The New Votive Candle Stand & Votive Prayers
Even though the directives from both our Governor and Bishop caused us to cease all public gatherings for worship, Trinity remained open each day from 8:00 am to 12:00 pm for individuals to use our sacred space for private prayers and devotions – we were never closed! This was an important witness to the greater community that we are a praying community and our worship space is a sacred place of prayer.
Recently, due to the gracious memorial gift of Dawn Miklas on behalf of her beloved husband Michael, we have added a votive prayer stand in the Chapel (through a parish poll our Chapel is now called “Light of Christ Chapel”). Some of you have asked what the Votive Candle stand is for and how does one use it, since this is something new for many parishioners, albeit it has long been an integral part of the Christian tradition.
Votive comes from the Latin verb voveo which means vow or promise. The past article of voveo is votum, which is a vow or promise to God (votum is also the root of the word “vote”). So votive means something offered/dedicated/consecrated in accordance to a vow. When one lights a candle in church, the candle is called a votive, but the act of lighting the candle itself is the act of offering something in accordance with a vow or promise. In Christian terms, what happens is that one offers up a prayer to God on behalf of someone or something, and lights one candle as a tangible sign of that prayer – hence the term votive prayer.
The votive candle also symbolizes the light of Christ, who is our mediator and offers up continually our prayers to God. Lighting the votive candle is one of the ways we convey the symbolic reality of what we believe to be true, which is that we offer up prayers to God through Christ, and those prayers continue to be heard even after we have prayed them. They do not fade away. They are not forgotten. They remain, like a small flicker of light, like a sign of our vow and promise and hope, even after they have left our lips and our hearts.
There are those who believe that votive candles are only used in Roman Catholic Churches. I’ve been pleasantly surprised during my visits in other churches throughout the country to find this not entirely the case – I’ve observed votive candles being used in Episcopal/Anglican, Lutheran and Methodist churches. Many years ago I visited an African-American Baptist church in Baton Rouge that had a votive candle stand in a small niche with a picture of a Black Jesus hanging behind it.
Michael Miklas, who faithfully attended church services at Trinity expressed his desire to have a votive candle stand in the Chapel to give people an opportunity to enhance their prayer life. Every time I walk by or use this gracious gift, I cannot help but think of my dear friend Michael – and I also thank his loving wife Dawn for her faithfulness in bringing about his wishes.
Using the votive candle stand is relatively easy – simply use the lighter that is on the stand to light a candle, OR if there is already a lighted candle, use a wood wick found on the side. After you use a wood wick to light a candle, simply put it in the sand box on the same side of the stand. There is a prie-dieu (prayer desk) that you can use to kneel to silently or softly say your prayer. After you have completed your prayerful conversation with God, you can, if you so desire, place a monetary offering in the slot of the votive prayer stand. Many people perceive this as part of the votive offering to God (note: you are NOT purchasing God’s favor or receiving special attention with the offering, but simply including it as your prayer offering). On a more pragmatic basis, the offering does help pay for the replacement candles on the stand. People have asked me if they can say multiple votive prayers and thereby light multiple candles for each prayer offered – absolutely!
There is a small placard near the votive candle stand that explains the purpose of our votive prayers. It reads:
God gave us different senses.
It is sometimes helpful
when we experience God’s Presence
through those different senses.
Some People find it helpful to light a candle
when they offer up a prayer.
+ Lift up your adoration and praise
+ Lift up your confession
+ Lift up your thanksgiving
+ Lift up your supplication
And Light a Candle