Little Things from Lisa
It’s time, once again, for a history lesson about worship. One of the quieter traditions we have in worship is the lighting of the candles on the altar at the beginning and end of every worship service. Although it is aesthetically pleasing to have candles in worship, they do represent something significant in the order of worship. The lighting of the altar candles in the worship service is a symbol of Jesus’ coming into the presence of the worshiping community.
During the prelude, the acolyte presents the flame, and the candle on the right is lit first and is the Epistle candle representing the letters written by Paul to the various churches. The candle on the left is lit second and is the Gospel candle representing the four Gospels.
At the close of worship, during the closing hymn, there is also significance to extinguishing the candles. Once the acolyte approaches the table, they are to light the candle lighter from the Gospel candle and extinguish it first, then the Epistle candle. The is for two reasons. The Gospel candle is never to burn alone. And secondly, we then carry the light of Christ or the word of the Gospel back out into the world.
Now what is that weird word I just used above…..”acolyte”? The word acolyte is derived from the Greek word akolouthos, meaning companion, attendant, or helper. The Acolyte ministry has its roots in the Old Testament of the Holy Bible, where the prophet Samuel is seen assisting Eli, the Levite priest, and Elisha is seen assisting Elijah the Prophet.
The acolyte also has a few rules to follow in their service of worship. Before lighting the candles the acolyte is supposed to bow at the altar. Before the extinguishing of the last altar candles, the acolytes relight their “candle lighter” and then process out. This symbolizes that Jesus Christ is for all people everywhere. It also symbolizes the light of Jesus Christ going out into the world where believers are called to serve.
Acolytes will light candles once Holly begins playing the prelude and before the bell is tolled.
This is a holy time in worship and should signal the time to be prepared to worship. (In other words, settling and quieting down.) The sanctuary doors should be closed once the acolyte completes their service.
Although we are not a highly liturgical church, this element of worship remains a staple because of what it represents. The next time you see the acolyte approach, pay attention to what is happening. See if it makes a difference to your worship!