Traditions

TRADITIONS
The Blessing of HomesCustomarily, homes are blessed on the days following January 6th, but may be blessed anytime. A cross or icon in a prominent place becomes the focus of God’s presence in our home. Please complete a Blessing of Homes Request Form and put it in the collection basket with the designated envelope. Forms will be available in January.

Meatfare Sunday

Meatfare Sunday is the last day on which it was still permissible to eat meat before the Great Fast. Meatfare means “farewell to meat.” Hence, the name “meatfare” Sunday. This is reflective of the time when the Great Fast was observed in all strictness. After the Divine Liturgy, various selections of meat products are blessed and shared.

Cheesefare Sunday

On Cheesefare Sunday, the day before the beginning of the Great Fast, we share blessed foods of fish, eggs, and cheese following the Divine Liturgy. Cheesefare Sunday – so called because it is the last day to eat cheese and other dairy products before the beginning of Great Lent.

The Blessing of the Pascha Baskets

In the Church, Sunday of the Resurrection of Jesus (Easter) is a day without parallel with joyful celebration. The celebration includes the Blessing of the Pascha Baskets which contain foods not eaten during the fasting of the Great Lent… meats, eggs, cheese, butter, rich breads, and more… The “forbidden” foods of Great Lent become the foods of the Easter Banquet. It is customary to break one’s Easter Fast with foods blessed at this time.
Each basket is covered with a cloth usually embroidered with the words “Christ is Risen”. The contents of the basket vary from family to family in terms of additional meats, wine, pastries, candy and other treats.

Putting Together a Traditionsl Easter Basket

PASCHA – The Easter Bread (pron, paska). A sweet, yeast bread rich in eggs, butter, etc. Symbolic of Christ Himself who is our True Bread. Usually a round loaf baked with a golden crust decorated with a symbol indicative of Christ. Sometimes a cross of dough is placed on top encircled by a plait giving it a crowned effect, or Greek abbreviations for the name of Christ. The letters XB indicate the Slavonic for “Christ is Risen.”

CHEESE (Hrudka or Sirets, pronounced – hrood-ka or si-rets) A custard-type cheese shaped into a ball having a rather bland but sweet taste indicative of the moderation that Christians should have in all things. Also, creamed cheese is placed in a small dish and both are decorated with symbols made of cloves or pepper balls.

HAM (Sunka – pronounced shoon-ka) The flesh meat popular with Slavs as the main dish because of its richness and symbolic of the great joy and abundance of Easter. Some may prefer lamb or veal. This is usually well roasted or cooked as well as other meats prepared in advance so that the festivity of the day will not be burdened with preparation and all may enjoy the Feast.

BUTTER (Maslo – pronounced ma-slo) This favorite dairy product is shaped into the figure of a lamb or small cross and decorated as the cheese. This reminds us of the goodness of Christ that we should have toward all things.

EGGS (Pisanki – pronounced – pi-sun-ki) Hard boiled eggs brightly decorated with symbols and markings made with beeswax, indicative of new life and resurrection.

SALT (Sol – pronounced sol’) A condiment necessary for flavor reminding the Christian of his duty to others.

BACON (Slanina – pronounced – sla-ni-na) A piece of uncooked bacon cured with spices, symbolic of the overabundance of God’s mercy to us.

SAUSAGE (Kolbasi – pronounced kol-bus-i) A spicy, garlicy sausage of pork products, indicative of God’s favor and generosity.

HORSERADISH (Chrin – pronounced – khrin) Horseradish mixed with grated red beets. Symbolic of the Passion of Christ still in our minds but sweetened with some sugar because of the Resurrection. A bitter – sweet red colored mixture reminds us of the sufferings of Christ.

These articles are placed in a wicker basket and a ribbon or bow is tied to the handle. A decorated candle is placed in the basket and is lit at the time of blessing. A linen cover usually embroidered with a picture of the Risen Christ or symbol with the words “Christ is Risen” is placed over the foods when brought to the church. In some places a large Easter Bread (Pascha) is made and brought separately in a large linen cloth. If the origin of the people was from a wine growing region, a sweet wine may be brought.

The Blessing of Fruit

On August 6th, the Transfiguration of Jesus, which occurs during the harvest season, the Faithful bring fruit to the Church to be blessed. The blessing of fruit on this day is the most beautiful and adequate sign of the final transfiguration of all things in Christ. It signifies the ultimate flowering and fruitfulness of all creation in God’s Paradise where all will be transformed by the glory of the Lord.


The Blessing of Flowers

According to our Byzantine Catholic Tradition, flowers are solemnly blessed on the Feast of the Dormition of the Mother of God. Tradition speaks of the Apostles returning to the tomb of Mary. Finding it empty, her tomb was filled with a heavenly fragrance and flowers were present where her body once lay. Since Mary could only have been taken up by the Lord, flowers are seen as the presence of His saving Power. As a reminder of this event, flowers are brought to Church and blessed.

 

(this page is taken from http://www.epiphanybyzantinecatholic.org/traditions.html)

© 2011 Epiphany Byzantine Catholic Church. All Rights Reserved.

 

Holy Supper Christmas Eve

(this is from https://ucymb.wordpress.com/holy-supper-christmas-eve/)

Question: For someone not raised in a Byzantine Church, can someone explain the tradition of the holy supper for me. Thanks…”

The supper on Holy Night differs from other evening meals, having twelve Lenten dishes, symbolic of the twelve Apostles who gathered at the Last Supper. The dishes are prepared with a vegetable shortening or cooking oil, omitting all animal fat, milk and milk products because Christmas is preceded by a period of fast which ends on Christmas Day after midnight or morning church service. The day of the Christmas Eve is a strict fast in commemoration of the hardships endured by Mother Mary en route to Bethlehem.

Everyone has some variations of Svyatij Vechir (Holy Supper) and we are no different.

We put straw under the tablecloth and the table. A sheaf of wheat (didukh) is tied with a bright rushnik (embroidered towel) and placed on the table by the father or senoir male present at the beginning of the dinner.

It is the custom that twelve various dishes are served to remind us of the 12 Apostles. No meat products and in some areas no dairy products are permitted.

The order at our house of the dishes is, prosphora (blessed at the Vigil) first with honey, then kutya, then all of the other dishes (12 total, all meatless and dairy-free) fish, varenyky, kapusta, wine, toasts, etc.
We leave one place empty in remembrance of those departed before us, but also because an angel might show up disguised as a beggar…

We also bake three loaves of bread (kolach) and place them one on top the other, with a candle in the middle. This is a rich bread similar to paska. The candle is lit on the bread at the meal blessing and stays lit until the end of the dinner. Since this bread is made with eggs, usually quite a few eggs, we don’t break it at the Holy Supper but later after the Great Compline/Vigil service.

We also have some other smaller traditions, like flinging the Kutya on the ceiling to see who will have good luck (drives my poor wife crazy smile ), walking around the house three times with the kutya singing the Christmas troparion, giving some extra feed, straw, and a bit of kutya to all the livestock after the dinner (boiled wheat with honey – they love it! smile And after all God rested with them at His birth), etc.

At our house the gifts to the kids are given on St. Nicholas Day, not Christmas Day. On Christmas the gift is Christ himself. We go to Divine Liturgy, afterwards go caroling, have parties with friends, etc. all in the spirit of the Winter Pascha which is unfolding before us.
The Holy Supper is special meal that marks the beginning of the Christmas Celebration. There are many symbols and customs that accompany this meal and they are as varied as the villages they come from.

Hospitality to those in need:

One tradition which bears mentioning (and maintaining) is that if there were any family members who because of age or sickness could not attend the meal, the children were expected to take the meal to them. This was especially true for grand-parents, God-parents, aunts, uncles, etc. We should make sure that no one in our parishes spends this evening alone. If we know of someone who has no family, or is away from home, etc., according to our tradition we should either invite them to our homes or take them food from the table immediately after the meal. We should do everything possible to see that all the seniors of our parishes, whether living at home or in nursing homes, are remembered on this night. This is the evening when Mary and Joseph were given hospitality in a cave – we have a holy obligation to extend hospitality to anyone who might be alone.

Another version:

In my family, we scatter straw under the table to remember the poverty of the Holy Family, that the manger was covered with straw. Everyone sits at the table and all must have shoes or slippers on, no one is to be barefooted. Only the poor go barefooted and we are rich because we are celebrating the birth of the Savior.

The youngest member of the household looks out the window for the First Star. When it is spotted the meal can begin.

We start with a toast of wine, then comes a meatless soup made from a rue of flour and water, mushrooms and sauerkraut juice. Next come the peas, they symbolize a plentyful year to come; bread smeared with honey and garlic, this being the staff of life with all that is happy and sorrowful in life. We also have stewed prunes with pitts, each person at the table must eat a pair so that everyone will be there the next year.

We then have pirohi, fish (usually sardines and tuna, we have the tuna because when my Baba was living, the sardines had too much salt in them for her diet, we’ve been using tuna ever since).

There are also fresh fruits, mixed nuts, candies, cookies and pastries.

Once the meal is started, no one leaves the table until the meal is completed. We also set an empty place at the table and crack the front door and leave a candle burning in the front window in case the Holy Family wanders by; they know by these signs that they will not be turned away from our home.

In some homes, there is a chain that is wrapped around the table legs so that the bounty that is found on the table at this meal will remain with the family during the coming New Year.

Anhelyna, the 12-dishes meal is what my Polish friends celebrate. You will also find many Italian and Sicilian families celebrating the 12-fishes meal on Christmas Eve where each family makes a meal and there are 12 dishes made from different kinds of fish.

One more version:

Christmas Eve – January 6th

Among the Ukrainians, the most beloved of all festivities is Christmas which covers a cycle of important fest days, centering around family and agricultural modes of life, is very colourful, being the most important part of Christmas. Its main feature is the evening meal called “Holy Supper” (Svyata Vechera) in literal translation. According to custom, all members of the family should be that night for a family reunion.

The supper on Holy Night differs from other evening meals, having twelve Lenten dishes, symbolic of the twelve Apostles who gathered at the Last Supper. The dishes are prepared with a vegetable shortening or cooking oil, omitting all animal fat, milk and milk products because Christmas is preceded by a period of fast which ends on Christmas Day after midnight or morning church service. The day of the Christmas Eve is a strict fast in commemoration of the hardships endured by Mother Mary en route to Bethlehem.

The table, set to according to time-honoured custom, is first strewn with a small handful of fine hay in memory of the Christ Child in a manger, and over it is spread the very best tablecloth adorned with native embroidery. Bread (kalach), symbolizing prosperity, constitutes the central table decoration. Three round, braided loaves are placed one on top of the other with a candle inserted into the top load, and the bottom loaf encircled with tiny twigs of evergreen. Candles on both sides of the loaves complete the table decoration. If a member of the familhy has died during the year, a place is set for him in the believe that the spirit of the deceased unites with the family on that magic Holy Night. A lighted candle is always placed in the window as an invitation to any homeless stranger, or perchance a lost soul, to join the family in celebrating the birth of Christ.

Prior to the evening meal a spoonful of each dish is mixed into the feed of the domestic animals, because animals were the first creatures to behold the new-born Christ. The first star in the eastern sky announces the time for the commencement of the meal. It is the children’s duty to watch for the star. Each member of the family, dressed in holiday attire, awaits the customary ritual opening. This is done by the master of the household who brings a sheaf of what called “did” or “didukh” (grandfather), a symbol of gathering of the clan, and greets his family with traditional salutations, expressing joy that God has favoured them with good health and general well-being. The sheaf is placed in the corner of the dining room, and remains there until New Year when it is taken out and burned. In the cities this tradition has been modified, and the sheaf is replaced with a few stalks of wheat which are placed in a vase, or they may be used as a table decoration.

Members of the family and servants gather around the table. The meal begins with the Lord’s prayer and then a thanksgiving grace appropriate to the occasion. The first and indispensable dish is kutya, a preparation of cooked wheat dressed with honey, ground poppy seed, and sometimes chopped nuts. This ritual dish, of a very ancient origin, has survived hundreds of generations without losing its importance in the Christmas festivity. it starts the meal in a ceremonial manner. The head of the family raises the first spoonful of the kutya, invoking God’s grace, and greets the family with the traditional Christmas greet: “Khrystos Rodyvsya” (Christ is born), to which they all reply in unison: “Slavim Yoho!” (Let us glorify Him). Following this ritual everyone must partake of the kutya, if only but a spoonful. The exact meaning of kutya has been lost. However scholars of the folklore generally believe that originally it symbolized the spiritual clan unity of all living and deceased members. Agricultural prosperity may have been a secondary symbol.

Kutya may be followed with an appetizer of pickled herrings or pickled mushrooms, or with a serving of borsch, after which comes one or more preparations of fish and various other traditional dishes, ending with a dessert of stewed dried fruit, or fruit varenyky, and the Christmas pastries and nuts. Everyone must have at least a small serving of each dish.

Caroling

While many of the Ukrainian Christmas Eve customs are of a solemn nature, the custom of caroling is joyful and merry. Ukrainian Christmas songs or carols have their origins in antiquity, as do many other traditions practiced at Christmas time. There are two main groups of Christmas songs in Ukraine: the koliadky, whose name is probably derived from the Latin “calendae” meaning the first day of the month and which are sung on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day; the second group of Christmas songs is calledshchedrivky, which is a derivation from the word meaning generous. The latter are sung during the Feast of the Epiphany.

Both koliadky and shchedrivky have pagan elements in them, but many have been Christianized. For example, one pagan carol tells of a landowner who is awakened by a swallow and told to make preparations, because three guests are coming to his house: the sun, the moon and the rain. In the Christianized version the three guests become Jesus Christ, St. Nicholas and St. George. The very popular Ukrainian carol in the United states, “Carol of the Bells”, in its originality is a shchedrivkaand tells of a swallow (herald of Spring) that has come to a landowner’s house and asks him to come out and see how rich he is, how many calves he has, and so on.

The themes of Ukrainian Christmas songs vary. Many, of course, deal with the birth of Christ and that occasion’s joyful celebrations, and many of them have apocryphal elements. Another group of carols contain purely pagan mythological elements. Still another group deals with Ukrainian history of the 9-12 centuries, mostly with the heroic episodes in the lives of some of the princes that were favorite among the people. One of the largest groups of carols are glorification songs – glorifying the landowner, the farmer, his wife, his sons, his daughters, every member of the family. These songs glorify their work as well as their personal traits.

Caroling required extensive preparation. Each group had a leader. One member dressed as a goat. Another as a bag carrier, the collector of all the gifts people would give them. Yet another carried a six-pointed star attached to a long stick with a light in its center, which symbolized the Star of Bethlehem. In some places the people even had musical instruments, such as the violin, tsymbaly (dulcimer), or the trembita (a wooden pipe about 8-10 feet long, used in the Carpathian mountains by the Hutsuls).

Caroling was not a simple singing of Christmas songs; it was more of a folk opera. The carolers first had to ask for permission to sing. If the answer was yes, they entered the house and sang carols for each member of the family, even for the smallest child. Sometimes they even performed slow ritualistic dances. They also had to present a short humorous skit involving the goat. The custom of the goat accompanying the carolers has its origin in the pagan times when the goat represented the god of fertility. The skit showed the goat dying and then being brought back to life. This also symbolized the death of Winter and the birth of Spring. The caroling always ended with short well-wishing poems, appropriately selected for each home.

Koliadky and shchedrivky are the oldest groups of Ukrainian folk songs. They are sung by Ukrainians at Christmas time throughout the world.

Vertep – Cristmas puppet theater

A venerable form of Ukrainian puppet theater, regarded as distinct from the Polish szopka, the Belarusian betleika, and the Russian petrushka. The origins of the name vertep may be related to the verb vertitysia ‘to whirl,’ as do rays about a star. The vertep performance is a standardized enactment of the Nativity with merry interludes depicting secular life, in the style of an intermede. There are 10 to 40 vertep characters, typically among them a sacristan, angels, shepherds, Herod, three kings, Satan, Death, Russian soldiers, gypsies, a Pole, a Jew, a peasant couple, and various animals. All the hand puppets are usually operated by one person, the vertepnyk. The vertep is also the two-level stage in the form of a building in which the performance takes place, the religious part on the upper level and the secular part on the lower.

Vertep performances date back to the late 16th century. They reached their height in popularity in the second half of the 18th century. Many students from the Kyivan Mohyla Academy contributed to the development of vertep puppet theater; its two-part performance was in part a reflection of the academy’s style of theatrical productions. Itinerant precentors were also responsible for popularizingvertepy. In time the specifications as to vertep stage architecture; the number, character, and construction of the puppets; and costumes, music, and scripts became well defined. The foremost village vertepywere in Sokyryntsi, Baturyn, and Mizhhiria. The secular part in vertep performances often contained references to contemporaneous events; a Zaporozhian Cossack puppet, for example, appeared during the reign of Catherine II.

Vertep theater declined in the mid-19th century. It has retained a symbolic significance, as in the miniature Nativity scene displayed in Ukrainian homes during the Christmas season and in the Christmas carolers dressed up as vertepcharacters. In the 20th century vertep theater has been revived as a zhyvyi ‘live’ vertep, with live actors faithfully re-creating the traditional villagevertepy.

http://risu.org.ua/en/index/exclusive/holidays_and_customs/46234/

Sources

http://www.bbc.co.uk/ukrainian/lg/multimedia/2010/01/100107_xmass_photo_oh.shtml

http://www.ukrcdn.com/2010/01/04/an-introduction-to-ukrainian-christmas/

http://www.brama.com/art/christmas.html

 

THE BLESSING OF CANDLES: ON THE FEAST OF THE PRESENTATION OF OUR LORD IN THE TEMPLE A TRADITION OF THE BYZANTINE RITE

34“Let us celebrate the feast (of the Presentation) in a solemn way, illuminating the mystery of the day with lights.”

-St. Cyril of Alexandria

Jerusalem, a Holy City! It is holy because it was consecrated by the suffering and death of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

The Church of Jerusalem is the Mother Church of all Christians, since the liturgical year had its beginning there and the liturgical services of the Christians were formulated there. The Christian Community of Jerusalem commemorated the main events of the life of Christ with liturgical celebrations in their historic settings. These solemn festivities, however, were greatly enhanced by the participation of pilgrims who began to throng the Holy Places after the Constantinian Peace of 313. The festive celebration of the Presentation of Our Lord in the Temple, as described by the Evangelist Luke, had its beginning in Jerusalem in the fourth century.

1. The oldest written account of the solemn celebration of the Feast of the Presentation of Our Lord dates back to the fourth century and is the work of a Spanish Nun, Egeria, who kept a diary of her pilgrimage to the Holy Land toward the end of that century. In it she writes: “The fortieth day after Epiphany (read : Christmas) is indeed celebrated here (in Jerusalem) with the greatest solemnity. On that day there is a procession into the Anastasis (Basilica of the Resurrection), and all assemble there for the liturgy, and everything is performed in the prescribed manner with great solemnity.” (Egeria, Diary of a Pilgrimage, ch. 26).

It seems that at that early date, the Feast did not have a specific name and was simply called The Fortieth Day After the Nativity. Later it was called The Encounter of Our Lord (Gr. Hypapante; O. SI. Stritenije), referring to the encounter of St. Simeon with Jesus in the Temple which is the theme of the oldest homily on the Feast, ascribed to Hesychius of Jerusalem (d. after 450). In the West, the Feast was called The Purification from Mary’s compliance with the legal purification prescribed by the Law (Lk. 2, 22) . In the English speaking world, however, the term of Presentation was adapted since on that day Jesus was presented (offered) to God in the Temple (Lk. 2, 22). In other places the Feast was called The Candles, since on that day the solemn blessing of candles was prescribed.

In the fifth century, the solemn celebration of the Feast was transferred from Jerusalem to Egypt (cf. St. Cyril’s Homily), Syria and Asia Minor (cf. Homily of Theodore of Ancyra). In 542, Emperor Justinian I established the celebration of ” Hypapante” (Stritenije) as a Solemn Feast in the entire Byzantine Empire. (cf. Nicephorus Call ., History of the Church, XVII, 28). At the turn of the sixth century, Pope Gregory the Great (590-604) introduced the celebration of the Feast in Rome from where it spread throughout the entire West.

2. When St. Simeon took the Child Jesus into his arms, he was inspired by the Holy Spirit and chanted the hymn, “Now You can let Your servant go in peace, 0 Master . .. ” (Lk. 2, 29-32), which was integrated into the service of Vespers. In his inspired hymn, St. Simeon referred to Jesus as the “Light to the Gentiles,” it prompted the first Christians to carry a lighted candle or lamp in the procession that day, symbolizing the mystical presence of the “True Light” (In. 1, 9), Jesus. The solemn procession itself symbolized the journey of Joseph and Mary to Jerusalem in fulfillment of the Law.

The Spanish Pilgrim Egeria made no mention of the use of candles in the procession in Jerusalem, since this custom was introduced later, toward the middle of the fifth century, by a Roman matron, Ikelia. Both St. Cyril of Alexandria (d. 444) and Theodore of Ancyra (d. 446) mention the use of lights in the procession of the Feast in their homilies.

The Chronicle of Theophanes attests to the candlelight processions in Constantinople in the sixth century.

In all the religions of the world, the symbol of the deity is the light and the lighted candle symbolizes the Divine Presence. This is more pronounced in the Christian religion in which God is referred to as the “Light” (In. 1, 5) and that He dwells in the ” inaccessible light.” (I Tim. 6, 16) In the Old Testament, God Himself ordered the Israelites to burn lamps as a sign of His presence among the people. (Lev. 24, 14)

In the New Testament, the Christians followed the same prescription as attested to by St. Epiphanius (d. 403) in his letter to the monk John of Jerusalem.

As the Saint was passing through the country around Anablatha, he passed by a building in which he noticed a ” lamp burning.” In answer to his inquiry, he learned that the building was a “Christian Church.” In our churches today, the Presence of a burning vigil-light indicates the Real Presence of Our Lord Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist on the altar.

St. John the Evangelist presents Our Lord Jesus Christ to us in his gospel as the” Light of Life” (In. 8, 12), a spiritual life, a life of grace. In this context, the burning candle presented to us at Baptism is a symbol of the new spiritual life we receive through the sacrament.

St. Matthew refers to light as a symbol of Christ’s teaching: “The people that lived in darkness (of ignorance) have seen a great light .. . ” (Mt. 4, 16) Hence the custom of having two lighted candles, one on each side of the Gospel, when it is read during a liturgical service, as explained by St. Jerome in 378 A.D. “In all the churches of the East, whenever the Gospel is to be read, candles are lighted although the sun is already shining. Of course, it is not done to dispel the darkness but to express our joy … Under the material light that Light is represented of which the Psalmist speaks: ‘Your Word, 0 Lord, is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path ‘ ” (St. Jerome, Against Vigilantius, 7). The burning candles, then, flanking the Gospel during the reading , remind us that the teaching of Christ should enlighten us and guide us on our way to salvation as indicated by the words of Our Lord Himself: ” I am the light of the world; anyone who follows Me will not be walking in the dark, but will have the light of life.” (In. 8, 12)

3. In the East, this custom is mentioned for the first time in the biography of St. Sabas which was written in 556. It seems that this practice was introduced during the sixth century by the hermits who, in order to create a prayerful atmosphere in their caves, burned oil lamps or candles in front of the icons. (J. Moschus, Spiritual Meadow, 155) St. Germanus, the Patriarch of Constantinople (715-733) and a great defender of the veneration of icons, explained to one of his bishops: ” Let it not scandalize some that lights and incense are burnt before the holy images, for these rites were devised in their honor, .. . since visible lights are a symbol of their gift of divine grace and the burning incense is a symbol of pure inspiration and the fulness of the Holy Spirit.” (Epistle to Bp. Thomas)

In 787, the Council of Nicaea II approved the custom of offering lights (candles or oil lamps) in honor of the icons of Our Lord, the Blessed Mother of God, the Angels and all the Saints, as well as in honor of the Holy Cross and the Book of Gospels, for ” this was a pious custom since ancient times.” (cf. The Decree of the /I Nicaean Council)

The burning candles and lights placed in front of the holy icons should remind us of the light of the exemplary lives they lived and inspire us to model our lives after their’s in imitation of their “good works.” (compo Mt. 5, 16)

4. The custom of blessing candles on the Feast of the Presentation was introduced to fill the “needs of the people.” (I Prayer of the Blessing) Its introduction into our Rite was relatively recent, during the seventeenth centu ry, but its roots reach venerable antiquity. As recorded in The Chronicle of St. Theophanes, Emperor Justinian I had issued an order in 541 A.D. that on the Feast of the Presentation, a candle-light procession be held throughout the city to implore Divine Protection against pestilence and the numerous earthquakes that plagued the city.

And in answer to this holy gesture, God caused the pestilence and the earthquakes to subside. This gave rise to having similar processions on other occasions when the common welfare of the people was in danger.

These solemn processions, which eventually developed into Litia services in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, were later discontinued and limited only to the churches. The faithful , however, continued to use the candles as the means of Divine protection. This prompted the blessing of candles on the Feast of the Presentation which then were distributed to the faithful.

In homes, the blessed candles are lighted and placed before a holy icon in time of serious sickness or the threat of a storm to implore Divine protection, as the family is gathered in prayer. The blessed candle is popularly called the hromnicja” or ” hromnichka” from our Ruthenian word “hrom” (thunder), because it is used at the time of a thunder storm. It is also used by the parents to dispel the fear in children caused by darkness or thunder.

The candle blessed on the Feast of the Presentation is also used when the Last Rites of the Church are administered to a member of the family. It should also be placed into the hand of the dying as the priest recites The Prayers for the Departure of the Soul, sending him to God as the ” champion of Faith” (St. John Chrysostom, Hom. on Hebr., IV, 7).

CONCLUSION

The blessing of candles on the Feast of the Presentation is closely related to the Gospel narrative, introducing Jesus as the “Light of the people” (Lk. 2, 32) The burning candle symbolizes the abiding presence of Jesus Christ in the midst of the Christian community as He, Himself, had promised :

“Where two or three are gathered in My Name, there I am in their midst.” (Mt. 18, 20) For this reason, the ritual of the Church prescribes that at least two candles be lit on the altar at all liturgical services, and the greater the solemnity, the greater the number of candles used.

The burning candles also create a more prayerful atmosphere in the churches. They remind us that our prayers should come from a heart burning with love of God and they should be directed toward heaven, where God abides in the “inaccessible light.” In this manner, candles make a positive contribution to the fervor of our prayers. The burning of a votive candle in church, besides its sacrificial value (donation), has also a symbolic meaning, namely, the continuation of our prayers after we leave the church.

Lighted candles are also carried in procession for the ” Glory of God” (cf. /I Prayer of Blessing) as well as for the support of our prayers, imploring Almighty God to show us His “mercy” (cf. I Prayer of Blessing).

From this “‘intercessory” character of processions, the protective power was ascribed to the candles blessed on the Feast of the Presentation.

Therefore, at the present time, the faithful use them to implore God’s help in their every sickness and distress. (this portion is taken from the Archeparchy of Pittsburgh)