Lighting a candle

A friend once sent me a card of the Upper Basilica of St Clement in Rome: ‘James, I lit a candle and said a prayer for you here.’ 

Lighting a candle in church is an act of poetry as well as piety. Electric candles are not the same. They do not have that quality of a wax candle which diminishes even as its flame stretches upwards, so that, in giving light, it is at the same time disappearing. The candle is a living, vibrant presence. When we leave a church, we know that, as the candle we lit dies down, it will be replaced by other candles and other flames, just as other prayers will be added to ours.

All over the world people are coming and going in churches and temples, lighting candles and votive lamps, and saying prayers. We think of the tongues of fire at Pentecost and are reminded of how, now more than ever perhaps, people long to be set on fire and inspired. As we read in the Book of Esdras, ‘I shall light a candle of understanding in thine heart, which shall not be put out.’


3 thoughts on “Lighting a candle”

  1. This is such a valuable reminder of a deep reality, James. So many folk are drawn to light a candle when visiting a place of worship and possibly many are uncertain about why. It goes deep, somewhere silent, hidden, welcoming, to a Presence in the her and now, there are no words for.
    I have always preferred the lighting of a candle with its naturally vibrant flame to the electric ones. Now I can see why, it is not merely my own prejudice! I love your description of their gradually burning down as the prayers and light ascend, only to be replaced by new candles and prayers. It echoes the words of John the Baptist, ‘I must become less and He, more’ – my paraphrase.
    Thank you.
    With Love

  2. Dear James
    This is all just so beautiful and so true. As Diana says, it is such a valuable reminder of a deep reality. Thank you so very much.
    “Lighting a candle in church is an act of poetry as well as piety.”
    What a wonderful insight.
    With love

  3. Lighting a candle shadows the movement in and out of reationships, politics, helplessness; creates the shadow of the Spirit in and around the world ; an action in my helplessness; the light of others draws me in. Your blogs are candles in the dark.

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