The practice of lighting candles is an important tradition in Catholic churches, communities and families. Its origins may be traced back in the Old Testament times where an oil lamp is lighted to “keep a flame burning perpetually” (Exodus 27:19-20), as “perpetual incense before the Lord from generation to generation” (Exodus 30:7-8) and as a “lamp stand in the Tent of Meeting…set up before the Lord as He has commanded Moses” (Exodus 40:24-25).
The New Testament further highlights the sanctity of this light in Paul’s Letter to the Hebrews. “A first tent was prepared with the lamp stand, the table and the bread of the presence; this is called the Holy Place” (Hebrews 9:2). In today’s Catholic tradition, this light has a very special place because it symbolizes Christ who said, “I am the Light of the world; the one who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have light and life” (John 8:12).
Candles are lighted before an image of our Lord and before the saints. Catholics practice this not to honor the image itself but the one it truly represents. The lighted candle symbolizes a prayer offering where we present our petitions to the Lord and ask the saints to pray with us and to pray for us during our most dire need. The burning flame of the candle represents the carrying of one’s prayers to heaven for a special intention or in thanksgiving. This light, as it is kept burning, also shows our desire to remain in God’s presence as we go through our daily duties at home and in the workplace. Customarily, at Our Lady of Grace Church, one offers a modest donation of $5.00 at the time of lighting the candle.
Anyone may light a candle and offer prayers at any time. Candles are located in the Marian Chapel at Our Lady of Grace Church.