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A Candle

What does a person entering church do first of all? In nine cases out of ten — he buys a candle. Our joining the real Christian rituality begins with a small wax candle. It is impossible to imagine an Orthodox church without burning candles.

The interpreter of the Liturgy, the Holy Fool-for-Christ Simeon of Thessalonica (XV century), said that pure wax symbolizes the purity and innocence of people offering it. The wax is offered as a sign of our repentance for our obstinacy and willfulness. The softness and malleability of the wax speak of our readiness to obey God. The flame of the candle shows the warmth of love to God. We should not put up a candle just for the sake of the ritual, with our remaining cold. The outward action must be supported by a prayer, be it even a simple one expressed in your own words.

Candles are indispensable during church services. The newly baptized and those undergoing the mystery of marriage are holding candles. The burial service is read in in the presence of many burning candles. Believers are forming a procession of the Cross holding candles and shielding the flame from the wind with their hands. There are no strict rules about the number of candles to be put or any definite place to put them. To buy a candle is a small sacrifice to God, a sacrifice which is voluntary and not burdensome. A big and expensive candle is not more gracious than a small one.

Those who come to church regularly usually put several candles: to the icon celebrated on that day — it is usually placed on the lectern in the center of the church; also to the icons of the Savior and the Holy Theotokos — in a prayer for the your living relations, to the Crucifix on a small rectangular table holding candles (canon) for the departed to rest in peace. If you wish you can put a candle to any icon of a saint or saints.

Sometimes there are so many burning candles on the candleholder in front of an icon that there is no room to put yours. You should not put out somebody else’s candle for the sake of yours, it would be better to ask someone working in the church to put it there later. Do not be embarrassed by somebody putting out your candle when the service is over — the sacrifice has already been accepted by God. You should not listen to ales about the necessity to put a candle only with your right hand, about the misfortunes to happen if the flame of your candle went out, and that it is a deadly sin to melt the candle at the bottom in order to fix it better in the candleholder, etc. There are many superstitions associated with church and all of them are meaningless.

Your bees wax candle is pleasing to God. But He appreciates the burning ardor of your heart much more. Our spiritual life and participation in service cannot be limited to putting up a candle. The candle itself would not deliver us from sins, would not bring us closer to God, neither will it give us strength for resistance in the invisible battle. A candle is full of symbolic meaning, but we are saved not by a symbol, but by a real entity — God’s grace.

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