Altar Candles?

The altar at our parish has four candlesticks on it, yet anytime I see a mass anywhere else, there always appears to be six. Why is ours different?:shrug:

It depends on the sacristan or the pastor.

It depends on who is celebrating the Mass. A minimum of two candles is required when a priest is celebrating. More is OK though. At least seven when a bishop is celebrating.

GIRM 117. The altar is to be covered with at least one white cloth. In addition, on or next to the altar are to be placed candlesticks with lighted candles: at least two in any celebration, or even four or six, especially for a Sunday Mass or a Holyday of Obligation, or if the Diocesan Bishop celebrates, then seven candlesticks with lighted candles

Unfortunately altar candles are not regulated very strictly. Two is the minimum, six is the maximum, except when a bishop celebrates, when seven “can” be used.

There is no maximum.

An interesting note, when there is a bishop, the seventh candle is taller than the other six and placed right in the middle. If it is the bishop of the diocese, the candle is lit; if it is not the diocesan bishop, the candle isn’t lit.

At the Cathedral where I go though, they don’t even bother putting another candle when the Bishop is there.

Yes, there is. For a priest it is six and for a bishop or cardinal it is seven.

that said, 7 should be used…

Anybody a Star Trek fan?

Picard: There… are… four… lights!


Yes, that’s why I added a bit of sarcasm to the word can by putting it in quotes. :confused:

If it’s seven to represent the fullness of the priesthood that a Bishop has, I wonder what the minimum four for a priest is meant to represent, if anything.

I’ve never understood that seven candles was to represent the fullness of the priesthood. The pontifical dalmatic and tunicle represent this, but I’ve always understood the pontifical candle just as a symbol of a bishop’s jurisdiction. I suppose that would indirectly also be a symbol of his fullness of the priesthood, but I have not heard it expressed in that direct manner.

And I don’t know what you mean by a minimum of four for a priest. A priest can celebrate Mass with two, four or six candles; in the EF of course depending on the type of Mass and in the OF depending on what he’s feeling that day…

I’ve always understood the pontifical candle in the vein of the cappa magna: a symbol of jurisdiction rather than of his fullness of the priesthood.

I believe additional candles (to which there is indeed no limit) would properly be placed on a gradine behind the altar, or elsewhere, and not on the altar itself.

The old Caeremoniale Episcoporum prescribed two candles for low Masses celebrated by bishops, and four candles if it were a more solemn feast. He would use six candles at a high Mass. The seventh was proper only to a diocesan ordinary celebrating a solemn high Mass in his own diocese.

(if I might, +1)

I believe the problem in this thread has been a lack of clear understanding of the ‘geography’ of the Sanctuary.

The Church does not make any such requirement.

Absolutely not.

Now of course the dictates of good taste would set a virtual limit in each application, what you suggest is simply not true.

When you say “altar” are you speaking of the sanctuary or actual mensa? There is no requirement at all to have candles actually on the mensa.

Take a wild guess.

There is no requirement at all to have candles actually on the mensa.

Sed contra, ¶ 527 of the Rubricae generales of the 1962 missal provides, “Super altare adsit in medio Crux satis magna cum Crucifixo, et candelabra quae iuxta qualitatem Missae requiruntur, cum candelis accensis, hinc et inde in utroque eius latere.” (“Upon the altar there is to be, in the middle, a cross of sufficient size with Corpus, and the candlesticks required, according to the level of the Mass, with lit candles, on each side of it.”)

I think he’s talking about a widespread practice, not strict rubrics.

I care nothing about the 1962 missal.

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