25 February 2020

Candles and Prayers

I met someone shortly after I moved to Scotland who actually believed there was something clandestine, subversive, and, worst of all (!) popish about lighting candles while praying, or even HAVING candles anywhere in the house.  Can you even imagine?

I LOVE candles in a religious Christian context.  There is something so very special and sacred when I see a votive stand glowing brightly in a dim and subdued church setting.  Or when I light a candle or candles myself, as an offering and an accompaniment to prayer -- or even as a prayer itself.

There is every reason to light candles as or with prayer:
  • It symbolizes Christ who said, "I am the Light of the world; the one who follows Me will not walk in darkness, but will have light and life." (John 8:12)
  • The light and fire represents the presence and power of God
  • It is an act of faith
  • It is an act of offering
  • It is an act of reverence
  • It is a symbol of Christ's Paschal Mystery (the Baptism candle)
  • It is a symbol of devotion before a shrine, icon, altar, or statue
  • Lighting a candle in church represents our desire to remain with God, as the candle stays lit even if we must go on about our day
  • Votive and candle stands represent collective prayer and unity of Believers
  • Candles are lit for remembrance of those who have reposed

The Bible refers constantly to the importance of light:
  • And you shall command the children to Israel that they bring you pure oil of pressed olives for the light, to cause the lamp to burn continually. (Exodus 27:20)
  • And when Aaron lights the lamps at twilight, he shall burn incense on it, a perpetual incense before the Lord throughout your generations. (Exodus 30:8)
  • For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light. (Psalm 36:9)
  • The light of the righteous rejoices, but the lamp of the wicked will be put out.  (Proverbs 13:9)
  • So the Light of Israel will be for a fire, And his Holy One for a flame; it will burn and devour His thorns and his briers in one day.  (Isaiah 10:7 -- and may I say, the faithful also light a candle and ask for God to burn away their iniquities.)
  • Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.  (Matthew 5:15)
That is just a wee sampling.  The point is, light is representative of THE Light.  We light our candles for all kinds of good, symbolic reasons.  We light our candles to prove that the darkness will not overcome us.

Don't be like the woman I knew who was frightened of candles and fearful that they somehow took away from God.  I'm sure I don't have to say that she was a Protestant walking in trepidation.  Listen, only a very small God would be offended by a candle lit in prayer.  My God is the God of the ever-expanding universe, and I choose to bring my little offering of a candle to Him whenever I can.  I want to remain close to Him. 

Light a candle today -- a real one, not a virtual one -- and contemplate the Light of the world!

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