Thursday, August 5, 2010

Beeswax as Example of Form Suiting Purpose

In Caryll Houselander's thoughtful work on the Mother of God, The Reed of God, she makes the following argument, which besides its broader purpose, has the additional benefit of being a good case in itself for the use of pure beeswax altar candles.  Keep in mind that when she speaks of what the "Church insists," she has in mind the rubrics of the Church of her time and communion.  The overall thought, however, is great fodder for meditation on the genius of the churchly tradition of using beeswax in the service of the liturgy.

When human creatures make things, their instinct is to use not only the material that is most suitable from the point of view of utility but also the material most fitting to express the conception of the object they have in mind.

It is possible to make a candle with very little wax and a lot of fat, but a candle made from pure wax is more useful and more fitting; the Church insists that the candles on the Altar be made of pure wax, the wax of the soft, dark bees.  It is beautiful, natural material; it reminds us of the days of warm sun, the droning of the bees, the summer in flower.  The tender ivory colour has its own unique beauty and a kind of affinity with the whiteness of linen and of unleavened bread.  In every way it is fitting material to bear a light, and by light it is made yet more lovely.

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