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Candles are often used as a sign of festivity and solemnity in Christian worship. The use of such lights has a long and varied tradition. Acts 20 records that there were "many lights" at the service at Troas when Paul and other Christians gathered to break bread. Lamps and candles were in normal use in Christian worship by the fourth century, but for many years it was not customary to place candles on the altar. The first known mention of the use of altar lights was a twelfth-century report that two candles flanked an altar cross in the papal chapel. The injunction of Edward VI in 1547 called for there to be two lights on the high altar "for the signification that Christ is the very true light of the world." Candles have been used in some English cathedrals and churches since the seventeenth century. The use of candles at the eucharist was disputed in the Church of England and in the Episcopal Church during the nineteenth century. During the years of the ritualist controversy in the Episcopal Church, the General Conventions of 1868, 1871, and 1874 considered proposals to prohibit the use of altar candles. Use of candles in worship was strongly favored by Episcopalians of the catholic tradition and resisted by those of the evangelical tradition. The use of altar candles was never prohibited by General Convention. Use of altar lights and other candles in the worship of the church is now customary. Some BCP services make special provision for the use of candles in worship. The Easter Vigil service begins with the lighting of the Paschal candle, which is to burn at all services from Easter Day through Pentecost (BCP, pp. 285-287). In an Order of Worship for the Evening, the candle lighting follows the Prayer for Light (p. 112). 

Glossary definitions provided courtesy of Church Publishing Incorporated, New York, NY,(All Rights reserved) from "An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church, A User Friendly Reference for Episcopalians," Don S. Armentrout and Robert Boak Slocum, editors.
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