Devotional lamp, candle, incense, What is their meaning and their symbolism?
The word candle comes from the Latin word candela = candle. In the Christian Church, the candle is put in front of the sacred icon. The one located in front of the Crucified , in the sanctuary, is always kept alight and that is why it is called the “ vigilant” candle. A candle is also put in the house’s reredos and according to the tradition it is lighted every day. It is a habit that maintains its deep Christian symbolism with the Light of Christ which enlightens every man , warms the hope, consoles and keeps company to our endless hours of loneliness. The lightning of the candle symbolizes that this is an offer as a sacrifice of respect and honor to the God and his Saints. It symbolizes the Christ’s light which enlightens every man but it also symbolizes the well known Lord’s order to be Christians , the lights of the world.
The oil which is burnt in our candles as Saint Simeon of Thessaloniki has written, is the God’s mercy which was shown when Noah’s dove came back to the ark to show the end of the cataclysm , having a branch of an olive tree in its beak, or when Jesus during His prayers was watering the olive tree with the drops of His sweat, as He was kneeling under it, that martyr night on the Mount of Olives. Of course, we all know how infinitely more superior the internal and mental enlightment is than the material one. The Godbearer pater Gregory of Nanzianzus has written : “ Enlighten your words” and his annotator added :” Has it been managed” ?
The oil symbolizes the God’s mercy but the candles symbolize the Church which transmits it and enlightens us. They certainly symbolize the Saints whose light was bright according to the Lord’s .
There are a lot of reasons for the Orthodox to light the candle. For example to remind us the need of praying, to enlighten the room and send the darkness and its forces of evil away, to remind us that Christ is the only light and the faith to Him is the Light, to remind us that our life must be enlightened , to remind us that as the candle demands our hands to be lighted, the soul demands the hand of the God, His grace, to remind us that our willing must be burnt and sacrificed for the love of the God etc. Of course the oil of the candle must be of premium quality olive oil .Moreover, our Lord prayed in the garden of olives and the temple with the candles turns into a new garden of both oil and the oil of the God. Their oil remind us the God’s mercy and His light in our lives which must be enlightened and holy.
The illumination of the temple symbolizes the holy light of the God’s presence which enlightens not only the newly enlightened hearts but all the Christians’ hearts as well. Our Lord revealed this great truth for Himself with the following words : “ I am the light of the world. “ ( John 8 : 12). He is the light not only because of his bright teaching but mostly because of his bright presence.
In the Creed, the Son of the God is appeared as the Light of Light. In the evening prayer, the hymnographer presents the Lord as the” Hilarious light”. The Christians with the sacraments of the Church and their mental struggle can accept the light of the Holy Spirit and radiate it with their lives.
In the mountain the Lord advised His disciples saying: You are the light of the world, may your light shine in front of the people to see your good actions and honor your
It is clearly shown that the light of the Lord’s disciples is the good actions of their holy mental lives. The Saints in their other lives will be like the Lord, They will be “ Gods by grace”.