why do catholics light candles

Why Do Catholics Light Candles? Practices and Symbolism

One of the most widely practiced religions and faith is Catholicism. Out of the world’s population, 17% acknowledged and practiced Catholicism. Over the century, many customs and traditions among Catholics have survived. The most common and well-known of which is the tradition of Catholics to light candles. Furthermore, this practice can be traced back to the period of the Old Testament. Find out in this article the origin of this practice among Catholics.

Lighting of Candles Throughout History and Various Religious Beliefs

We burn candles for a variety of purposes nowadays. Some use it to establish a romantic scene, others to relax, and yet others simply enjoy the fragrance and light it emits.

If we must include, birthday celebrations also use candles as a celebration of life. Thus, every blowing of candle-lighted candles is a simple prayer or wish for another year of life.

1. The gods’ gift contains light, according to Greek mythology.

It is believed in ancient times that Greek gods, who gave Prometheus fire for illumination and development. Because of that belief, candles were used by the ancient Greeks to illuminate the temples of the gods and to offer sacrifice.

In Greek mythology, in order to gain Artemis‘ favor, villagers would burn candles on the sixth day of each month to commemorate the birth of the goddess. Artemis is the goddess of the hunt, wild animals, childbirth, and virginity.

2. The Flame Represents Both Celebration and Remembrance

During Hanukah, the sacred lighting of the candles encourages individuals of Jewish culture to remember to have faith and that they are in the presence of God. The flame holds belief and conviction, reminding them of the triumph of good over evil, with every wick lighted during the “Festival of Lights.” The idea is that as long as the candle burned, safety would reign.

Diwali, an Indian festival of lights, is a five-day celebration of the power of light over darkness. It is a time to make resolutions for the new year.

Around the home and neighborhood, candles are lighted on Diwali night. This is to symbolize the power of light. The floating candles are sent out into the water to Lakshmi, the goddess of riches and prosperity.

3. Catholics Lighting Candles Has Symbolic Value

For members of the Catholic religion, the flame has a more solemn and spiritual connotation.

The flame represents unity in the marriage ceremony, with two people lighting separate candles and then joining them to make one perfect union of spirits. For individuals who pray in private, the light of a candle helps them focus on the Divine God and their prayers.

4. The Flame is a Symbol of Home.

Finally, the practice of placing a candle in the window dates back to colonial times. It was half prayer, part sign that someone was waiting for them and eager to welcome them home. The flame symbolized home. It’s no surprise, therefore, that when we’re far from home, the sight of a blazing flame transports us back home, regardless of where we are, and soothes our nostalgia and homesickness, offering us peace, and tranquility.

Symbols and Practices : Catholics Lighting of Candles

1. Catholics Light Candles for Prayer and Worship

Lit candles offer people an item to concentrate their thoughts and prayers on now in modern societies.

The lighting of candles is an important component of almost all Catholic festivals and ceremonies, such as :

The tabernacle has candles burning in front of the tabernacle. This symbolizes: the Lord’s presence, the Blessed Sacrament, and to exhort the faithful to reverence.

2. Sacrament of Baptism

A person is initiated into the Church via the sacrament of baptism. To symbolize Christ’s Paschal Mystery, a light was lighted :

  • His passion
  • death
  • and resurrection.

The individual receives the Light of Christ in order to live and follow the path of God’s children while keeping the flame of faith alive in his heart. And when the time comes, he will meet the Lord and be one with all the saints in Heaven because he has received this permanent baptismal mark.

3. Catholics Light Candles In front of Christ Image and the Saints

To illuminate the image of Christ and Saints when praying, candles are lit. However, Catholics do this not to honor the image itself, but to honor the person it actually depicts. The lit candle is a prayer offering in which we bring our prayers to the Lord and ask the saints to pray with us. This is light, as it burns, represents our desire to stay in God’s presence as we go about our everyday tasks at home and at work.

Candles lit in front of Christ’s picture also demonstrate our respect for Him, who merits our devotion and gratitude. He who can love and forgive our sins. This practice makes us a closer connection to Him through prayers.

What Is the Purpose of Catholic Candle Lighting?

Catholics frequently light candles in honor of someone. This might be for the soul of a loved one who has passed away. It could be for someone who is ill and those who need intercessions.

When seeking heavenly direction, many also burn prayer candles. Some Catholics burn a candle to express their appreciation for the benefits bestowed upon them. It’s not always for asking to get something.

1. In Catholic Worship, Candles Are Used

Because Catholic candles symbolize God’s everlasting Light, therefore, it’s no surprise that they play an important role in Catholic worship services. Moreover, it also includes religious rituals such as the seven sacraments :

  • The Eucharist
  • Marriage
  • Confirmation
  • Baptism
  • Anointing of the sick
  • Holy orders (ordainment of a priest, deacon, or bishop)
  • And penance

2. For Statue Illumination, Catholics Light Candles

Some Catholic churches feature bye-altars. They are the smaller and less conspicuous side altars compared to the main altar (central altar). The following statues are usually placed on bye-altars.

  • Jesus Christ
  • the Blessed Virgin Mother Mary
  • and then the saints associated with a current church’s holy day

3. Catholics Light Candles During Holy Days

Along with the following decors, candles are lit at Catholic homes. This is to commemorate holy days :

  • During weeks leading to Christmas, advent wreath are hung.
  • And on weeks leading up to Easter, a Lenten wreath or cross are some popular ones.

Old Testament Days : The Story of Moses and the Burning Bush

Lighting candles is a significant ritual in Catholic churches, communities, and families. Tracing back to the Old Testament, here some of the bible verses that lighting of candles have originated :

Firstly, let’s see how God and Moses, and the fire/light. To sum it up, from Exodus 3:1-15 :

  • The angel of the Lord appeared to Moses before flames of fire within a bush
  • God called on to Moses within the bush when He saw that he had gone over to look
  • He commanded Moses to take off his sandals because it is a holy place
  • God gave Moses a special mission to lead the Hebrews to the Promise Land

Secondly, here’s a verse on “keeping the flame burning perpetually” :

“All the other articles used in the service of the tabernacle, whatever their function, including all the tent pegs for it and those for the courtyard, are to be of bronze. Command the Israelites to bring you clear oil of pressed olives for the light so that the lamps may be kept burning.- Exodus 27:19-20 (NIV)

And on perpetual incense before the Lord from generation to generation verse says :

 “Aaron must burn fragrant incense on the altar every morning when he tends the lamps. He must burn incense again when he lights the lamps at twilight so incense will burn regularly before the Lord for the generations to come. - Exodus 30:7-8 (NIV)

And then lastly, on having a “lampstand in the Tent of Meeting.

He placed the lampstand in the tent of meeting opposite the table on the south side of the tabernacle 25 and set up the lamps before the Lord, as the Lord commanded him. - Exodus 40:24-25 (NIV).

4. The Wilderness Tabernacle

God wants to be His people, therefore, He commanded Moses to construct a movable tabernacle and then burn animal sacrifices at the bronze altar.

The fire shall ever be burning upon the altar; it shall never go out. - Leviticus 6:13 KJV21

5. Adoration and Perpetual Fire

The perpetual fire represents unwavering devotion to God. It also denotes the location where the perpetual flame burns is a sacred region. Thus, it belongs only to God, since it is where God resides. The fire, or in this case, the burning candle, becomes worship to God in the Catholic Church.

New Testament Days : Jesus of Nazareth and Catholics Lighting Candles

Candles, most especially fire, have long been an element of religious devotion.

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” - John 8:12  

Over time, the candle came to represent Christ. When individuals light a candle in prayer, they often have a spiritual connection/communion with Christ.

In Paul’s Letter to the Hebrews, the New Testament emphasizes the holiness of this light even more.

For a tent was prepared, the first section, in which were the lampstand and the table and the bread of the Presence. It is called the Holy Place. - Hebrews 9:2 ESV 

Religious Practices: Catholics Light These Candles

Religious rituals entail the use of different candles by Catholics. Therefore, each candle has a unique purpose in numerous devotional rituals. Candle lighting, like many liturgical activities, originated as a practical activity. Moreover, long before electricity, this was how people turned on the lights.

To illuminate the catacombs the early Christians use candles. Similarly, the lavabo—the ritual washing of the priest’s hands at the altar—was a practical means to remove the residue of the people’s sacrifice, which came to the sanctuary as animals and foodstuffs rather than a basket of sanitary envelopes.

1. Candles for Votives

These are the candles that Catholics use to pray privately. The most recognizable picture of Catholic candles is the votive candle rack that parishioners light when praying. The person lighting the candle prays with a specific goal. Thus, it is also called the intention candle.

2. Tea Lights

The tea candle is the smallest candle size. Thus, this type of candle is, frequently, used to illuminate sculptures.

3. Candles with a taper

Individuals utilize congregational tapers, which are smaller taper candles, at Easter Vigil Services and other religious rituals.

4. Candlemas Candles

The candles symbolize Christ’s entrance into Jerusalem’s Temple. Therefore, being the Light of the world, candles symbolize Jesus. Similarly, the light illuminated by the candles represents the light that Jesus shines upon us.

5. Sanctuary Glass Candle

All hours of the day and night, glass sanctuary candles are being lighted. During the Blessed Sacrament, these candles are often sold in a red glass jar. The sanctuary candle made of glass represents Christ’s love and is a symbol of love and respect for the Savior.

6. The Paschal Candle

The Paschal candle is a huge column candle supported by a large candlestick. Candles are lighted during Easter Mass and are lighted throughout the year, and changed on Easter. This includes confirmations, baptisms, and funerals.


To this day, different religions and their customs and traditions have survived for many centuries. What they all have in common is the faith of the people and their desire to become better people every day.

The practice of lighting candles by Catholics dates back to ancient times. Through this practice, we metaphorically feel the constant presence of God. The kind of light that always guides us every day of our lives as followers of Christ.

Celebrated by Catholics are sacred liturgies, sacraments, and special prayers. They believe that Christ is the Source of all Light, and He will is always there for us. He is there to give us hope that His Light. And that will never burn out as long as we live in faith, darkness will never defeat us if we are in Him.

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