Tuesday, January 07, 2003

Votive candles
The S.C.J. chapel here at Sacred Heart, dedicated to St. Joseph, was remodeled recently. I was apprehensive, especially after seeing the minimalist way they had renovated another chapel in the building. At any rate, as you can see by these pictures (start at page 5), it is a very well done renovation. I am impressed. It is actually quite a bit better than the functional chapel that it replaces.

There are a couple of things missing, however. One, oddly, is a holy water font. I've never heard of liturgists, even of the most Nazi variety, saying anything negative about a holy water font, so this absence is pretty surprising. Maybe they haven't purchased it yet.

The other thing missing, more predicably, is any images of the saints. Even the image of St. Joseph that graced the old chapel is missing, nor is there an image of Mary. At any rate, maybe they haven't purchased it yet.

And speaking of images, and moving on to the main point of this post, the other thing one is not likely to see in this chapel or any chapel here is votive candles. This, I think, is a shame. Votive offerings is a longstanding tradition of the western Church, and of the Judeo-Christian liturgical tradition. Such paraliturgical rituals as lighting a candle are clearly related to the liturgy, inasmuch as they put us into contact with the saints who are participating in the heavenly liturgy. Our earthly liturgy is simply a kind of "outpost" of that heavenly liturgy. So lighting a candle connects us and our everyday lives with both the earthly and heavenly liturgy. I can't really figure out why the liturgists would object, nor why so many churches did away with them, nor why new churches don't have them.

Don't get me started on electric votive candles!

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