Candles at the Gospel Reading
ROME, APRIL 27, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy at the Regina Apostolorum university.
Q: During Easter season at the reading of the Gospel at Mass on Sundays, are the ministers dispensed from carrying lit candles to the ambo if there is an Easter candle? -- F.A., Rio de Mouro, Portugal
A: In principle, there is no such "dispensation" except during the Easter Vigil itself, because on this night the Easter candle itself suffices to honor the risen Lord in his Gospel.
The fact that the liturgical books specify that on this night Gospel candles are not used implies that they should be used on all other solemn occasions. At the same time, we recall that these candles, like incense, are recommended but not obligatory elements of the celebration of Mass and may be omitted.
During the rest of Eastertide the Easter candle and those that accompany the Gospel have different symbolic values.
The Easter candle represents the risen Christ and, while it is often placed near the ambo, this is not the only possibility. The other possibilities are at the center of the sanctuary or next to the altar. Because of this, the Easter candle is not necessarily or primarily associated with the Gospel.
The candles that accompany the Gospel are a means of honoring and emphasizing the particular centrality of the Gospel in salvation history and as the high point of the Liturgy of the Word.
As the Second Vatican Council's dogmatic constitution Dei Verbum points out, these liturgical honors also establish a certain parallel with the honors attributed to the Blessed Sacrament, which is also accompanied by lighted torches and incense. This serves to underline the particular real presence of Christ in the liturgical proclamation of the Word, though without detriment to the unique nature of the substantial real presence of the Eucharist.