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The use of a multitude of candles and lamps was undoubtedly a prominent feature of the celebration of the Easter vigil , dating, we may believe, almost from Apostolic times.
Eusebius (Vita Constant., IV, xxii) speaks of the "pillars of wax" with which Constantine transformed night into day, and Prudentius and other authors have left eloquent descriptions of the brilliance withing the churches.
As regards material, the candles used for liturgical purposes should be of beeswax.
The salute of an assigned number of guns, a tribute which is paid by a warship to the flag of a foreign power, is just as much or as little worthy to be described as superstitious as the display of an assigned number of candles upon the altar at high Mass.Jerome in answer declared that the candles were lighted when the Gospel was read, not indeed to put darkness to flight, but as a sign of joy. L., XXIII, 345.) This remark and the close association of lighted candles with the baptismal ceremony, which took place on Easter Eve and which no doubt occasioned the description of that sacrament as photismos (illumination), shows that the Christian symbolism of blessed candles was already making itself felt at that early date.This conclusion is further confirmed by the language of the Exultet , still used in our day on Holy Saturday for the blessing of the paschal candle. Jerome himself composed such a praeconium paschale (see Morin in Revue Bénédictine, Jan., 1891), and in this the idea of the supposed virginity of bees is insisted on, and the wax is therefore regarded as typifying in a most appropriate way the flesh of Jesus Christ born of a virgin mother.Still the practice of setting candles upon the table of the altar itself seems to be somewhat older than the twelfth century.As the Roman pontiff , according to the "Ordines", was preceded by seven acolytes carrying candles, and as these candles at a later period were placed upon the altar and no longer upon the pavement, it is a tempting hypothesis to identify the six altar-candlesticks of an ordinary high Mass (there are seven when the bishop of the diocese pontificates) with the acolytes' candlesticks of the Roman "Ordines".