Why we light a candle and what it symbolizes


All things that are within the Church have their symbolism.

The words of St. Gregory of Palamas are characteristic: significance “.

One of these symbols is the candle.

It is well known that the early Christians used the candle as a means of illumination in their meetings. When in the 4th century M. Constantine ceases the persecutions against Christians, we also have the construction of Temples where the Church, in order to save a part of its existence, places in the worship of a toker to which he attributes the following symbolisms:

  1. The offered candle reminds us of our inner transformation that we must seek.
  2. The lighting of the candle motivates us to ask God for the Grace of the Holy Spirit
  3. The flame of the candle reminds us that we must become ardent poets of our faith, love, peace and impatience.

The candle should also be reminded that we find it in all the sacraments of the Church and each time with a different symbolism.

In the Eucharist, it symbolizes the light of Christ that shines in our souls through the Gospel.

In Holy Baptism, we have the lighted candle that symbolizes that the newly enlightened must see the good works and glorify God. “So I shine forth the light of you before men, that your good works may be seen, and your Father which is in heaven should be glorified.”

In the Mystery of Marriage, the lighting of white candles symbolizes the purity of the souls of the newlyweds.

We also find the candle in memorials, which symbolizes our prayer in favor of the sleeping. May the Lord rest them in a bright place.

The candle is a symbol of devotion, piety to God and respect for His saints. It is used in joyful occasions (weddings, baptisms), but also in sad events (funerals, memorials) because as it burns and melts, it symbolizes spiritual joy, but also sorrow and destruction. Like the candle, when heated it becomes soft and malleable, so our hearts, when we enter the Church and attend the Divine Liturgy, should become tender and compassionate. Even the candles symbolize the hearts of Christians who, illuminated by the light of Christ and burned by His Fire (Luke 12:49), are transformed into the glory of God. It is, therefore, a model of the bright life that believers should live.

According to Saint Symeon of Thessaloniki, it also symbolizes:

  • The purity of our soul (since it is made of pure beeswax).
  • The plasticity of our soul (since on it we can engrave whatever we want).
  • The Divine Grace (since it comes from the fragrant flowers)
  • The deification we must reach (because the candle mixes with the fire and gives it life).
  • The light of Christ (after it burns and illuminates in the darkness).
  • The love and peace that should characterize every Christian (since the candle is lit-consumed when it illuminates and comforts man with its light in the darkness).

The candle is our offering to God during i. worship. By lighting a candle we make a kind of confession and prayer: we confess faith in the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, and we return to the Holy Trinity the ode of our reverence. We light a candle for the Virgin Mary and the saints. We confess their holiness and the parsimony they have before God and we ask for their embassies.

Saint Seraphim of Sarof lit many pure candles, small and large, in his cell. When asked why he does it, he said he lights these candles, one for each person who would like to mention them again in the sequence (and did not have the time because there were too many), as a sacrifice to God for them. With the candle we light we express our faith in the Triune God and ask for His reinforcement for our daily spiritual struggle, as well as for the strengthening of our loved ones. Especially when we are in danger or in need of special help. But also for our sleeping brothers we light a candle, praying at the same time for the rest of their souls.

According to Saint Nicodemus of Mount Athos, we light the candle:

  • To glorify God who is the true and unique light that illuminates every human being.
  • To dispel the darkness and console ourselves in the face of the fear of the dark.
  • To show that we have joy in our soul.
  • To honor the saints and martyrs of our faith (in this way we imitate the ancient Christians who lit candles in the tombs of the martyrs).
  • To symbolize our good works according to the word of the Lord:
    “Οὕτω λαμψάτω τό φῶς ὑμῶν ἔμπροσθεν τῶν ἀνθρώπων, ὅπως ἴδωσιν ὑμῶν τά καλά ἔργα και δοξάσωσι τόν Πατέρα ὑμῶν τόν ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς”.
  • To forgive the sins of those who light a candle and those for whom they light it (in many temples there are separate manuals where candles are lit for the living and the dead).

The candles, says Philip Serrard, -whose beeswax, distilled from the nectar of innumerable flowers, are the virgin soul, their light the spirit that, nourished by the purest substance of the soul, fights for heaven- is lit so that the eye can penetrate the meanings that speak through shapes and colors. When they are turned on and off, we not only reflect, but we can see the creation of light and the coming of darkness and sin. … The flames of the candles, which flicker like the spirit that lives in danger, repel the darkness…

Saint Symeon the New Theologian writes: “the candles you light reveal to you the imaginary light. Because, as the whole church shines from the candles, so also the house of your soul, must all shine conceivably… ».

Finally, when lighting the candle, we must remember that we must live in the light we received at our baptism (that is why we keep lighted candles during the baptism). This light is the fire of Pentecost, the light of St. Of the Spirit (it is renewed every time we participate in the Divine Liturgy, when we pray, we mainly receive the Body and Blood of Christ).
Remember that “the light of Christ looks like this”.

From all this we understand that lighting the candle is not just a formal, but a great act to which we must give the interest it deserves.

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