July 12, 2010
The little girl lit a small votive and placed it in front of the Virgin Mary. Dressed nicely in her warm blouse and dark slacks (for it was already Fall), she said a prayer with hands clasped while looking at the Blessed Mother and returned to her pew, five rows back on the right side of the chapel.
I am a new Catholic. My understanding of votives was that parishioners lit candles to extend their prayers and show solidarity with the one on whose behalf the prayer is offered; but it is much more than that. Father William Saunders of Arlington explains it this way “The light signifies our prayer offered in faith, coming into the light of God. With the light of faith, we petition our Lord in prayer, or petition the saint to pray with us and for us to the Lord. The light also shows a special reverence and our desire to remain present to the Lord in prayer…”
It is to all those that watch, whether Catholic or Protestant, a beautiful ritual; a peaceful, reassuring act of faith.
Today, I stood in front of a subdued yet radiant statue of Jesus nailed to the Cross. I looked at his wounds darkened with the physical trauma of torture and hanging. His body rested peacefully there despite the unfathomable pain he had endured. I doubted that I would have had his strength or grace. His gift to the world dwarfs anything imaginable to my mind. Mother Teresa said “Jesus came into this world for one purpose. He came to give us the good news that God loves us... How did Jesus love you and me? By giving His life.”
I touched the flame and rekindled the blackened matchstick; a complex yellow and red blaze - twisting, drifting with the movement of air and lit the big candle in praise and reflection for God. Who else could I show solidarity with that is more deserving? He gave us everything. He suffered and died for us.
Gloria in excelsis Deo, Agnus Dei. I am sorry you had to die for our sins.