blessed candle

[altar candle]
An important sacramental of the Church, used in all the services of her liturgy. It must be of yellow or unbleached beeswax, or more than 50 per cent thereof bleached wax or other material is not permitted unless the proper kind is unobtainable.

The use of lights in worship is older than the Church. Among the furnishings of the tabernacle of Moses and the Jewish Temple there was a seven-branched candlestick; and among pagans the use of lights in services and processions was common. In the Christian Church they were first employed to dispel darkness when the faithful met before dawn or in the gloom of the catacombs; but their beautiful symbolic meaning was soon recognized, and the custom of blessing them for Church services and private use is traceable back to an early period. Light is pure, penetrates darkness, fosters life, moves with incredible velocity, and illumines all around it. Therefore it is an emblem of God, the All Pure, the Giver; of life and enlightenment. It represents Our Saviour, “the Light of the World.” Wax is spotless, and typifies Christ’s spotless Body. The wick enclosed in the wax is an image of His Soul. The candle flame is a figure of the Divine Nature united to the human in one Divine Person.

Candles are blessed solemnly, 2 February, the feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin. In pagan times this was a festival-day, with processions and lights in honor of the gods. The Church chose it for the blessing of candles because on that day Mary made an offering in the Temple, and because the prophet Simeon foretold that her Son would be “a light to the revelation of the Gentiles.” This day is often called Candlemas Day, i,e., the Mass of the Candles. The blessing may be imparted, when desired, on other days. Candles are used at the administration of all the sacraments that are given publicly; at Mass, in varying numbers; at other Church services; and on many other occasions.

In art, candles are associated with

    see also