The millennium candle will be the central focus for your prayer at home during Jubilee Year 2000. In this holy year the entire earth will honor our timeless God. The prayer you offer around this candle will join a cosmic chorus of praise.

A holy year is holy because it marks an anniversary. Just as the 25th and 50th anniversaries in your family call for special celebration, they do the same in our church family. Every 25 years the pope declares a holy year, a time of jubilee, to celebrate the birth of Christ and the beginning of our redemption. Pope Paul VI declared a holy year in 1975. Among its fruits are the eucharistic prayers for reconciliation now part of the Roman Catholic missal. In 1983 Pope John Paul II declared an extraordinary holy year -- one outside the usual 25-year rhythm -- to honor the 1950th anniversary of the traditional date for the death and resurrection of Christ.

Holy year 2000, because of all those zeroes, holds a special place among holy years. It will celebrate a jubilee year of the traditional date for the birth of Jesus. Our calendars divide time BC (before Christ) and AD (anno Domini, in the year of the Lord). Jesus Christ stands at the center of recorded time. All time looks to him for meaning. All history leads toward him and flows from him. Through Christ all things were made, and all things have their being in him. We who are alive to greet this millennium have a rare opportunity to give praise to God at this historic moment, on behalf of all that was, that is, and that will be.

The pope inaugurates a holy year with the Christmas Eve celebration at St. Peterís Basilica in Rome. There, at the tomb of the apostle Peter, his successor will proclaim the salvation of God. In keeping with tradition, the pope takes a hammer and breaks open a door at St. Peterís. The doorway leading into the far right aisle of the church is kept bricked shut -- except during a holy year. Only during that year may visitors to the basilica enter the church through that door. At the end of the year, the opening will be bricked shut again. Passage through the door helps the faithful affirm their belief in the intersection of the material and spiritual worlds. Through the mystery of the incarnation God took on human form at the birth of Jesus. As we celebrate the anniversary of that incarnation, we experience the transcendent God breaking into human history.

Reconciliation is one of the great themes of any jubilee year. As God broke down the door separating divinity from humanity, so we can break down the doors of hatred to invite reconciliation to our lives. A jubilee year is a year for freedom, for forgiveness, for new beginnings, and for joy. Be ready to forgive and make peace this year.

The Jubilee Year 2000 will conclude with the feast of the epiphany in 2001. Throughout this year the Christian assembly will be poised to reap the spiritual blessings of their faith.

When you gather at the millennium candle this jubilee year, you join with believers around the world who proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord of our lives, the one who gives forgiveness, and the one who brings redemption.

This article first appeared on the Marklin Candle website, 1999.

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