Candles of Life (2015)
Fr. Martin Fuchs´s sermon on 13th December 2015 in Prague, Czech republic
The people of the Old Testament had to wait four thousand years for the arrival of our Saviour promised by the Lord after the first sin had been committed in Paradise.
The world was then like an Advent wreath on which every light had been extinguished. Again the Lord lit a candle by predicting His coming for the redemption of mankind.
Immediately after the fall of Adam and Eve, He said to Satan:
“I will put enmities between thee and the Woman, and thy seed and Her seed: She shall crush thy head, and thou shalt lie in wait for Her heel”. (Genesis 3:15)
1,900 years before the birth of Christ, we see another candle burning, when the patriarch Jacob blesses his sons with the words: “The sceptre shall not be taken away from Juda, nor the sceptre from his thigh, till He comes that is to be sent, and He shall be the expectation of the nations. ”(Genesis 49:10)
The third Advent candle is lit with the prophet Daniel in the year 600 before Christ. Daniel predicted that from the rebuilding of Jerusalem after the Exile until the death of the Messiah it would take 69½ weeks of years.
69.5 × 7 = 486 years. The Messiah was to be killed by His own people.
The city was rebuilt in 453 before Christ under the Persian King Artaxerxes. (Daniel 9:24)
If from the year 453 before Christ you add another 486 years, you will reach the year 33 after Christ.
And with the coming and preaching of the last prophet of the Old Testament, St. John the Baptist, the symbolical Advent wreath of the Earth became brightly lit. He preached: “Behold the Lamb of God, behold Him who taketh away the sins of the world”. (John 1:29)
It was a time of hard penance for the Chosen people, to which Saint John refers in word and facts: “Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight His paths!” (Mark 1:3)
For each of the four Sundays of Advent we light the relevant candle on the Advent wreath until we finally celebrate the feast of the coming of our Saviour.
We are also preparing ourselves with penance and a good holy Confession to receive the Saviour with a pure heart.
The little children, who cannot yet go to the holy Confession, make their examination of conscience together with Saint Nicholas. This is a beautiful and important Christian custom!
That is why there are four candles (symbolizing the four weeks) and a violet ribbon (violet, the colour of penance) on the Advent wreath.
We also light four candles in the course of our life until the Saviour calls us for our Personal Judgement:
The Baptismal Candle, the Communion Candle, the Bridal or Ordination Candle and the Candle for the Last Rites. And even the wreath of our life is wrapped with a violet band, the ribbon of penance.
Let us briefly consider the four candles for the various stations on our wreath of life:
1. The Baptismal Candle
When our parents took us to holy baptism, our first candle was lit:
Receive this burning light, and keep thy Baptism so as to be without blame: keep the commandments of God, that when the Lord shall come to the nuptials, thou mayest meet Him together with all the Saints in the heavenly court, and mayest have eternal life and live for ever and ever”, thus said the priest, when he gave us the Baptismal Candle.
He lit the Baptismal Candle at the Easter Candle, which is a symbol of the Risen Christ. At the moment of our baptism we are spiritually resurrected with Jesus Christ. The original sin—and if adults are baptised also their personal sins—are forgiven, so that we have really a pure heart.
This received light of grace we are to preserve and to carry into this dark world. This is our task in life.
“You are the light of the world. So let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven”, said our Saviour (Matthew 5:14+16).
But how many people do not light this candle anymore because they are not taken to the Baptismal Font? How many Baptismal Candles have gone out, have been extinguished?
How many have lost again the grace of Baptism by mortal sin?
If we have done so, we should light the Baptismal Candle again. We should renew our Baptismal promises.
Our Lord showed us how we can light the Baptismal Candle again.
In the evening after His Resurrection, He appeared to the Apostles and He instituted the sacrament of holy Confession.
We can light the Baptismal Candle again by a sincere holy Confession.
1. The Communion Candle
Many of us have already lit the second candle on the Advent wreath of life—on the day of our first Holy Communion. Jesus Christ came closer to us through the Blessed Sacrament. How we prepared ourselves for this great day, didn't we! With many sacrifices and prayers we prepared our hearts to receive Holy Communion. But later on, in the meantime, receiving Holy Communion has often become a habit. We lack desire! We lack love and joy of sacrifice! Sometimes it even seems that Our Lord has just a small place in our daily schedule. Yes, a quarter of an hour but not more. How often do we treat Him as an unwelcome guest. As a man who is an additional burden. We can certainly not speak of joy in these circumstances!
We should perhaps make a firm resolution to look more attentively after this candle during Advent.
Let us prepare ourselves better for receiving Holy Communion. Let us not forget thanksgiving. These are the most precious moments in our daily life. If we have no time to make our thanksgiving immediately after Holy Communion, we should do it later at home.
2. The Bridal or Ordination Candle
Throughout our lives the wreath is getting brighter and brighter.
On our wreath of life the third candle is lit by our wedding or by our priestly ordination.
Perhaps you have already seen this candle being held next to the bride and groom at their wedding or at ordinations when the deacons to be ordained priests enter, each holding a lit candle.
Again we must realize that often these candles are not set alight anymore. Nowadays, couples prefer to live in concubinage. They live as if they were married but without the graces of the married state.
Many people to be formed priests do not have the necessary vocation that the priesthood demands. And that is why we do not have enough ordinations.
And even in those cases when these candles are still alight, they are all too often wiped out soon after receiving the Sacrament. Married people separate either with or without divorce.
Priests give up their office. They do not pray the breviary. They perhaps begin to live with a woman.
Of course, the great sacrifices are required in both states of life. But the more people sacrifice, the brighter shines their light on the Advent wreath of life. The more the candle is consumed, the brighter is its light.
The Season of Advent, a great period of grace, helps us to light or to relight the third candle. We wish and we need to renew our baptismal promises.
3. The Candle for the Last Rites, when we are called out of this world
We are lonely, when we light this fourth candle.
But this candle will be very bright on the wreath of our life when our Lord comes to call us. This fourth candle also demands sacrifices, great sacrifices! Yes—we must have a great desire to light this candle as well.
Our death will be our last sacrifice. It is the sacrifice we cannot escape. During our life we can escape almost every sacrifice but not this one. We all must submit ourselves to God and that is what Adam and Eve did not want to do. That is why death came into the world. Our Lord commanded them: “Of every tree of Paradise thou shalt eat: But of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat. For in what day soever thou shalt eat of it, thou shalt die the death”. (Genesis 2:17).
If we accept the kind of death that is in accordance with Our Lord’s will, we shall do great penance for all our sins.
For this reason we should say the following prayer of Saint Pius X by which we can merit a plenary indulgence:
“Even now I willingly accept death in accordance with Our Lords’ will, with all its fears and sufferings.”
Through Extreme Unction Our Lord will help us and strengthen us to offer everything up and to die a holy and Christian death. We want and need to light this candle.
Unfortunately however this candle is missing nowadays. People do not want to light this candle, they do not want to make this sacrifice. People want to die with what they consider to be “dignity”. They speak of “human dignity”. And to achieve this death with “dignity”, they call for a lethal injection or for a death potion.
But if we only look at the Cross of our Saviour, we shall see that He does not want us to die with this empty “human dignity”. He wants us to die a Christian death.
You will not believe it but what I tell you is true: There are two companies in Switzerland, one called Dignitas and the other called Exit. If you request their services, they will give you a soft drink to help you die an agreeable death. By the way, the company called Exit was founded by a former Catholic priest.
Advent should be a time of preparation for the coming of our Saviour at Christmas but it should also be a preparation for the coming of our Saviour on the day of our Personal Judgement.
We want and we need to make the necessary sacrifices. We want to light the candles on the Advent wreath of our life:
The Baptismal Candle, the Communion Candle, the Bridal/Ordination Candle and even the Candle for the Last Rites. Amen.