Most historians agree that the early Christians did not use lighted candles, torches or lamps during ceremonies for the first 3 centuries. They tried to avoid anything that might resemble the way Romans used lamps in their sacrificial rituals. But in the 4th century when paganism had generally disappeared and the danger of being associated with it was gone, the Church saw how appropriate it was to use light in worship. The Bible says: “Then God said ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light. God saw how good the light was” (Gen.1:3-4). Christ had declared, “I am the light of the world” (John 9:5). Beginning in Jerusalem, a ceremony started that offered a lighted lamp or candle in honor of Him who was the true Light. That service spread westward through Spain, Gaul, northern Italy and finally arrived in Rome. The candle’s light came to  symbolize Christ. In that same time St. Jerome developed the symbolism of bees and their wax. The pure wax extracted by bees from flowers symbolizes the pure flesh of Christ, and his sacred humanity. The wick at the center represents his soul. The flame represents his divinity. As the flame burns down the wick, it consumes the wax to give us light. It burns sacrificing itself, just as Christ sacrificed himself. Beeswax burns without noxious smoke, and the proportion of beeswax that is required in church candles today is still regulated on account of this ancient symbolism. From that first ceremony eventually came our use of the Pascal Candle at Easter, baptisms, funerals and on special occasions. Also came the lighting of an evening candle at Vespers, when the world turns dark and the light symbolizes Christ. The use of the sanctuary lamp placed in a red glass container which burns day and night when the Blessed Sacrament is present, and the use of altar candles during Mass became symbols of the presence of Christ and signs of reverence and festivity. The act of lighting candles became a quiet tradition in the Church. Lighting a candle at the candle stand symbolizes the remembering of a loved one or a petition of prayer we make to God. We ask the saints to pray with us and for us during our most dire need. The light of the candle prolongs our prayer beyond our presence in church. Most Vatican guidebooks do not mention this, but there is not a single location in St. Peter’s Basilica where one can light a candle. This is to protect the building from the risk of fire and from smoke damage to the precious works of art. There are however 1,000 other churches and chapels in Rome as an alternative. However, back in the 1930’s the Vatican had a tradition of illuminating St. Peter’s Basilica both inside and out with thousands of flickering flames every Christmas and on other special occasions. Dozens of workers would rappel down the outside of the dome and walls to get to the hard- to-reach spots and would place 900 torches and 5000 lanterns. It was a breath taking illumination of the Basilica and evidence of this tradition can still be seen today by the small circular, spiked metal plates attached to the outside of the buildings. Candles are indeed an important symbol: the presence of Christ, the light of the world