A light in time of darkness, a flicker of hope when we need it most. Something so simple, yet so powerful. A glimmering teardrop shaped flame that casts rousing shadows on the walls. Soft, luminous, mystical, almost magical. A single candle.
I lit a candle last night. It was something I did without giving much thought to the action. I picked up the matchbox, pulled out a match, struck it and watched it sputter to life. In two second it was ablaze, a fire at the end of a small stick that lit up the room. I brought that flaring fire to the wick, watched it ignite the wick and rejoiced in the glow, and for a moment the match and wick joined forces. The flame reached its highest potential only to settle down to soft dancing amber as the match pulled away. I turned down the lights and watched the candle burn. There was something mesmerizing about the flame as it flickered and rippled shedding light that flowed out of the darkness. It cast quivering forms that danced around the room. It was a quiet feeling. Healing.
Lighting candles is a practice shared by cultures and religions that has endured for thousands of years. In religious worship, candles symbolize the light of God, the holy illumination of the spirit of truth, which shines eternally. The smoke that arises from a candle symbolizes the conduit for prayer. I cannot quite remember what my first recollection of lighting a candle was, but I do know I grew up with candles being lit in church for health, for loved ones, for memorials, baptisms and celebratory occasions always in prayer and in gratitude. My family lit candles just before the stroke of midnight on New Year’s eve, turned out the lights and greeted the new year with good wishes, a prayer and kisses all around after which the candles were blown out signifying our wishes carried up to heaven with the rising smoke they exuded. Candles were lit on birthday cakes, one for every year lived and blown out. Candles were lit at dinner tables instantly making the occasion special and sacred for when we came together. Candles became a symbol of silent protest when taking part in candlelight vigils held in response to all kinds of tragedies, massacres, diseases, disasters, prayers for miracles, for seeking justice, for strength. When life was uncompromising and our thoughts too corroded to conceive of another way, we lit a candle.
The candle in the darkened room drew my gaze into its radiating flame of light, emitting a smoke like incense of worship rising to meet deity as a sweet offering before the throne of our Lord. Its presence swallowed up the vastness of space, hushed under the weight of worldly troubles, and eternity gazed back at me, peering down, timeless, as though the temporal and the infinite converged.
I realized that this world will never allow for perfect circumstances. Troubles are still flying about the world, and have increased in multitude, rather than lessened. They are ugly and most venomous. And as I grow and become more sensitive in my wisdom of years, I expect to feel their sting even more. Perhaps I subconsciously lit the candle to dispel the darkness that our society is now living in, to search for a change, for a ray of positivity. A symbol that some light, some hope, some strength is still left in us and if we all come together we can get rid of the darkness.
The candle became my companion for a long time. In the darkened silence it gave out light; warmth, kindness. Or was it Hope? Maybe that little flame was my prayer without words because hope was too fragile, and words were too heavy.
The candle burned for the martyrs who sacrifice for freedom, for justice. The flame blazed for the pain we endure, for loss, for exile, for genocides, for preservation, heritage and culture. It flickered high for displaced people, women, children, the young and the old. The flame grew tall for peace within, to know that we are not our own enemy. It danced, changed color for strength and wisdom to not allow anger to rip us apart. The candle grew smaller. I watched it sputter like an inferno, burning all the way down, and then, like a person’s last breath, it breathed a puff of white smoke for unity before it petered out.