Every time we attend Mass, there are candles on the altar.
Sometimes two. Sometimes four. Sometimes six or more. At some Masses, there are dozens and dozens of them.
In nearly every church, votive candles burn before statues and sacred images.
For us Catholics, they are omnipresent, automatically turning our thoughts and minds to prayer, to worship, to God.
But why does the Church use candles? What do they actually symbolize?
Primarily, the candles—with their burning, light-giving flame—represent Christ, the Light of the World.
Candles are traditionally made of 100% beeswax, which symbolizes the pure flesh of Our Lord, received from His immaculate Virgin Mother. (Although candles are not required to be pure beeswax, they must at least contain some percentage of that wax.) The wick, enrobed in the wax, represents His soul, and the flame His divinity.
Since we offer Christ Himself on the altar in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, it is only fitting that such a powerful symbol of Christ should be a required element in the Mass.
The layers of meaning in candles run deep. They symbolize our prayers rising up to God. They also contain the idea of sacrifice, since they are an offering made by human hands that we burn—often on an altar—and which is consumed as it is used. During the Mass, candles are a vivid representation of Christ offering Himself to the Father through the hands of the priest.
Candles represent the burning light of faith that compels us to adore God and bring our petitions to Him. And, of course, flame reminds us of the Holy Spirit, the very Love of God dwelling within the hearts of the faithful and sanctifying our prayers and sacrifices.
Our use of candles need not be confined to those times that we are physically in church—many people light candles at home, too, as part of their personal prayer. At The Catholic Company, we want to assist you in your own prayer. This is why we launched J. Lily, our new project dedicated to prayerful candles. With inspiring quotes drawn from Scripture, the rich treasures of Church teaching, and the wisdom of the saints, these candles will draw your mind and heart to God in these treasured moments with Him. Scents such as “Midnight Mass” and “Benediction” will create a sacred atmosphere. We even have candles dedicated to the four types of prayer: adoration, contrition, thanksgiving, and supplication. Head on over to J. Lily now to see our entire collection and to order your favorite today!