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Liturgical symbolism of Lights/candles

In catholic liturgical celebrations and devotions like celebration of the Mass, on liturgical and funeral processions, at prayer ceremonies, Baptism, weddings, beside the tabernacles in the sanctuary etc. candles are lighted as a reverence and symbolic representation of Christ, the light among his people.

Particularly in the sanctuary, there is a perpetual light that. Burns beside the tabernacle in fulfilment of God’s commandment in exodus of the perpetual flame explained above.

Below are some liturgical settings and ritual where candles are used:

Easter Vigil:

Christ as the light of the world that drives out darkness is perfectly expressed during Easter Vigil (Holy Saturday).

The deacon or the priest carries the lighted paschal candle, a symbol of Christ and enters the darkened church singing ‚ÄúChrist our light‚ÄĚ. All the faithful follows the Light (Christ) which drives away the darkness in the church.

Symbolically, the Christian is reminded of his call to follow Christ, the light and to drive away the darkness of sin in their lives. All the faithful gathered at prayer, again, light their candles from one source, the paschal candle, the symbol of Christ among his people.

It signifies our configuration and connectivity to the light of the world, the source of our life and light.


At baptism, the candidate is configured into the threefold ministry of Christ: priest, prophet and king.

The candidate does not remain the same but through the grace of baptism, he/she becomes the light in our world just like Jesus through whom he has become a newborn.

The priest lights up a candle from the paschal candle and hands it to the candidate in these word ‚Äú‚Ķ‚Ķ‚Ķ‚Ķ. (name) Receive the light of Christ.‚ÄĚ

After this the celebrant say
Parents and godparents,
this light is entrusted to you to be kept burning brightly.
This child of yours has been enlightened by Christ.
He (she) is to walk always as a child of the light.
May he (she) keep the flame of faith alive in his (her) heart.
When the Lord comes, may he (she) go out to meet him
with all the saints in the heavenly kingdom.

Symbolically the candidate, with the lighted candle is made aware that he/she is grafted to the light and is responsible through the help of the church, family and friends to keep the light burning till God calls him/her back to heaven, a place where “…there shall be no night there; and they need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light: and they shall reign for ever and ever (KJV Rev 22:5).


At mass, a burning candle are placed either on or around the altar. As already expressed above, the candle is representation of Jesus, the Light of the world.

Again, the light and fire just as in the Old Testament also represents the presence and power of God (similar to the Lord that went before the people of Israel in a pillar of cloud to guide them by day and as a pillar of fire by night to give them light so that they can travel by day and night. Cf Ex 13:21.

At Mass, God is powerfully present, and his presence and power brings liberation, comfort, satisfaction of our emptiness, rekindle our joy and peace.

He is present with his power of forgiveness and feeds us with his body and blood. The candles are not for decoration but communicate a mystery which the human eyes and minds cannot fully and exhaustively comprehend; the divine in our mist and great things happen when the Lord mixes with us.

Don’t take your presence at Mass for granted. God is present.

To be continued next week…


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