Friday, December 26, 2014

lighting a candle on St Sephen's Day

Church attendance is down, but people still seem to have an awful lot of interest in religion. That struck me very strongly this afternoon. 

Today is St Stephen's Day. Attendance at a celebration of Holy Communion in my parish this morning was small. I wasn't too surprised. The day after Christmas is a day when people traditionally take it easy. And the weather was pretty cold, wet, and miserable. So it wasn't a cause of amazement that there wasn't a great turnout.

This afternoon, my wife and I went for a walk. The streets were near empty; most businesses were closed; and the weather continued blustery, cold, and wet. As we passed the local Catholic Church, I thought of the fact that today was also my parent's wedding anniversary. Today would have marked 55 years of, if not wedded bliss, then at least rubbing along together remarkably comfortably. We decided to go in and light a candle and say a prayer.  

The church was empty. But both votive candle racks in the building blazed with light. Nearly 50 were alight in the big one at the back of the church beneath a statue of our Lord; and the smaller one at the front, which stands beneath an icon of the Madonna and child, was nearly full with around 40. With around 90 small candles burning at the one particular moment I happened by, it seemed reasonable to suppose that over the course of the day hundreds must have been lit. 

I placed my own candle in the rack and knelt; my wife lit one also. Leaving, I again marveled at the blaze of light in the dim church from the votive rack at the back. Not as many people may be going to church services. But an awful lot of them are still going to churches to express their faith in the divine, to use them as spaces to try and connect with the reality beyond this world. 

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