Why is the Gospel led by candles and incense at Mass?

In the Roman Rite of the Catholic Church, there is a procession of the Gospel that occurs on more solemn celebrations. If enough servers are present, the Gospel is accompanied by two lighted candles and a thurible holding incense.

This tradition has a long history, dating possibly to the 3rd or 4th centuries. Nikolaus Gihr, in his book The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass , explains the symbolism of the candles…


Here is a rough translation of a commentary of Almakkari, a chronicler of the Arabs who ruled Spain in the middle ages.

The chronicler Almakkari tells us, that at the beginning of the 11th century, when much of Spain was still under Muslim power, a foreign minister of Abd-er-Rahman V had to attend a night ceremony in a Mozarabic church in Cordoba and … .

"… he saw her upholstered with branches of myrtle and sumptuously decorated, while the sound of the bells enchanted his ear and the splendor of the candles dazzled his eyes. He stopped fascinated in spite of himself, at the sight of majesty and joy sacred radiating from the enclosure; then he remembered with admiration the entrance of the officiant and the other worshipers of Jesus Christ, covered with admirable ornaments; the aroma of the aged wine that the ministers poured into the chalice, where the priest dipped his pure lips; the modest attire and beauty of children and adolescents who helped beside the altar; the solemn recitation of psalms and sacred prayers, all the rites, in short, of that ceremony; devotion and at the same time the solemn joy with which it was celebrated and the fervor of the Christian people … "
(Jacques Fontaine, Romanesque Spain 10. The Mozárabe, p. 45).



Neat. Thanks for sharing.

This is done to show revereance for God’s Word and for the Truths contained in the Gospel.
God bless and Mary keep you.

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The Gospel is the word of God. The opening words of John’s gospel describe the word as the light shining in the darkness.

The symbolism of the Gospel illuminating the darkness is present in the transfer of the gospel to the north of the altar, as well as the use of candles to accompany it.

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