Six Candles

The Pope likes to celebrate on an altar bearing six candles. For the rest of us, GIRM allows but doesn’t require it (no. 117). Other than looking beautiful and having obvious resonance with tradition, is there any theological significance to having six candles on the altar (either high or used) that might bolster a suggestion that one’s parish do so?

I think it is tied in with the menorah in the Temple service.

This is Pre-Vatican II:

The Pope uses 7 candles on the altar. Whenever the diocesan bishop celebrates within the territory of his own diocese, there should be 7. Since the Pope is the “Ordinary” for the entire Church, he is always “in his own territory.”

At our TLM church we have six tall candles, three on either side of the Tabernacle and two smaller candles one level lower, immediately above the altar table and which are lit during low Mass. There is no way aesthetic way to place seven candles on our altar due to the proximity of the central crucifix and Tabernacle, we would need a fourth, higher level on the altar!

Or, do this:

See on the left side, there’s a small candle. Ideally, it would be behind the crucifix, but in this case, not good for fire reasons. FYI: this church doesn’t celebrate latin masses regularly, so no low mass candles are there.

That’s kind of the arrangement I was thinking of. My parish has two altars, the pre-V2 high altar mounted against the wall of the apse, and the freestanding main altar. The high altar presently has a tabernacle with a single candlestick close in on either side, but it was obviously built to have the TLM configuration you describe, and I think it would look lovely so-decorated.

Is that St. Mary in Pine Bluff?

Is that St. Mary in Pine Bluff?

Yes, in fact, but this begs the question… seeing you’re from Texas,

How in the heck did you know about Pine Bluff?!?!? :smiley:

In the case of a pontifical mass, doesn’t the bugia qualify as the bishop’s seventh candle?

Incidentally, I wish people wouldn’t post gigantic images on these threads; it really messes things up. Why not simply post a link to the image?

Not sure. Last pontifical mass I was at, they had a bugia, and 7th candle.

Good idea. I’ll try and remember.

As Fr. David said seven is the normal number of candles for when a bishop celebrates Mass. I’d never seen 7 used in a Mass celebrated by a bishop. Interestingly, though, when Archbishop Vincent Nichols was installed at Westminster 7 candles were on the Altar for his Mass of Inauguration: three either side of the Crucifix and one behind it. I don’t know if this is what he normally does. On the few occasions I seen my diocesan bishop celebrate Mass there’s usually only been two candles on the Altar and these have been occasions when I thought 7 would have been appropriate, e.g. Chrism Mass, confirmation Masses.

I didn’t think the bugia was used any more (at least in the OF Mass). I’ve never seen one used at a pontifical Mass.

Not just “a” bishop, but “the” bishop of that diocese. GIRM 117.

If the bishop is visiting, retired, etc. the number would still be 6.

From everything I can tell, this is the usual setup for when you have 6/7candles and an altar cross on the altar. This is a good picture, for those who can’t picture it in their mind (except the two outer candles are hardly visible, but you still get the idea).

Other than what has been mentioned in this thread, one reason Pope Benedict XVI has adopted the practice of having six candlesticks and a central altar cross on the altar when he is the celebrant is due to the following notion:

In short, it is a way to begin re-orienting our focus during the liturgy back toward God and contrary to any notion of the liturgy as a “self-enclosed circle” – a point that Ratzinger critiqued about so much modern liturgical practice and theology.

More regarding this topic can be found in the following link, which the above quoted statement was taken from:

Re-reading what I said, it is a bit vague. I did intend it to mean the diocesan bishop. Would a metropolitan be able to use seven candles throughout his province?

On the few occasions I seen my diocesan bishop celebrate Mass there’s usually only been two candles on the Altar…

That which is prescribed by the GIRM and that which is actually done are often two different things. Bishops and pastors do whatever they feel like doing, or they simply aren’t well-informed enough to do the correct thing.

I, myself, have only seen seven candles on the altar during a pontifical mass of the Tridentine Rite; I have never seen seven candles used during a bishop’s celebration of the Ordinary Form. Ever. In fact, there are four candles placed around the altar at the cathedral of my diocese (on the floor, one at each corner) no matter who is celebrating.


Seven candles? As if.

I do hope this current crop of prelates is one day replaced by an episcopacy that values Catholic liturgical ceremony and ritual enough to perform it well, and correctly once again.

The way I read the GIRM, I think the answer is no, unless he’s within his own diocese (yes, I mean arch-diocese, but don’t want to confuse that with “province”). Perhaps the Ceremonial of Bishops clarifies this more, but my quick search couldn’t locate anything relevant.

Here’s the entire paragraph
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 holy day of obligation. If the Diocesan Bishop celebrates, then seven candles should be used. Also on or close to the altar, there is to be a cross with a figure of Christ crucified. The candles and the cross adorned with a figure of Christ crucified may also be carried in the Entrance Procession. On the altar itself may be placed the Book of the Gospels, distinct from the book of other readings, unless it is carried in the Entrance Procession.

I think that you may have misunderstood me. When I said I don’t know if this is what he normally does I didn’t mean the way the seven candles were arranged. I meant I don’t know if he always uses seven candles.

Ohhh, ok.

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