minor order of acolyte The candidate had delivered to him "a candlestick with a candle". Such candles as these when carried by acolytes, as we learn from he Gregorian Sacramentary and the "Ordines Romani", were constantly used in the Roman Ceremonial from the seventh century and probably still earlier.

These candles were placed upon the pavement of the sanctuary and not until much later upon the altars.

From this has sprung the further conception that the wick symbolizes more particularly the soul of Jesus Christ and the flame the Divinity which absorbs and dominates both.

Thus the great paschal candle represents Christ, "the true light", and the smaller candles are typical of each individual Christian who strives to reproduce Christ in his life.

We need not shrink from admitting that candles, like incense and lustral water, were commonly employed in pagan worship and in the rites paid to the dead.

Similarly the bishop when he makes his entry into a church is received and escorted by the acolytes with their candles.

In the case of the paschal candle and the two candles which are of obligation at Mass, a recent decree of the Congregation of Rites (14 Dec., 1904) has decided that they must be of beeswax in maxima parte , which commentators have interpreted as meaning not less than 75 per cent.

For other purposes the candles placed upon the altar, e.g.

The carrying of tapers figures among the marks of respect prescribed to be shown to the highest dignitaries of the Roman Empire in the "Notitia Dignitatum Imperii".

It is highly probable that the candles which were borne from a very early period before the pope or the bishop when he went in procession to the sanctuary, or which attended the transport of the book of the Gospels to the ambo or pulpit from which the deacon read, were nothing more than an adaptation of this secular practice.

They are, in fact, part of the natural language of mystical expression, and such things belong quite as much to secular ceremonial as they do to religion.