When we first started attending, Mike always went forward to light a candle. I occasionally light a candle at home, especially when I am baking biscuits or cinnamon rolls, but I didn't feel led to do so in church.
One Sunday, however, when I was facing a challenging week, I decided to follow Mike to the front and light a candle too. I found it so meaningful that I now light a candle, with an intention, every Sunday morning as part of my worship. Especially important were the Sundays preceding each of my daughter's birthdays, when I lit a candle for them since I knew I wouldn't be with them on their special day.
A lit candle at home or at church, provides a visible reminder of God's presence.
Lighting Candles in the Catholic and Greek Orthodox Faith Traditions
Catholic and Greek Orthodox churches set aside a place in the sanctuary to light candles.
Lighting a candle in the Orthodox Church is regarded as a time of prayer. The lit, slender, twelve-inch candles are placed in a box of sand so that the drippings do not go on the floor, but are caught in the sand. People are encouraged to end their silent reflection with the words, "Lord have mercy," repenting of their sins and re-igniting the light of God within. Following prayer, a re-commitment made to live as light, helping others to see the way in a world of darkness.
The Catholic Church suggests lighting candles as a way to pray for a specific concern or person. The candles remain lit after the person leaves, showing a collective spirit of prayer to the entire church. When the mass ends, keeping the candles aflame helps those attending to remember that the prayer offered remains and others are welcome to come and pray over the candles and the intentions.
My Own Practice
When I bake biscuits or cinnamon rolls, lighting a candle is part of the ritual along with gathering and mixing ingredients, kneading the dough and smelling the aroma that fills my kitchen.
At other times, I light a candle to say, "God is with me" or "God is here." The candle is an encouragement and source of comfort as I do laundry, write, cook, read the newspaper or write letters to my daughters. Lighting a candle reminds me I am never alone.
For Further Reading
For Your Reflection
1. How do you remind yourself that God is with you?
2. Light a candle while you are home. Remember that Jesus said, "I am the light of the world." John 8:12) Reflect on these scripture references to light as you look at the candle. What thoughts come?
- Psalm 27:1 - "The Lord is my light and my salvation; I will fear no one."
- Psalm 119:105 - "Your word is a lamp to guide me and a light for my path.
- Matthew 5:16 - "In the same way your light must shine before people, so that they will see the good things you do and praise your father in heaven."
- John 1:5 - "The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has never put it out."
- John 12:35-37 - "Jesus answered, 'The light will be among you a little longer. Continue on your way while you have the light, so that the darkness will not come upon you, for the one who walks in the dark does not know where he is going. Believe in the light, then, while you have it, so that you will be the people of light.'"
Prayer: Candles are reminders of God, faith and holiness. We are made in your image, and I ask that you help me settle deeper into you, God, so that I can discover more and more that ideal self you've made me to be. Amen.