נֵר, ner, a lamp, as elsewhere rendered; λύχνος, a light, as elsewhere.
I. Houses in the East were, from the earliest times, lighted up with lamps, and those of the Hebrews probably resembled such as we find depicted in the tombs at Thebes. Job, describing the destruction of a family among the Arabs, and the rendering one of their habitations desolate, says, "The light shall be dark in his tabernacle, and his candle shall be put out with him" (Job 18:6; Job 21:17). On the other hand, when God promises to give David a lamp always in Jerusalem, it is an assurance that his house should never become desolate. In the language of Jeremiah, to extinguish the light in an apartment is a convertible phrase for total destruction (Job 25:6). A burning lamp is, on the other hand, a symbol of prosperity (Job 29:3). Maillet, in his Lettres d'Egypte, says, "The houses in Egypt are never without lights; they burn lamps all the night long, and in every occupied apartment. So requisite to the comfort of a family is this custom reckoned, that the poorest people would rather retrench a part of their food than neglect it." Roberts, in illustration of the passage, "I will search Jerusalem with candles" (Zep 1:12), remarks, "Does a man declare his innocence of any crime, the accusers say, 'We will search thee with lamps;' 'Yes, yes, I will look into that affair with lamps;' 'What, have your lamps gone out? You see I am not guilty.' "SEE LAMP.
There are monographs bearing on this subject as follows: D. W. Müller, De perennibus vet. lucernis (Altorf, 1705); J. J. Müller, De vet. λυχνοκαίᾷ (Jen. 1661); Schurzfleisch, De luminibus sacris (in his Controv. 25); Stockhausen, De cultu et usu lumisnum antiquo (Tr. ad Rh. 1726). SEE CANDLESTICK.
II. Candles in Christian Worship. —
1. Roman Church. — The practice was probably derived from heathen and Jewish worship. Some Roman writers ascribe its origin to the early Christians, who, prevented by persecution from worshipping in daylight, held their meetings under ground, where artificial light was needed (Claude de Vert, Explication des Ceremonies de 'eglise). Others (e.g. Bergier, Diet. de Theologie, s.v.) quote the book of Revelation, wherein mention is made of "candles" and golden "candlesticks," in support of the usage, and also the Apostolical Canons (Can. 4), where mention is made of "oil for the holy lamp." Bergier also cites Jerome (contra Vigilantium, 100:3) in support of the use of lights in worship; but the pass sage cited simply speaks of a usage in the Eastern Church of lighting candles when the Gospels were read as a symbol of joy at receiving the light. Jerome expressly says the usage did not exist in the West, though he seems to justify the lighting of candles and lamps before the tombs of the martyrs. SEE LAMPS. The use of candles in the worship of the Roman Church is defended on the ground that they symbolize Christas the "true light," and also of the injunction of Christ to his followers to be "the lights of men" (Mt 5:14,16).
The principal solemnities in the Roman Church at which candles are used are the mass, the administrations of the sacraments, the benedictions and processions. They are also frequently employed before the statues and images of the saints, and many use them at their private devotions, especially while praying for the dead. Numerous liturgical prescriptions regulate their use. They must be, except in cases of emergency, of wax, and their color is generally white or yellow, but rarely red. The Paschal candle is a large candle to which five grains of incense are attached in the form of a cross; in most Roman Catholic churches it is lighted with a newly-made fire on Easter eve. Alban Butler says that "Ennodius, bishop of Pavia (6th century), has left us two forms of prayer for the blessing of this candle. From him we learn that droppings or particles of the wax thereof, after Low Sunday, were distributed among the people, who burnt them in their houses against the influence of evil spirits, in which there was no superstition if the effect was not certainly expected, because it was hoped for and asked of God through the public prayers and blessings of the Church, directed for that end (!) The paschal candle is an emblem of Christ rising from the dead, the light of the world, and is a sign which announces to us the joy and glory of his resurrection. The five grains of frankincense fixed in it symbolically represent his five precious wounds, and the embalming. of his body at his burial, and again in the grave, by the devout persons who brought spices to his monument. This great candle anciently gave light during the watching in the church on Easter-eve in the night.
The triple candle arising from one stock signifies the Trinity of persons in one God, or the light of the Triune God shining to the world through Christ. This only burns during the office of holy Saturday morning; after which it is taken away, and no more made use of, not even on Easter-day." — Butler, Feasts and Fasts (Treat. 6, ch. 8).
2. In the Protestant Churches. — The Lutheran Church, after the Reformation, retained the use of lights on the altar; the Reformed churches abolished it. In the Church of England, the "Injunctions of Edward VI" (1547) forbade the use of lights, "except of two lights upon the high altar before the sacrament, which, for the signification that Christ is the very true light of the world, they shall suffer to remain still." In cathedral churches these two lights were generally kept on the altar, but not lighted; and the great writers and leaders of the Church of England wrote against the use of lights as tending to idolatry. So the Homily "On the Peril of Idolatry" quotes Lactantius as follows: "Seemeth he to be in his right mind who offereth up to the Giver of all light the light of a wax candle for a gift? He requireth another light of us, which is not smoky, but bright and clear, even the light of the mind and understanding. Their (the heathen) gods, because they be earthly, have need of light, lest they remain in darkness; whose worshippers, because they understand no heavenly thing, do draw religion, which they use, down to the earth." The Homily adds: "Thus far Lactantius, and much more, too long here to write, of candle-lighting in temples before images and idols for religion; whereby appeareth both the foolishness thereof, and also that in opinion and act we do agree altogether in our candle religion with the Gentile idolaters." The Homily goes on to show that this candle worship is closely connected with superstition and idolatry. Jeremy Taylor says of the Papists: "This is plain by their public and authorized treatment of their images; they consecrate them; they hope in them; they expect gifts and graces from them; they clothe them and crown them they erect altars and temples to them; they kiss them; they bow their head and knee before them; they light up tapers and lamps to them, which is a direct consumptive sacrifice; they do to their images as the heathen do to theirs; these are the words of Irenaeus, by which he reproves the folly of some that had got the pictures of Christ and Pythagoras, and other eminent persons." In the so-called "Tractarian" revival of Romish usages in 1832 and the following years, the practice of putting candles on "the altar," and lighting them on certain festival days, was resumed. In the recent "Ritualistic" revival (1865) the practice has become quite common in the hands especially of young curates of a Romanizing turn. They defend the legality of the practice on the ground that the rubric preceding the "order for morning and evening prayer throughout the year" admits the use of "all ornaments of the church that were in this Church of England by the authority of Parliament in the second yearof the reign of Edward VI;" while the Injunction, cited above, allows two lights: to be kept on the altar. On the other side it is argued (1) that in the Church of England there is properly no altar, but only a communion table; (2) that, in fact, the two lights spoken of were never lighted in the early days after the Reformation, even in the cathedrals in which they were retained; and (3) that the use of candles is only a part of an idolatrous system of worship. SEE LAMPS; SEE CANDLEMAS.
3. For the popish ceremony of "cursing with bell, book, and candle," see BELL. — Boissonnet, Dictionnaire des Cerimonies, s.v. Cierge, Chandelier; Martigny, Dict. dies Antiquites Chretiennes, s.v. Cierge; Bingham, Orig. Ecclesiastes bk. xiv, ch. in, § 11; Goode, Ceremonial of the Church of England, § 9; Hook. Church Dictionary (defends candles), s.v. Lights on the Altar.