What is the meaning of the baptism candle?
Like all of us, my 5th child Naomi was born into a vast family history. In my own family, there were almost no Christians before my parents. In contrast, my husband’s family is full-on Irish Catholic.
At the end of the Byzantine Rite of Baptism, the godfather lights the baptismal candle from the light of the Easter Candle, and the priest prays that the newly baptized person may “shine with the light of faith and good works.”
In the Latin Rite, there’s also strong reminder for the parents and godparents: “This light is entrusted to you to be kept burning brightly. This child of yours has been enlightened by Christ. He (she) is to walk always as a child of the light.”
That candle’s light is a symbol of a new life that has just been given by Christ, the “Light of the World,” a light not to be blown out, ever; a light not hidden under a bushel basket or in a box under the stairs, but a light that is intended to shine for eternity.
However, too often the candle will be extinguished when the service is over, and put away in a box to be hidden under the stairs and forgotten.
Walk as a child of the light.
My husband’s great, great, great grandma, “Ma Browne,” was born in the mid 1800’s in Sligo, Ireland, a time and place where it was dangerous to be Catholic. Ma Browne was nearly beaten to death when she was twelve for walking down a country path with a Rosary in her hand. She retained the scars but lived to have ten children and to leave a legacy of priests and faithful Christians to this day.
It’s not usual in the U.S. to get beaten for praying. I suspect most moms are something like me: a day in which the kids are still alive and a few rudimentary household chores have been accomplished is an awesome day for me. It doesn’t feel heroic, however; it doesn’t feel as though I’ve done much to fan the “light of Christ.”
I think Ma Browne – living under persecution and raising ten children – would have had another perspective. Keeping the Light of Christ bright and visible is about giving everything over to God, thanking Him for whatever the day brings. Trusting Him to know how, and to whom, your light should shine. Simply being the candle in the open air, receiving everything from God: your purpose, your life, and your flame.
Light your candle on your Baptism anniversary.
It’s time to dig out those forgotten baptismal candles, and recall the date of that forgotten day when each of us became children of God. Today, I have our family’s baptismal candles lined up on our mantle. Thanks to the reminder during Naomi’s baptism, I plan to light each of our candles on our future baptismal anniversaries.
What’s left of the Baptismal candle stub can be burned to its end on the day of our deaths, as a sign of a life that belongs to Christ, pierced through with His joy, light, beauty, and yes, His suffering.
Rebecca O’Loughlin is a Byzantine Catholic mother with 5 children (newborn to tween). She enjoys running her shop (Brushes2Halos), writing, and adventuring with her children--whether on a flight with their airplane pilot dad, or through the pages of Narnia.
Prayer to Renew Baptismal Promises
(To be said anytime, but especially on the anniversary of one’s Baptism)
V: Do you reject Satan, all his works and all his empty promises?
R: I do reject him!
V: Do you commit yourself to Christ?
R: I commit myself to Him!
V: Do you believe in Him?
R: I believe in Him, for He is my King and my God!
God, the all-powerful Father of our Lord Jesus Christ has given us a new birth by water and the Holy Spirit, and forgiven all our sins. May He keep us faithful to our Lord Jesus Christ for ever and ever. Amen.