«Even so, let your light shine before men; that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven» (Mathew 5, 16)
With that in mind, and some out of habit, and others because that is how they were taught by their parents, Christians light candles when entering Temples. Most of them, if you were to ask, will say that they do it while sending out a prayer to our Lord to rest the souls of their beloved, deceased ones. Or maybe to ask for health and guidance to other earthly matters that trouble their minds. Others will say that it is also a way to offer for the bar of their Church. All of the above show good intentions and a kind heart.
However, the truth is that today, few people know why we actually do it or what the meaning is behind this otherwise simplistic act. And like everything a Christian does, this should also symbolize something, if we want it to have a counterpart, especially within us. So let the lighting of the candle be a conscious move, imbued and guided by the basic principles of our religion.
Two Saints of our Church have spoken in the past about this: Saint Symeon and Saint Nicodemus, from Mount Athos. And what they said was so "earthly" on the one hand and close to the common mind, and at the same time so out of our material world and spiritualistic that one would say someone must have enlightened them.
So starting with the humble candle and trying to read the words of the two Holy Fathers, let us focus right there for just a moment. The material. The candles that we light in the Churches are made of pure beeswax, which is collected by the beloved insects, from fragrant and blooming flowers, to finally produce a solid but malleable material. And so the candle itself is full of symbolism. It symbolizes the purity of the soul for which the Christian fights daily against temptations; it reminds us by its fragrance of the Divine Grace and at the same time stands as a reminder, that our soul is as malleable as this material. We choose daily, whether we will engrave on it the good and the virtuous, or the bad.
Its flame, on the other hand, also carries its meanings and they are beautiful, optimistic, and hopeful. It resembles the innate, burning tendency of the Christian to become one with God, to reach Theosis. And as the candle burns, it produces light, light that dissolves the shadows and gives a sense of hope and consolation to whoever is in the dark and struggles to get out. Just like Christ, who filled us, believers, with His Light and took away the fear once and for all.
And of course, it is a tribute to the Saints and the martyrs of our faith who preceded and still lead by their example. It is known that the Christians of that time lit candles in the graves of those who martyred.
And so lighting the candle is a simple and easy act to perform, but full of meanings and symbolism, which invites us to be present, both body and soul, when we are at it.
God calls us every day to be light in our lives and to shine in front of people. What a Cristian does by lighting a candle is responding to this call, reminding himself of the right path to follow, and making a silent promise, both to Him and to himself, that he will always strive to become what he was destined to be since his creation, and that is Light.
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