Candles and Catholicism

Candles are popular these days. One can hardly go shopping without seeing a variety of candles in a multitude of shapes and colors. Candles can be very New Agey, as with mood altering aroma therapy candles. I do not have a problem with candles as sources of illumination nor even as decorations. A candle is an inanimate object, devoid of life or will. Where I begin to get a little concerned is when the candle becomes a significant, even indispensable, part of worship, e.g., as an offering or a sacrifice or an appliance for worship. Worst of all, to my way of thinking, is when the candle becomes a focus of worship. What does the Catholic Encyclopedia tell us about candles and Catholicism?

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. But the Church from a very early period took them into her service, just as she adopted many other things indifferent in themselves, which seemed proper to enhance the splendour of religious ceremonial. We must not forget that most of these adjuncts to worship, like music, lights, perfumes, ablutions, floral decorations, canopies, fans, screens, bells, vestments, etc. were not identified with any idolatrous cult in particular; they were common to almost all cults. 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--Herbert Thurston, Candles , Catholic Encyclopedia, copyright © 1913 by the Encyclopedia Press, Inc. Electronic version copyright © 1996 by New Advent, Inc.

The Roman church has been using candles in its worship for a long time. Some accounts say the practice goes back to about 350 A.D. Others tell us the burning of “holy” candles became standard around 850 A.D. When candles became a part of Catholic worship isn't really all that important to know. As the Catholic Encyclopedia tells us, the earliest recorded use of candles on the Catholic altar was to symbolize the “joy of two peoples at the birth of Christ.” I have no trouble with that concept either. There is a place for symbols in our faith. The cross reminds us that Christ died to atone for our sins. The bread and wine of the Lord's Supper recalls His suffering in our behalf. In baptism, we confess our inner relationship with Christ. Where we get into trouble is when the symbols themselves become objects of that faith.

We have no documentary evidence that candlesticks were placed on the altar during the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice before the tenth century. Leo IV (847-855) declared that only the relics of saints and the book of the Gospels might be placed on the altar (Hamel; De cura pastorum). No writer before the tenth century who treats of the altar makes mention of candlesticks on the altar, but mention is made of acolytes carrying candlesticks, which, however, were placed on the floor of the sanctuary or near the corners of the altar, as is still the custom in the Eastern Church. Probably in the twelfth century, and certainly in the thirteenth, lights were placed on the altar; for Durandus (Rationale, I, iii, 27) says "that at both corners of the altar a candlestick is placed to signify the joy of two Peoples who rejoiced at the birth of Christ", and "the cross is placed on the altar between two candlesticks." The custom of placing candlesticks and candles on the altar became general in the sixteenth century.--A. J. Schulte, Candlesticks, Catholic Encyclopedia, copyright © 1913 by the Encyclopedia Press, Inc. Electronic version copyright © 1996 by New Advent, Inc.

In the Romish practice, candles can become much more than mere decorations or sources of illumination. They sometimes become more than just symbols. Let's examine the use of candles a bit.

Forty days after Christmas Eve, on February 2nd, the Catholic church celebrates what used to be known as Candlemas. On this day, Catholic priests celebrate a Mass that begins with the blessing of lighted candles carried by the Catholic faithful.

There is no scriptural support for this “feast,” as Rome likes to call it, so we must look to pagan practices for its origins. As is well known, one of Rome's favored methods for converting pagans to Catholicism was to latch on to pagan holidays and attach “Christian” significance to them. Pope Gelasius (492-496) came up with Candlemas as a means of laying claim to the pagan Festival of Lupercalia. Originally, Candlemas was celebrated on February 14th, but after Rome invented the Christmas holiday, it was shifted to February 2nd in order to conform to the Luke 2 account.

The Roman Catholic Church, until recently, blessed candles on the day they called “the Purification of Mary,” which falls forty days after Christmas, on February 2nd. The RCC dropped that name, in favor of calling the day “Presentation of the Lord,” because they came to understand that women who give birth no longer require ritual purification (only took them a millenium and a half to figure that out). Also, claims Rome, the real significance of the feast has to do with Jesus coming to the Temple. While the RCC fantasizers weave all sorts of wonderful images around this event, what it really shows is that Jesus, the Messiah promised the Jews, and His mother fulfilled the ordinances of the Levitical Law concerning His early childhood. Messiah, born without blemish, in the presentation at the temple, was conformed perfectly to the Levitical Law. There now was nothing in His life to disqualify Him for the priesthood.

But what about the candles? The Catholic faithful may get their candles from their parish, or bring them with them to the church. Once blessed by the local alter Christus, the Catholic faithful may use the candles for household prayer throughout the year. The day after this feast may commemorate St. Blase, a bishop and martyr of the early church. According to legend, Blase saved a child from choking. When he was imprisoned, his friends brought candles to light his cell. In that wonderful way Rome has of mixing things up and coming out with yet another ritual, the RCC uses candles blessed on February 2nd to bless the throats of the faithful on St. Blase's Day. According to Catholicism, blessed candles in their churches and homes signify the living presence of Christ in their community.

The General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM) states the following with regard to the use of candles: "Candles are to be used at every liturgical service as a sign of reverence and festiveness" (no. 269; see also no. 79). In a 1974 interpretation of GIRM 269, the Congregation for Divine Worship noted that the GIRM “makes no further determination regarding the material” of which candles are made “except in the case of the sanctuary lamp, the fuel for which must be oil or wax.” (Committee on the Liturgy, National Conference of Catholic Bishops/United States Catholic Conference, May 26, 1998)

We use candles at every liturgical service as a sign of reverence and festivity. They bring honor to God and joy to our celebration. . . The frail flame of the candle imitates our flickering faith, which burns in honor of God, enhances celebration, and spends itself to light the way for others.--Paul Turner, Candles, © 1995–2006 Resource Publications

One of the memories of the Catholic church I attended in my younger days involves two stands of votive lights --- one at either end of the brass communion rail. One of the stands displayed a statuette of Mary, in lovely pale blue and white robes, the other a statue symbolizing the “Sacred Heart of Jesus.” Before each of these statues was a wrought-iron stand holding perhaps 50 little glass bowls containing votive candles. Some of the bowls were of red glass, while the others were clear.

While waiting for Mass to begin or droning my penitential prayers, I would watch as people approached these stands and dropped a coin or paper bill into a little cash box attached to the stand. Then, they would kneel, make the sign of the cross and, using a taper, take flame from one of the burning candles and light another. Occasionally, a person would light more than one candle. Then, they would appear to pray for a time before again making the sign of the cross and leaving the rail.

This practice made me curious, yet when I asked about it, I never did get a satisfactory (to me) explanation. A nun told me the money put into the cash box was not to pay for the candles, but was an offering. The purpose of the candles was to focus the prayers of the petitioner, and to speed their travel into the presence of Mary and Jesus. (As the smoke of the Jews' burnt offerings rose up to God?)

I don't see racks of votive candles prominently displayed in the Catholic churches I have visited in the past several years.

Long before Rome began using candles on her altars, as offerings and for blessing throats and such, pagan religions had been using them for similar purposes. Likely some who come to this board are aware of the heavy use of candles and lamps in the ancient Babylonian Mystery Religion and in its descendants and permutations throughout the world. Twenty years ago, a former Satanist and initiated member of the Illuminati, Doc Marquee, was called out of paganism and into the Light. He wrote a book in which he examines, from the point of view of a former witch, the program to bring in the New World Order. One chapter of the book is entitled “Is It Catholicism or Witchcraft.” At the very beginning of this chapter, he writes:

I must emphatically state that Catholicism and witchcraft are one and the same...there is no difference between witchcraft and Catholicism.--Doc Marquee, Secrets of the Illuminati, American Focus Publishing Company, quoted here

Note: For an interesting comparison betwen the rituals of witchcraft and Catholicism, follow the above link and search for MARQUEE. Then read to the bottom of the page for some startling comparisons.

He then goes on to identify several areas in which RCC practices and witchcraft are identical, among them the use of colored candles in services.

Candles were introduced to the Catholic mass about 320 A.D. There is no Scriptural reasons for them, unless... you are a practicing witch. Below is a list of different colored candles a witch would use throughout the year. . . Using these colored candles and the right spells, a witch can cause anything to happen...our Catholic friends are not only using these occult tools, they also pay for them when they go to various statues and light...candles.--Ibid.

Isn't that interesting? Particularly when compared with the official RCC teaching in this paragraph from the Catechism:

1189. The liturgical celebration involves signs and symbols relating to creation (candles, water, fire), human life (washing, anointing, breaking bread) and the history of salvation (the rites of the Passover). Integrated into the world of faith and taken up by the power of the Holy Spirit, these cosmic elements, human rituals, and gestures of remembrance of God become bearers of the saving and sanctifying action of Christ.--Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd Ed., © 1994/1997 United States Catholic Conference, Inc., p. 307

The Roman Church uses candles in its worship, as I have shown above. One candle that is singled out for particular attention is the Paschal candle. There is a liturgical process for blessing this candle, one that holds to the Eucharistic form to emphasize its solemnity. It is a three-part process, rich with blessings, hymns and invocations in Latin. It begins with an invitation to all present to join the deacon in seeking the blessings of God, so that the praises of the candle may be properly celebrated.

The blessing of the "paschal candle", which is a column of wax of exceptional size, usually fixed in a great candlestick specially destined for that purpose, is a notable feature of the service on Holy Saturday. The blessing is performed by the deacon, wearing a white dalmatic. A long Eucharistic prayer, the "Præconium paschali" or "Exultet", is chanted by him, and in the course of this chanting the candle is first ornamented with five grains of incense and then lighted with the newly blessed fire. At a later stage in the service, during the blessing of the font, the same candle is plunged three times into the water with the words: Descendat in hanc plenitudinem fontis virtus Spiritus Sancti" (May the power of the Holy Spirit come down into the fulness of this fountain). From Holy Saturday until Ascension Day the paschal candle is left with its candlestick in the sanctuary, standing upon the Gospel side of the altar, and it is lighted during high Mass and solemn Vespers on Sundays. It is extinguished after the Gospel on Ascension Day and is then removed. --Herbert Thurston, Op. cit.

Levitical Law required that lamps be burned from evening until morning before the Holy of Holies, but not during the daylight hours.

And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Command the children of Israel, that they bring unto thee pure oil olive beaten for the light, to cause the lamps to burn continually. Without the vail of the testimony, in the tabernacle of the congregation, shall Aaron order it from the evening unto the morning before the LORD continually: it shall be a statute for ever in your generations. He shall order the lamps upon the pure candlestick before the LORD continually.--Leviticus 24:1-4

On the other hand, we know that candles and lamps were burned continuously, even in the daytime, in the Babylonian Mystery Religion. Perhaps the Roman church is following that pagan practice, as she does so many others. This is interesting, considering that in one of the apocryphal books of the Catholic canon of scripture, in the so-called Letter of Jeremiah, this practice is derided.

They light candles to them, and in great number, of which they cannot see one: but they are like beams in the house.--Baruch 6:18, Douay Rheims Bible

That letter closes with excellent advice:

Better therefore is the just man that hath no idols: for he shall be far from reproach.--Baruch 6:72, Douay Rheims Bible

So I say that the Catholic church uses candles for more than decoration or illumination. As I have shown, she uses them as objects of and instruments for religious ceremony and she offers them as burnt offerings in what is either a corruption of the Levitical practice or a continuation of the Babylonian religious usage. Either way, the practice smacks of paganism and/or idolatry.

Hear the word of the LORD, ye rulers of Sodom; give ear unto the law of our God, ye people of Gomorrah. To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me? saith the LORD: I am full of the burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts; and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of he goats. When ye come to appear before me, who hath required this at your hand, to tread my courts? Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination unto me; the new moons and sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with; it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting. Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hateth: they are a trouble unto me; I am weary to bear them. And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood. Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil; Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow. Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land: But if ye refuse and rebel, ye shall be devoured with the sword: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it.--Isaiah 1:10-20

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