Question: The Nicene Creed says “he suffered death and was buried, and rose again on the third day.” Why the word “again”? Did he rise more than once?
— Name withheld, South Burlington, Vermont
Answer: Christ rose from the dead only once. The Latin text of the creed says merely, resurrexit tertia die (“he rose on the third day”).
The use of the word “again” is merely an English mode of speech.
While not strictly required, we tend in English to use “again” to indicate a restoration of a previous state. Thus, I might say, “Joe went to the store and came back again.” I clearly don’t mean he came back more than once. In a general sense, “again” is emphasizing his return, that he is here now, that his status of being away is no longer the case.
But more basically, it’s just the way we talk. The translation of the creed is simply using this common mode of speaking.
Question: What is the rule about eating meat on Fridays? Is it only a Lenten requirement?
— Name withheld, Bordentown, New Jersey
Answer: Currently, Roman Catholics in the United States are directed not to eat meat only the Fridays of Lent (and Ash Wednesday). On other Fridays of the year, Roman Catholics in the U.S. are free to substitute other observances to commemorate the Lord’s Passion, and the requirement to refrain from meat (under pain of sin) no longer binds.
The bishops still encourage abstaining from meat on all Fridays and direct if that is not chosen, some other abstention or practice should be observed. Here, too, this is not directed under pain of sin, but rather by way of encouragement so that Catholics freely undertake an observance of the Lord’s that best suits them and avoid scrupulosity in their own case or harsh judgments of others.
Question: What is the meaning of the candles that people light in church when they put in an offering?
— Adelaide Murphy, St. Joseph, Missouri
Answer: These are referred to as votive candles, and people purchase and light them to symbolize their prayers or devotion. The candle continues to burn for some hours or days (depending on the size) and thus signals the prayer and love of the person who lit it, long after they must go.
Biblically, the root of this practice is the notion of a “burnt offering.” In the Old Testament, things of value (usually sacrificed animals) would be burned and thereby offered to God. The smoke was a symbol of the sacrifice of praise ascending to God.
Catholics who light candles are making an offering to God of prayer and praise. The fire of the candle symbolizes ardent love.
The consuming of the candle symbolizes the oblation (offering) of something of value to God: our time, our praise, our resources and so forth. The lingering quality of the candle symbolizes the fact that our prayers, praise and concerns continue in our heart even when we must leave the church. The flickering light also seems to say “Remember me, Lord, remember my prayer and those for whom I pray.”
Electric votive candles do not as clearly show these symbols, but the idea is still the same.
Msgr. Charles Pope is the pastor of Holy Comforter-St. Cyprian in Washington, D.C., and writes for the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., blog at blog.adw.org. Send questions to Pastoral Answers, Our Sunday Visitor, 200 Noll Plaza, Huntington, IN 46750 or to email@example.com. Letters must be signed, but anonymity may be requested.