Tabernacle Lamp

Dear Catholic Exchange:

Hi I am currently a Catechumen and I have a question about the red candle by the tabernacle. On Sunday, the first day of Advent it was white. Is there a reason why it was white at that time instead of red? I asked my sponsor but she is unsure.

Thank you for your time,


Dear Margaret,

Peace in Christ!

The Code of Canon Law, Can. 940, states "A special lamp which indicates and honors the presence of Christ is to shine continuously before a tabernacle in which the Most Holy Eucharist is reserved."

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops site lists this requirement, "A special oil lamp or a lamp with a wax candle burns continuously near the tabernacle as an indication of Christ's presence.97"

Also, the liturgical document Holy Communion and Worship of the Eucharist outside Mass (1973) cites the earlier 1917 Code of Canon law in directing that, "According to the traditional usage, an oil lamp or lamp with a wax candle is to burn constantly near the tabernacle as a sign of the honor shown to the Lord" (Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship, Holy Communion and Worship of the Eucharist outside Mass, no. 11).

The same was most recently (2003) provided by the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, no. 316, 

"In accordance with traditional custom, near the tabernacle a special lamp, fueled by oil or wax, should be kept alight to indicate and honor the presence of Christ."

Clearly, the type of lamp is important, but there are no liturgical documents that specify the color of the sanctuary lamp.

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  • Guest

    The children's Boston catechism explains that the lamp "takes the palce of our hearts."  Remember how, on the road to Emmaus, the disciples said that their hearts were "burning" in the Lord's presence?