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​January 19, 2020

Before the time of electrical lighting, candles served the practical purposes of illuminating the altar. There is also a symbolic significance of candles on, or around, the altar which derives from the Jewish traditions. Jewish people use the Menorah, as prescribed by Scripture, which is one central candle surrounded by three candles on each side.  The base for the three candles on each side originates from the base of the central candle. The seven candles allude to the different branches of human knowledge, represented by the six candles inclined towards, and symbolically guided by, or originating from, the light of God represented by the central candle. The Menorah also represents the creation in seven days, or seven periods of time, with the central light representing the Sabbath, indicating that every other day of the week should be geared towards God and our worship of Him.  In the Catholic tradition there were six candles on the altar or just behind it, with the Crucifix in the centre. The crucifix takes the place of the seventh, central candle of the Menorah since Christ is God and all graces flow from His crucifixion and all human wisdom is rooted in Christ. For low Masses only two candles would be lit, whereas for high Masses all six would be lit. When a bishop celebrates Mass in his own diocese, a seventh candle is added to symbolize that Christ’s official teachings come through His bishops. The book of Revelation speaks of seven lamp stands and points out that Christ is the source of true light.