Significance of Candles?

edited December 1969 in Random Issues
Can someone clear up the actual importance of candles in Orthodoxy?

I understand they are placed infront of icons of saints, to represent the light they shined on the world however, I know of some people who have a habit of lighting candles in front of icons as a sort of prayer?  For example: If a person were to have an interview from 9am to 10am, their family members would light a candle at that period of time, which [to me at least] indicates the specificity of it's actions. 

For the record, I've always thought that candles wre simply symbols of light with no other functions?


  • from SUS Diocese Sunday School Curriculum:

    The candle is a precise image of a worshipper standing in the presence of God It is calm in appearance but it is burning in heart with burning fire that burns its cool body and melts it and pours it as tears that flow leaving a circle of light behind it, that pleases anyone who contemplates in it or walks under its guidance.
    Its nature without the work of fire is trifle and useless the same way as the nature of man without the work of grace.
    One candle lit in the House of God is an invitation to quiet, burning and shining worship. The candle is like the worshipper. It does not give light by itself but when it is lit, it burns and shines and in this case it lightens the darkness around it and gives forth heat and warmth to those who surround it.

    What Does The Use Of Candles Mean?

    In the early church candles were not used for merely giving light as they were used during day time especially on feast days on different occasions... On those occasions the altar appeared bright and beautiful especially on the following occasions.

    When celebrating the Holy Saturday and there was a special rite performed for the candles of the Passover Day where all the people participated joyfully in celebrating the light of the resurrection. Believers still bring the light from the Holy Tomb in Jerusalem on that night every year and take it to all parts of the world.

    Candles were lit by the baptism font as a sign of enlightenment and the new shining nature worn, by the baptized person. The new baptized persons used to go around inside the church after the liturgy and after receiving the Holy Communion. They put golden crowns on their heads and gird them with girdles. Candles were in their hands as a sign of rejoice and joy for the new birth.

    Also when the Holy Bible is read, we see a candle in the hand of the deacon as a sign that the Gospel‘s light fills the universe and that the Gospel is man‘s lamp and the light of his way and that he who lives according to the (Bible) Gospel lives in light, walks in light and becomes the son of light and the son of resurrection.

    Also on the Saints days candles are lit before their icons indicating that they ―Shine like the brightness of the firmament‖ in the kingdom of God... This honor urges others to follow the example of those saints and imitate them till the end.

    As for martyrs, people used to light a lampadae before their icons, and each lampadae was lit day and night. The remaining oil in them caused several miracles. We hear about a lame man who entered the church of St. Stephen and anointed his leg with the oil and was healed immediately. The man lit a candle and left his crutch as a present to the saint and it became as a shrine for people to visit.

    Candles were used in funerals where deacons walked before the departed righteous and pious people and lit candles over their bodies.

    In the Liturgy prayers there are two lit candlesticks set on the two sides of the altar referring to the two angels who were by the tomb of Jesus at the time of His resurrection. The lampadae set in the eastern side of the church refers to the star that drew our attention to the child Jesus.

    The candle lit before the Icon of Christ declares that Christ is the Light of the World. ―That was the true light which lightens every man that cometh into the world‖ (John 1:9).

    The candle lit before the Icon of the Virgin declares that this is the Mother of light.

    The candle lit before the Icon of the Saint declares that this is the lit decorated lamp that is put in an upper place in the house to give light to all those living in it.

    Let us practice this rite and remember that the wise virgins who were ready to meet the Bridegroom had oil in their vessels and they lit their lamps when they met the bridegroom. Let us practice this rite in godliness and submission, and deep contemplation. We should be purified of sin. We should not be defiled. We have to lift up our eyes to the heavenly glory where the dwelling places of Light exist.

  • but why use candles and not... I don't know... glow sticks  :D

    Without fire, it’s useless
    It burns to give light to others
    It shines when it’s lit and lightens the darkness around it
    It weeps

    also when the deacons hold it during the liturgy it's for a reason:

    when the deacon says "worship God in fear and trembling", we hold it to emphasize this moment of transformation

    during the fraction: it shows honour and it resembles when Jesus ‘sweat drops of blood’ and tears in the garden of gethsemane and on the cross

    I can't remember my source fot the above  :-\

    also, check this out:

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