Candles on Altar

Can you explain to me how many candles are supposed to be placed on the altar for the following masses? Also, what literature is available with Catholic authority that permits the different number of candles to be used? I don’t think the GIRM covers this.

Low Mass
High Mass
Solemn Mass
Funeral Mass (Requiem Mass)
Wedding Mass

One other question: why seven(7) candles when a Bishop celebrates mass in his own diocese?


Low Mass 2 lighted
High Mass 6 lighted, can be done with 4
Solemn High Mass 6 lighted
Requiem Mass (low or High? see above)
Not sure about wedding Mass

Our Abp will celebrate Mass tomorrow morning in our little parish and the altar will be set up with seven lighted candles. (finance committee is seething, how dare we burn so many candles)


that’s funny. :smiley:

Sorry for your finance committee! Personally, I’d take the cost of 7 candles (at about a dollar or two each, plain white at Wal Mart or K Mart, out of my Social Security and tell them that’s what love for your Archbishop should be! For heaven’s sake, the Archbishop coming to my Parish, we’d be happy to pay for seven candles! We have a Bishop in our Diocese, and he has only been here once, and that was some years ago, on the 100th anniversary of the first small building of our Church (which is now an Historical Site). Wish he’d come again!!

For Christmas Masses there have been different procedures of candles on the altar. Some years there are individual candles on either side of the tabernacle. The number may vary. In some years there are candlabras of candles on either side of the tabernacle. What are the guidelines for the number of Christmas candles at these Masses?

All candles that we use are at least 51% beeswax. So that can be fairly expensive. But we get several Masses out of them. when we replace them we replace all so that they match.

It is, after all, for God and not the finance committee.

Hahaha so you think…

Aren’t we confusing the EF and the OF with the question in the first place? The GIRM relates to the OF which doesn’t distinguish between “High Mass,” “Low Mass” etc.

Those terms relate to the EF which has its own instructions.

The GIRM is littered with vague references to things like “solemn,” “more solemn,” “less solemn,” etc. They have no definitions, but I’m pretty sure that when candles are talked about, some reference is made to more candles (up to six ordinarily) being more solemn. It follows that in a more solemn occasion, more candles can, and perhaps ought… to be used.

In the Caeremoniale or Pontificale, I don’t remember which (this is OF mind you), a reference is made to the fact that a pontifical candle, which is a seventh candle, can (should? idk) be used when a bishop celebrates solemnly.

Then we also have Musicam Sacram (1967), currently the ultimate and supreme Roman document on music for the OF, in which is stated rather plainly:

  1. Between the solemn, fuller form of liturgical celebration, in which everything that demands singing is in fact sung, and the simplest form, in which singing is not used, there can be various degrees according to the greater or lesser place allotted to singing. However, in selecting the parts which are to be sung, one should start with those that are by their nature of greater importance, and especially those which are to be sung by the priest or by the ministers, with the people replying, or those which are to be sung by the priest and people together. The other parts may be gradually added according as they are proper to the people alone or to the choir alone.

So, provision is in fact made in the OF for solemn Masses and “simplest” Masses, and all kinds of things in between. When, exactly, each particular “level” of solemnity is done is a question that is probably more practical than anything else (within reason), but the idea of two opposite poles–everything sung and nothing sung–is maintained in the OF.

The GIRM is not the only document that governs the OF, nor is it in any way exhaustive. This can be a blessing or a curse depending on how you look at it.

Now, someone might say, “Well that’s a document on music, not candles,” which is true in a very legalistic sense, but the document here is both descriptive and prescriptive. It is descriptive in that it describes an idea, the “solemn, fuller form of liturgical celebration.” It doesn’t define this, it just makes reference to it; this idea alredy exists “out there somewhere.” It takes it for granted. The Roman tradition and rubrics have plenty to say about more solemn occasions: better vestments, more candles, better music, etc.

So, I argue that 1. more candles (4-7) is more solemn than less (2), and that the idea of “levels” of Masses is preserved explicitly in legislation governing the OF.

I agree with what you’re saying… but the notion of progressive solemnity isn’t neatly delineated in the OF as it was in the EF. Yes, more solemnity = more candles. Its’ just that the exact number isn’t clearly specified, and there aren’t cut-and-dried differentiations between the levels of solemnity.

Isn’t it unfortunate?

The OP has posed the question about the various EF Masses. So I addressed it as such.

This is the “Liturgy and Sacraments Forum” isn’t it? And The EF question I think fits here just neatly. Right, Mr. Moderator?

It wasn’t clear which form was intended,since they referenced the GIRM which has no connection with the EF.


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