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A History Of The Mass And Its Ceremonies In The Eastern And Western Church -Rev John O'Brien A.M.

There are many mystic significations, besides the one we have mentioned, to be found in the use of lights at Mass. In the first place, they represent our Divine Lord’s mission upon earth in a very striking and happy manner. He is called by the Prophet Isaias “a great Light,” who also says that “to them who dwelt in the region of the shadow of death a Light is risen” (chap. 9:2). The same prophet calls him the “Light of Jehovah,” and calls upon Jerusalem to arise and be enlightened by him. When the aged Simeon first saw him and held him in his arms in the Temple, he designated him as “a Light to the revelation of the Gentiles” (Luke 2:32). He calls himself the Light of the world: “I am the Light of the world” (John 8); and St. John describes him as “the true Light which enlighteneth every man coming into this world.” The Rabbis also had this idea of our Divine Lord, or the “great Expected of nations,” as he was called, for they looked to him as the Light of God who was to guide them in the way of peace (Essays on the Names and Titles of Jesus Christ, p. 216, by Ambrose Serle; London, 1837). Then, again, his teaching is aptly compared to a light; for as the latter dispels physical darkness, which hides all the beauties of nature from our gaze, so the former dispels all the darkness of the soul and enables it to see what is beautiful and true and good in the spiritual order. “Thy word is a lamp to my feet,” says the royal Psalmist, “and a light to my paths” (Ps. 118) But more especially is the word of the holy Gospel this lamp and light, for which reason, when it is chanted in the Mass, the Church wisely ordains that lights should accompany it in solemn procession. “Whenever the Gospel is read,” says St. Jerome, writing to Vigilantius, “lights are produced; not, indeed, to banish darkness, but to demonstrate a sign of joy, that under the type of a corporal light that light may be manifested of which we read in the Psalmist: ‘Thy word, O Lord, is a lamp to my feet and a light to my paths’ ” (Hierurgia, p. 401).

Lights in the Old Law.—The use of lights in the Jewish ceremonial is so well authenticated that we need not stay to prove it. The Holy Scriptures themselves attest it. Nor need we dwell particularly on the seven-branched candlestick which God himself ordered to be made and to be kept filled with oil, in order that it may burn always (see Exod. 25 and 27:20), for it is not certain whether this candlestick gave light also during the day. If it did not it would not help our purpose much to cite it as an example. Josephus, however, who is a very reliable authority in this matter, distinctly says that three of its lamps burned also in the daytime (Antiquities of the Jews, book iii. chap. viii. 3); and in his account of the building of the Temple by Hiram of Tyre he says that ten thousand candlesticks were made, one of which was specially dedicated for the sacred edifice itself, “that it might burn in the day-time, according to law” (book viii. chap. iii. 7).








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