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Author Topic: Do candles do any good?  (Read 2664 times) Average Rating: 0
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radost7
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« on: August 14, 2004, 02:30:03 AM »

Dear list,
I am doing some research on the tradition of lighting candles before icons. Can anyone tell me what the theological underpinnings of this t radition is?  Is it like an "automatic prayer" device like prayer wheels?  Is there a written source explaining this tradition and how it got started?

Thanks for any help!
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« Reply #1 on: August 14, 2004, 05:58:08 PM »

Candles are symbolic of Christ, who is the Light of the World as mentioned in the Gospel of John, illuminating the world with the Truth.  The two elements of a candle represent the two natures of Christ: the Divine (the burning wick) and the Human (the wax body).  They also symbolize our soul's burning love of God and triumph of the Church.

There's no parallel with Buddhist prayer wheels.  Candles are not a magical device.
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"The creed is very simple, and here is what it is: to believe that there is nothing more beautiful, more courageous, and more perfect than Christ; and there not only isn't, but I tell myself with a jealous love, there cannot be." ~ Fyodor Dostoevsky
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« Reply #2 on: August 16, 2004, 12:24:04 AM »

I will add my two-cents.  I have heard it said that lighting candles in front of the holy images of Christ and His Saints is a spiritual sacrifice of love.  Truly it is a part of our veneration, through which we are sanctified and aquire the Grace of the All-Holy Spirit.

Candles and oil lamps in front of the holy images, whether in the Temple or the home, are a part of the most ancient of traditions.  There are comments by pre-nicene fathers about how during vigils, some Christian Temples looked as though it were daylight inside!

Sorry I don't have any citations for you.  Perhaps I'll look into it.
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« Reply #3 on: November 23, 2004, 01:16:27 AM »

I've often wondered about this practice. Like everything else, I don't think it works.
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« Reply #4 on: November 23, 2004, 01:21:09 AM »

Sometimes such things may not actually appear to do much anything from our human point of view, but one must have faith in God and put their trust in Him alone.

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« Reply #5 on: November 23, 2004, 11:15:46 AM »

[I've often wondered about this practice. Like everything else, I don't think it works.]

I disagree.  From personal experience it has worked for me a thousand times over.  For an explaination regarding the lighting of candles and lampadas in the Christian Church go to -

Candles And Their Symbolism -


http://www.orthodoxworld.ru/english/hram/6/


Orthodoc

P.S.  I think the following sentence is either a translation or typing error!  At least I hope so!!!!!!  Think it should be Matins!

[The order of the morning service of Mating is also linked to the idea of the Uncreated Light of Christ, manifested in His Incarnation and Resurrection.]


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« Reply #6 on: November 23, 2004, 12:10:52 PM »

A candle by itself has no magical powers.  We light candles on a Birtday cake for health and many years.  We light a candle to see in the dark when our power goes out.  We see many candles lite and placed on the curbs for someone who was brutally killed or murdered on a city street. It is the light that we are seeking and by offering this light we give back to God the light He gives us. It is a symbol of God's peace and love for us.

Yes, candles "do good" because they are a source of light which we use in conjunction with prayers.

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« Reply #7 on: November 26, 2004, 10:47:32 AM »

Candles did us good yesterday when our power went out for 2 hours. :-)
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« Reply #8 on: November 26, 2004, 11:47:54 AM »

radost7,

I do not know enough about Buddhist practices to know if there is any room for comparison, but I can say a little something on the practice of lighting candles.

In Protestantism there is a heavy emphasis upon "the word" or "words".  Verbal/written forms of communication and expression have a great prominance in various Protestant denominations/ideologies which for all practical puroses tends to shove everything else out of the picture.  You see this not only in theory but in practice - Protestant corporate worship is almost entirely verbage (hymn lyrics, spoken prayer whether rote or as is the way of American evangelicals, entirely impromptu.)  The same is true with how Protestant traditions impart doctrine - namely, it occurs solely through reading and preaching.

In Orthodox Christiantity however, the entirity of mankind is engaged in the process of spiritual expression/impression.  For example, yes there are sermons, but there is also praxis - everything from the architectural layout of the Church ediface, to the choice of tones/sound qualities in liturgical music, through to the Iconography: all of it details the economy of salvation.

The same is also true of prayer.  Yes, Orthodox employ "words"; but there is more to a man than his tongue, to give form to what lies in his heart.  There are also prostrations, and other bodily acts which speak as eloquently (if not, for many people, more eloquently) as the mouth.

Such would be the case of offering candles or lighting a lamp.  No, God does not need the beeswax or the olive oil (and certainly not the light!) - but then again, He does not need our words of praise either.  If one wanted to push things really far, one could say we realy don't "need" to pray at all - after all, does not God know what we need better than we do?  Does He not know our thoughts better than we do ourselves?

Yet, we are called to pray nonetheless.  One could get into all sorts of discussions/arguments as to "why" (in light of God's omniscience), but that's beyond the scope of this posting.  Suffice it to say, we need to pray, including for those things which are needed for both the body and the soul.

Lighting a candle is an act of glorification, and indicates perpetuity - an expression of the habitual nature of this prayer in our hearts.

So the candles are words of a different sort.  Of course they're not magical items - they will be of no more value than the posturing words of a verbally praying hypocrite if they are lighted carelessly or without any heartfelt devotion.

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« Reply #9 on: November 26, 2004, 11:51:04 AM »

I will give what I know to be a Western perspective on the matter; the concept may exist in the East also.  A candle is of course one's offered prayer.  However, if the candle is blessed, the prayers of the Church and of the saints strengthen the force of the personal petition and prayer that a believer wishes to present.

In IC XC
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« Reply #10 on: September 09, 2010, 10:42:12 PM »

Candles are symbolic of Christ, who is the Light of the World as mentioned in the Gospel of John, illuminating the world with the Truth.  The two elements of a candle represent the two natures of Christ: the Divine (the burning wick) and the Human (the wax body).  They also symbolize our soul's burning love of God and triumph of the Church.

There's no parallel with Buddhist prayer wheels.  Candles are not a magical device.

I definitely agree with you Strelets. Candles are just a gesture not a magical device. It is the part of our life because it will give enlightenment.
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« Reply #11 on: September 09, 2010, 11:10:40 PM »

One aspect of offering candles in church fulfils a very deep human urge to offer something and this urge is found in all religions -which shows how pervasive it is.   

It is said that the offering of candles is a Christian replacement of the ancient temple sacrifices which were offered in the Jerusalem temple - bulls and sheep and doves.   These were "whole burnt offerings" and candles are also "whole burnt offerings."  For this reason it is essential to pay for the candles since they represent a sacrifice on our part.   I suppose that you could burn a few $10 notes and I am sure the children in church would be delighted to see that.  But candles seem a better choice!   laugh
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« Reply #12 on: September 10, 2010, 09:02:11 AM »

Like any matter of Faith, if you offer the candle with Faith, you recieve blessing from it.  I have seen this too many times to doubt it.  If you have no Faith, you get out of it what you put into it.  I consider the lighting of candles before an Icon to be much more than an empty gesture.  Then again, I consider an Icon as much more than wood and paint.
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« Reply #13 on: September 10, 2010, 09:12:26 AM »

Keep in mind the old saying, although I do not think it is necessarily Christian in origin I think it is on point, that it is better to light a single candle than to curse the darkness. For truly the Risen Saviour is the Light of the World.
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« Reply #14 on: September 10, 2010, 09:46:21 AM »

Several years as I was moving into Orthodoxy, I realized that the act of lighting a candle and walking away finally cleared up for me what Evangelical Protestant preachers mean when they say something like, "Take your burdens and requests to the altar of Christ and leave them there". It's a very clear way to see that one's prayer continues to be offered up. Of course it took the Orthodox Church to show me that!
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« Reply #15 on: March 16, 2011, 12:44:58 AM »

Quote
It is said that the offering of candles is a Christian replacement of the ancient temple sacrifices which were offered in the Jerusalem temple - bulls and sheep and doves.   These were "whole burnt offerings" and candles are also "whole burnt offerings." 

Completely and utterly true. Candles should be allowed to burn to almost nothing.

Yet, in so many churches (of a particular ethnicity which I will not divulge), I have attended, candles are routinely plucked out of the sandboxes and snuffed when barely an inch has been burned. Not good.
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« Reply #16 on: March 16, 2011, 07:37:10 AM »

I have heard that the lighting of the candles is very symbolic, whether at your own icon corner in your home, or at church in front of the iconastas. The candle itself is hard and cold, as is our own heart without Christ. When you light the wick on fire, the candle slowly melts and becomes soft, flexible and warm. We become like this when we light our own lives with Christ's love and teachings.

That is what I have heard. It's very beautiful when you think about it.
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« Reply #17 on: March 16, 2011, 09:23:42 AM »

Quote
It is said that the offering of candles is a Christian replacement of the ancient temple sacrifices which were offered in the Jerusalem temple - bulls and sheep and doves.   These were "whole burnt offerings" and candles are also "whole burnt offerings." 

Completely and utterly true. Candles should be allowed to burn to almost nothing.

Yet, in so many churches (of a particular ethnicity which I will not divulge), I have attended, candles are routinely plucked out of the sandboxes and snuffed when barely an inch has been burned. Not good.

I also find this discouraging, but I think there is a fear of all the wax collecting at the bottom and making candle and sand soup.
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« Reply #18 on: March 16, 2011, 10:06:38 AM »

Completely and utterly true. Candles should be allowed to burn to almost nothing.
Because why?

Yet, in so many churches (of a particular ethnicity which I will not divulge),
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« Reply #19 on: March 16, 2011, 10:39:43 AM »

Quote
It is said that the offering of candles is a Christian replacement of the ancient temple sacrifices which were offered in the Jerusalem temple - bulls and sheep and doves.   These were "whole burnt offerings" and candles are also "whole burnt offerings."  

Completely and utterly true. Candles should be allowed to burn to almost nothing.

Yet, in so many churches (of a particular ethnicity which I will not divulge), I have attended, candles are routinely plucked out of the sandboxes and snuffed when barely an inch has been burned. Not good.

Just a real world defense of putting them out...in some instances, if the candles burn to the bottom, or drip unevenly due to drafts in the building, even beeswax may create smoke. If smoke detectors are linked to an off-site alarm company, the local fire company may be dispatched. If the alarm is false, many municipalities impose a hefty fee for the answer to the false alarm. If you ignore the alarm and there is a real fire.....well, fill in the blanks. In a new building with a sprinkler system, the sprinklers may go off if not properly calibrated. 

In a perfect world someone should stay in the church until the candles extinguished themselves, but that is often not possible, particularly if the pastor does not live next door to the church. I trust that God receives the intention under any circumstance anyway.
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« Reply #20 on: March 16, 2011, 05:00:41 PM »

I'm not talking about candles burning to within an inch of the level of the sand. I'm talking about candles that are about a foot or more long, which are routinely snuffed out and discarded when only an inch or so of it has burned. This is unacceptable, wasteful and disrespectful, and has absolutely nothing to do with minimising fire hazards or keeping the sandbox clean.  Angry

Quote
In a perfect world someone should stay in the church until the candles extinguished themselves, but that is often not possible, particularly if the pastor does not live next door to the church. I trust that God receives the intention under any circumstance anyway.

Any candles of reasonable length remaining at the end of a service should be blown out and left in place, to be lit at the following service. This is what happens at parishes where candles are left to burn properly.
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« Reply #21 on: March 16, 2011, 05:11:56 PM »

I'm not talking about candles burning to within an inch of the level of the sand. I'm talking about candles that are about a foot or more long, which are routinely snuffed out and discarded when only an inch or so of it has burned. This is unacceptable, wasteful and disrespectful, and has absolutely nothing to do with minimising fire hazards or keeping the sandbox clean.  Angry

Quote
In a perfect world someone should stay in the church until the candles extinguished themselves, but that is often not possible, particularly if the pastor does not live next door to the church. I trust that God receives the intention under any circumstance anyway.

Any candles of reasonable length remaining at the end of a service should be blown out and left in place, to be lit at the following service. This is what happens at parishes where candles are left to burn properly.

I agree, that seems to be the norm from my experience.
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« Reply #22 on: March 16, 2011, 07:41:14 PM »

Quote
It is said that the offering of candles is a Christian replacement of the ancient temple sacrifices which were offered in the Jerusalem temple - bulls and sheep and doves.   These were "whole burnt offerings" and candles are also "whole burnt offerings." 

Completely and utterly true. Candles should be allowed to burn to almost nothing.

Yet, in so many churches (of a particular ethnicity which I will not divulge), I have attended, candles are routinely plucked out of the sandboxes and snuffed when barely an inch has been burned. Not good.

Actually, good for fire prevention.
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« Reply #23 on: March 17, 2011, 09:07:06 AM »

Wax from extinguished candles can actually be recycled:
http://www.sophiescandles.com
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