Friday, September 14, 2012

Praying To The Dead?: Part One

It wasn't too long ago that a friend of ours, when discussing the nature of our new monastic ministry (Eleventh Hour Mission) asked if we prayed to the dead.  I gathered that she was referring to the photo of votive candles posted on our website (you know, the bank of candles that you might find in a Roman Catholic Church?).  At first I casually laughed off the question, but later found myself giving pause to the theological implications that such a question raises, especially among those of us who are in more liturgical/sacramental expressions of the church universal.

Although votive candles, or vigil lights are often lit to demonstrate special devotion or to make an appeal to a specific saint, more often than not, the candles are lit as a visible sign that prayers are being said for a specific purpose.  Any well-trained Catholic would tell you that there is no magic in the candle themselves, rather they are used as a sign to engage the praying person with the light of Christ; the ascension of smoke symbolizing the incense that rises before the throne of God, that is the prayers of the saints.  The lighting of the candle helps the intercessor to imagine his or her pray as a small flame, that when joined together with other small flames, a noticeable light is made which may attract a heavenly response.