Light In Christian Worship Candlelight Term Paper

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It is not intended for the contemplation of the reserved sacrament. Under this new principle, Roman Catholic tabernacles are now set in separate chapels or other more appropriate places (ELCA). Guidelines for Lutheran Churches

These Churches do not recommend the placement or use of eternal flame lamps in the worship area (ELCA 2011). Doing so will give the erroneous belief that God is present only because of the light or that He is absent if the light is off. Lutheran theology affirms the real presence of Christ in the sacrament and the maintenance of the elements for the sick and the homebound. Some Lutheran congregations keep a clear encased light near the elements to honor or indicate the area where these elements are kept but not to worship them (ELCA).

Symbols at the First Presbyterian Church

An acolyte carries a torch during a liturgical procession (FPCreidsville 2011). This light represents and reminds the faithful of God's pillar of fire, which guided the Israelites in their journey through the wilderness. In the church, it emphasizes the presence of God during worship. Like the acolyte who brings the torch, the faithful are to bring the light of Christ to the world (FPCreidsville).

Three special worship services were observed in the early centuries of Christian worship (FPCreidsville 2011). These were the Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter. Together, they comprised the Easter Triduum. Central to this service were the symbols of Light and Life, Christ's victory over darkness and death. He is the light that has come to the world. A large and special candle is placed on a stand and lighted on the eve of Easter. This symbolizes the victory of the resurrection over darkness and sin. The Easter Candle represents the risen Savior as the new pillar of fire. It is prescribed with a cross and the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet. These letters mean that He is the beginning and the end, the first and the last. The lighted candle burns from Easter to Ascension Day. This spans 40 days of His presence among His followers. The Paschal candle is used during baptism and funerals throughout the year to remind the faithful that everyone belongs to the risen Lord (FPCreidsville).

Light in Medieval Christian Worship

The Gloucester candlestick was an important part of medieval Christian ceremony (VAM 2011). Evening cathedral vespers included a lamp-lighting ceremony and a hymn of light. This symbolizes the light of Christian goodness in the darkness of sin. Christ has been recognized as radiating light as a halo or as beams since early times. Other than Him, light has been associated with the Three Kings or the Magi, who were most likely Zoroastrian priests. Zoroastrianism evolved from Iran 3,500 years ago. It considers fire the symbol of purity. Zoroastrian rituals and ceremonies always included sacred fires (VAM).

Service of the Shadows

Churches, which observe this service, light a flame on Good Friday (Bratcher 2010). The flame is either the Christ candle or a new fire. All other candles are lighted from the new fire. Some of the churches use a special Paschal Candle as the focal point during the service. Worshippers light their candles from the Paschal Candle as they sing a song of praise. The Christ candle symbolizes His resurrection and as the light of salvation and hope for all men. When held in a sanctuary, the lights are turned on all at once or in stages. This is done as the Scriptures are read. It goes in reverse of the Service of the Shadows and emphatically symbolizes the true light. This is conducted during Easter sunrise (Bratcher).

Easter Garden or the Empty Tomb

In a representation of the tomb where Jesus was interred, a light or white candle is placed (Bratcher 2010). This can be a Christ candle taken from the sanctuary after the Service of the Shadows. This make-believe tomb is placed in front of the church or near the communion table in Protestant churches from Ash Wednesday till the end of Lent. It is left open but without light inside it. The tomb is closed on Good Friday. On Easter morning, it is re-opened before worshippers arrive. The light is opened and the Christ candle inside are turned on to symbolize a new life (Bratcher).

Candlelight in Presbyterian Churches

They light up the Christ Candle, which is also called Paschal candle, for the weekly worship (Newlonsburg 2011). This candle reminds the faithful about Christ as the light of the world and about His presence during worship. Records show that the...


The modern version of this candle has the cross the date of the current year inscribed on it (Newlonsburg).
Lighting the Candle in Praise

Several movements lead to the orderly progression of events in community worship in the Methodist church (Anderson 2011).Worshippers first gather, sing praise for God's gift of life, a re-stating of basic beliefs and the proclamation and preaching of the Word. The singing praise ceremony consists of a prelude, lighting of the candles, the introit and the opening hymn. The organist or pianist chooses the musical piece to use in gathering the worshippers. It prepares them for worship. It may be a simple hymn or lively tune, whether classical or baroque. Candles are then lighted to connect with the old practice, which reminds worshippers that the light of Christ is in their midst (Anderson).

The Cycle of Light in Christian Worship

This Cycle consists of Advent, Christmas and Epiphany (Anderson 2003). Among the most commonly used candlelight symbols by all Christian denominations is the Advent wreath. The origin of the wreath is connected to the Christmas tradition of northern Europe and developed by Christianity by the 16th century. It has three dark blue or purple candles and a rose-colored candle. The dark blue or purple candles represent solemnity while the rose-colored candle represents joy. On the other hand, some Anglican churches use different candles in celebrating Epiphany. In one form, 15 candles are used, with the large one representing Christ. The smaller ones represent the 12 apostles and two more represent the apostolic line of bishops and the diocesan bishops, respectively. The rest of the candles are lighted and carried from the church as the faithful leave it. This symbolizes the "carrying of the light of Christ into the darkness of the world (Anderson)."

The annual festival of the Candlemas on February 2 celebrates two events (Anderson 2003). One is the purification of Mary on the 40th day from the birth of Christ and His presentation in the temple, culminating into His meeting with Simeon. Candlemas evolved from the custom of blessing candles and of distributing them to the faithful in a church procession and into the city. Its origin is set back to between the 5th and the 11th centuries. The symbolism of the candles points to the theme of light of Christmas. This light has entered the world, which He gradually illuminates. Some perceive the theme of purification and the use of candles as derived from pagan Roman practices (Anderson).

Greek Orthodox churches come together in darkness in the late hours of Saturday night of the Holy Week for the Resurrection service (Anderson 2003). All lights are put out at midnight, except for the eternal vigil light on the altar. The priest lights the Paschal candle from it and duplicates the process whereby individual candles are lighted from the Paschal candle. Worshippers enter with their lighted candles as if emerging from the tomb of Christ. These candles are to remain lighted as they go back home. The flame is used to make the sign of the cross on their door posts as the symbolic Passover of the Old Testament (Anderson).

More on the Paschal Candle

The symbolism of this candle throughout the Easter season continues as it remains visibly perched or near the altar to shed light continuously (Anderson 2003). There are different practices that determine when it should be put out. Some practices do after the Gospel reading on Ascension Day, which is 40 days after His resurrection. Other practices wait for the end of the Easter season at Pentecost. Still other practices focus on the presence of the Risen Christ in our own time. When the candle is put out, it is usually moved near the baptismal font. It is lighted for every subsequent baptism. Smaller candles are lighted from it before they are given to the person being baptized or to the sponsors. The Paschal candle is also lighted for a funeral and placed at the head part. both occasions are connected to the Easter theme of Christians being raised with Christ Who became victorious over death. The melting of the candle wax symbolizes the passing of time and the progression of the church year. This process continues until Easter comes and a new Paschal candle is lit. As can be gleaned, the evangelical world is characterized by the symbolism of candles and light within liturgical traditions (Anderson).


Anderson, Sherridan. The Use of Candles as…

Sources Used in Documents:


Anderson, Sherridan. The Use of Candles as a Symbol in Worship. Canadian Centre for Worship Studies: CCSW and Sherridan Anderson, 2003. Retrieved on May 19, 2011


Anderson, Todd D. The Lord be with You! Church of the Master United Methodist:

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