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Browsing Fr. Joel Hastings

Candles at Mass/ Miracles

Why are all of the candles lit on some feast days but fewer on others?

           The number of candles that are lit on the altar can depend on the Mass of the day and its level of solemnity.  As the two forms of the Mass (that is, the Ordinary Form Mass [of post-Vatican II] and the Extraordinary Form Mass [Latin Mass from the 1962 missal]) have different principles for using candles, I must explain use of candles in each form separately.

          In the Ordinary Form, there is flexibility in the number of candles used.  Often for weekday Masses only two candles are used.  However, a fitting custom for feast days and solemnities is for four or six candles to be lit (we typically use six on these occasions).  As for Sundays and Holy Days, we always use six candles.  One exception to all of these rules is when a bishop offers Mass on a significant occasion, in which case seven candles ought to be lit – symbolic of his fullness of the priesthood [reminiscent of Jesus the Lamb of God amidst the seven lampstands in Revelation 1). However, most of these practices (except the reference to the Bishop and seven candles) are suggestions and not strict requirements.

On the other hand, in the Extraordinary Form the number of candles used is based on one question:  is the Mass a “Low Mass” (recited and not sung) or a “High Mass”?  For Low Masses, only two candles are allowed; for High Masses six are to be used – minding that when it is a “Solemn Pontifical High Mass” – (which, by name, is a High Mass offered by a bishop), other rules apply – including a candle that is lit and extinguished at particular times, but I admit I don’t know about those details…so perhaps it is to be continued.

 Why are miracles happening to everyone but me?

          Keeping in mind that true miracles are unexplainable by science or natural reasoning – such as an unexplainable and immediate cure of a person with an incurable disease – I am guessing that the person who is perplexed about not receiving true miracles is more likely sensing that God appears to be clearly working in the events or everyday lives of others but not their own daily life.  To that end, one of the keys to remember regarding God’s action is that all things work for good (as Paul speaks of in Romans 8:28).  What is this “good?”  It is eternal life in God.  In some moments, especially when God is calling us back from sin or confirming us in a decision that we need to make, His action may be very easily perceived by a peace of mind or a sense of true direction that we receive.  On the other hand, God at times does allow for us to continue on our way without our easily being made aware that He is there – and such moments as these have the power to purify our faith, inviting us to trust Him even when we can’t sense Him or “feel” Him working.  Such moments of not sensing Him, when speaking of spiritual growth, are actually very important, as these are the moments where our call to place our trust in Him invites greater, more authentic faith – where we surrender all control or sense of expectation that God needs to do something and simply place our trust that He “is.”  For it is much easier to believe when we can clearly perceive Him than when we cannot.  Likewise, it may be easy to see God when we receive the answer to prayer that we have wanted or expected to receive.  However, that we may not have experienced a clear act of God in our life for a long time or that a prayer does not get answered in the way we want or expect (as who are we to expect when God knows best?) does not mean that He is not working; it rather can be a moment when he is even closer to us than we know – inviting us to be opened even more to an answer to prayer beyond what we can even imagine.



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