Friday, September 24, 2010

Sanctuary Sights and Senses: Altar/Eucharistic Candles

The following is the third installment of my bulletin insert series:

Altar/Eucharistic Candles - We are blessed to have our acolytes, Sydney Bensing, Chase & Drew Braden, and Matthew Stepp (well trained by Lois Ketterer!) adding to our worship of God each Sunday. But, what is behind their lighting of the candles? Is there any meaning to their actions?

Originally, candles were used in order to provide light in a world without electrical lighting. However, the two altar candles have remained to this day with a rich symbolism.

First, within the place of Christian worship, all candles primarily symbolize Christ who is the Light of the World. Thus, anytime candles are lit in the sanctuary, we are reminded that Christ is present with us.

The two altar candles symbolize Christ in a special way. They symbolize the fact that Christ is fully God and fully man. As Article II of the Articles of Religion states: “. . . two whole and perfect natures, that is to say, the Godhead and Manhood, were joined together in one person, never to be divided.” Thus, we have two altar candles.

Not only is it significant that the altar candles are lit at the beginning of worship, symbolizing Christ’s presence with us, but also the way in which they are extinguished at the end of the service is quite significant. Our acolytes always re-light the lighter before extinguishing the candles. They then recess out with the flame. This reminds of two things. First, Christ goes with us, when we leave this building. Second, we are called to carry the Light of Christ into the World . Jesus said, “I am the light of the world” (John 8:12), but in Matthew 5:14, Jesus tells us, “You are the light of the world!” - May Christ shine through us in our world!


Information gathered from the following resources:

McGee, Ratha Doyle McGee. Symbols: Signposts of Devotion. Nashville. The Upper Room.  1962.

Stafford, Thomas A.  Within the Chancel. New York. Nashville. Abingdon P. MCMLV.

Wilson, Bishop Frank E. An Outline of Christian Symbolism. New York. Morehouse-Gorham Co. 1938.

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