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Prayers for candle lighting
Question from Rosemarie on 12/9/2002:


Years ago, I read an article about the use of candles in the Church's liturgy. It mentioned that there are three prayers prescribed for use while lighting candles in a liturgical setting. The only one I remember is for the Paschal Candle at the Easter Vigil: "May the Light of Christ, rising in glory, dispel the darkness of our hearts and minds".

The article cited two other short prayers for use at other times of the year and in other settings, but I don't remember them and I've long since misplaced the article.

Here are my questions:

1. What are the other two prayers?

2. Are these prayers only for use in Church, or would it be okay to use these prayers devoutly at home - the "domestic Church" - when lighting blessed candles, as a way of linking our family devotions to the Liturgy?

3. If not, are there other traditional Catholic prayers for the lighting of blessed candles?

Thank you and God bless you.

In Jesu et Maria, Rosemarie

Answer by Colin B. Donovan, STL on 12/31/2002:

Like our Jewish forebears in the faith of Abraham, the Church has preserved many of the ancient customs of God's people in a Christian way. The "blessing" (praising God for) of objects of ordinary use (i.e. not just strictly religious objects) is general in Judaism, and in the past more general in Catholicism as well. Catholic cultures still retain many such homey practices.

Retaining such traditions is the mind of the Church, which publishes many such blessings for use by clergy, and adapted for the laity, in its "Book of Blessings". Catholics who want to "bless" God through the goods He has given them can make use of the many formulas provided by it. It distinguishes between those appropriate for priests and/or deacons (ecclesiastical blessings using the power of Christ's keys) and those appropriate for lay use.

In the case of candles there is no "blessing" formula for the laity, per se. However, within the blessing ritual for candles there is a prayer which is generic enough that I believe it could be adapted for lay use, provided no presumption is made that one is blessing the objects in the strict sense (no signs of the cross over them, for example), rather "blessing (praising) God" for them. It could be used at the lighting of candles generally, even those for secular use (dinner, emergencies etc.), as well as with blessed candles used for devotional use (prayer, sick calls etc.). These should, of course, be blessed by a priest beforehand. By use of this prayer, God is thanked and glorified for the blessing of light He has given us through candles, and ultimately through Christ Our Lord.

"God of power, who enlightens the world and dispels the darkness of ignorance and sin, (as we remember the Virgin Mother of your Son [or Saint N.]), let the light of these candles illuminate our hearts and minds, that they may reflect always the splendor of Christ, who is Lord for ever and ever. R. Amen."

As for the balance of your question I do not know what exact prayers the article may be refering to, whether they were specific to certain Catholic cultures, came from a Church source, or adapted by the author in some way. But as I noted, the Book of Blessings has formulas for lay use at home, as well as prayers, such as the above, which absent of any priestly presumptions could be used as models for prayer by the domestic Church.


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