Tending Your Flame

Paschal Vigil at St. Spyridon Church,
Photo by: Adam Lum

Christ is Risen!

Each year during the Paschal Vigil the lamps, candles and lights of the Church are extinguished prior to the beginning of the Resurrection service. This symbolic act assists us spiritually by reminding us of the darkness that accompanies the death of Jesus Christ. It also helps us to comprehend physically, emotionally and spiritually what the absence of God would be like. Once the darkness has surrounded us, the priest lights a single candle from the vigil lamp that is kept in front of the tabernacle on the altar and makes his way to the Royal Doors, which have been shut up to this point, but are now opened. As he does so, the priest begins to sing the opening hymn of the service, “Come receive the light, from the un-waning light which is Christ, and glorify Him who is risen from the dead.” In this simple but powerful hymn, we preach a simple message that the light of the world is Christ.

The service progresses and the light spreads as it is distributed to the faithful, one person at a time until the entire church is full of light. This liturgical act once again symbolizes the reality of Christ and His Body the Church. The light, which is Christ, spreads out into the Church and is carried by each and every Christian who holds Christ within themselves. This simple act of spreading the light calls to mind the necessity to share the good news of Jesus Christ. At the same time, it reminds us that the ability to share the news is dependent first upon carrying the light in ourselves.

Later in our Paschal Vigil the proclamation of the Gospel during the liturgy is from the opening verses of John’s Gospel; “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.” Christ is our light, and life outside of Him is darkness. What a simple message, a message we proclaim each year during this Vigil, which is sometimes called the Liturgy of Light.

Now this light is kept on our Holy Table, day in and day out throughout the year. We tend to this flame with great care. Each and every time you are at St. Spyridon you will see this light burning on the Altar Table. However, the care we give to keeping this light is not merely symbolic. This important activity helps us remember the need to carry the flame of the resurrection and of Christ daily within ourselves and in our lives.

Many Orthodox homes keep a time-honored tradition by carrying the light from the Paschal Vigil into their homes. There in a special place they have set up a prayer corner where they too tend a flame, a holy fire that burns throughout the year. They keep alight in their homes the commemoration of the Risen Lord and as they do so they rekindle within themselves a light that pushes back the darkness.

I hope you will consider taking up this holy activity. It is a type of prayer and a kind of pilgrimage that we can make as an offering to the Lord. As such, it then becomes a source of spiritual edification and strength for believers that will direct us day to day. May the Risen Christ, the light of the world and of every Christian believer, shine in your hearts today and throughout the year!

Truly the Lord is Risen!