March 12, 2014 Comments Off on The View from the Sacristy: Cast Iron Floor Torches
We are asked to look at Lent as a season of self-examination, by prayer, and reading and meditating on God’s holy Word. To help us focus our minds and spirits for the process of cleansing our hearts to “prepare with joy for the Paschal feast,” the silver candle sticks, the brass stand we use to hold the altar book which the Priest uses to celebrate our gathering, and the beautiful and rich vestments are all put away, the sacred images are covered, the processional cross is covered, and the singing of the Hampton setting to the Creed is set aside.
I want to spend a bit talking about the floor torches we us as altar candles in Lent. They are very different from the silver candles sticks found on the altar the rest of the year. For one thing, they sit on the floor and not the altar. For another, they are made of cast iron not silver; the torches have a certain beauty but they are nowhere nearly as elegant as our silver candlesticks. The cast iron can be so hard, dark, and unyielding. Sacred tradition says that the nails used to crucify the Christ were made of iron and I know I cut myself on the iron handling the torches all the time. It’s like a paper cut and it happens without even noticing.
I do not really know where these cast iron torches came from since they have been here as long as I can remember. I can tell you that if you look closely at them they are not a matched set. They look very much alike but they are not the same. Some of the details of the scrolling of the leaves are different, the finials are also different. The biggest difference is that one must weigh 50 pounds and the other about 5 pounds. I have always thought that the heavier one is the original and the lighter one a copy so that they are a sort of matched set.
The torches normally live by the icon of Our Lady of the Sign where it makes a beautiful setting for Our Lady since they match the style of the votive candle stand. Every Lent since Our Lady arrived, when we are preparing to “Lenten” the church on Shrove Tuesday, I always look for remnants of our Christmas celebration in the crooks and crannies of the cast iron torches. There is always a piece or two of fir or boxwood stuck in a groove from the greening of the church. It reminds me that Christmas is connected to Lent and Holy Week and that we celebrate Christmas with the word, “On the night before he died, Jesus took bread……” It also reminds me that Resurrection is on its way and in a few weeks the church will be back to its normal glory.
– Sean Scheller