What is Light a Prayer Candle about?
Prayer is an experience and the experience itself is what changes the heart, and
grows a centred life. Each moment in prayer that brings us into ourselves, into
the heart of God, also sends us out in better relationship to the world and others
in our lives. Our centre makes our circle whole.
The Light a Prayer Candle site allows us to practice this prayer ritual where we
are, at the same time seeing and sensing the ‘cathedral’ of our wide community.
It honours the sacred prayers of each of us, even as it reminds us of the power
and presence of all of us. It is an invitation to be still in a moment of prayer
... And to know you are cradled in a community of prayer, as in the hand of God,
out of which you cannot fall.
Lighting your Prayer Candle
The great mystic Meister Eckhart said if ‘thankyou’ is the only prayer you say in
your whole life, it is enough... sometimes there is only time enough for that ...
so you may want to begin or end your day with the ritual of lighting a candle on
this website. Sometimes, you may have a special reason – a special intention - to
pray for, in your school or community or across our archdiocese, or in your own
heart ... so you may want to light a prayer candle for that. Or you may simply want
to spend some time in silent company with the candlelight ... and this too is prayer.
Simply follow the steps...
History surrounding lighting candles
In many different traditions lighting candles is a sacred action. In the Catholic
Christian tradition, lighting a candle is an old, old ritual of prayer used individually
and together; found in cathedrals and roadside shrines; lit in need or in gratitude.
It is a sign of God’s presence and the light of Christ. In this candle prayer site
we are gathered in a special way: on our own, yet part of a wide community; lighting
our own candles, yet drawing from the light of a great communion. This marvellous
reality of presence, seen and unseen is the deep treasure of our tradition.
What has candle flame got to do with God?
Fire is one of the earliest and richest images associated with the heart of God
and the human passion for the Divine. It is an image that echoes throughout the
Judeo-Christian story and the rich written history of the great spiritual figures
of our tradition including Teresa of Avila, Richard Rolle, St Macarius, Julian of
Norwich, Meister Eckart, Mechtild of Magdaberg, St Columba and Teilhard de Chardin.
In this tradition, the flame represents the meeting place between us and God in
which we are formed and transformed by the love and life of the God of relationships.
Among early Christians, the bringing of light was especially symbolic of the presence
of Jesus, and this ritual now claims a central significance in the lighting of the
‘great candle’ or paschal candle at Easter eve. This is the Light of Christ among
us, into eternity.
How are prayer candles used in Catholic churches?
From early times, candles remained a central symbol for Christian communities as
they developed and spread. The best (and most expensive) candles were made of beeswax
and were used for the ‘great candle’ and also in other rituals. As devotions to
Mary, Jesus’ mother, and to particular saints became widespread, people would kneel
in prayer before their statues or icons, light a small candle, and offer their prayer,
asking for help, giving thanks, or just kneeling in the presence of a holy place.
These prayer candles are also called votive candles and were often made from tallow
– cheaper and more easily made.
And so the church became the physical gathering place for Christians, the paschal
candle still lit at each community gathering as a reminder of Christ among us; votive
candles drawing on the power of the great saints who’ve travelled the journey, and
the sanctuary light too, always burning, night and day, to welcome the stranger,
to shelter the hurt, to be the constant centre in an inconstant world.