by Fred, the Candle-Maker

Candles are often given as tokens of warmth and friendship.

Often it is the giver who receives the greater gift, for often he or she is blessed with a prayer or a loving thought each time the candle is lit.

As a gift, the candle, throughout history, has had a spiritual significance in the daily lives of our forefathers as well as in liturgies and other prayer times.

In the wax, wick, and flame we can see the symbolism of “body, soul, and spirit,” but the candle as well as our own life must be seen as an entity, a unity, in order to be fully appreciated and enjoyed as a precious gift of God.

The following excerpt is from a thank-you note; “The flame of the candle reflects the movement of the air and gently reminds us of our at-one-ment with the very air we breathe and the ground we walk upon.”

One author entitled his autobiography, A Long Line of Candles. He saw the events, people, and stages of his life as a succession of candles that burned brightly for a while, each in its own time. Some were joyful and festive, others sad and melancholy.

Some were large and burned brightly for long periods of time, while others were small and quickly burned out.

He learned to enjoy these “candles” while they lasted and not to mourn for those past. Instead, he said, he learned to light another candle.

Flame of the Spirit

I’m sure he saw the futility of trying to hang onto or preserve joy, loving relationships, and pleasant encounters.

He must have appreciated these transitory gifts with gratitude, while also accepting the bitter-sweetness of life, which also includes pain and suffering.

The flame of the spirit burns steadily, while gently consuming and exhausting the wax of every experience, regardless of its hue or texture. With a singleness of purpose and our eyes attentive to the flame, the room of our soul can be constantly illuminated.

Candlelight and romance have a natural affinity; for like love, the light of a candle is never harsh, always gentle and soothing. It shows us at our best.

Candlelight is constant, but always moving and alive; through the casting of shadows, it gives dimension to the ordinary.

Even if made with the greatest skill, no two candles, even from the same mold, are identical. And their dissimilarity increases when they are lit and aflame, for each is subject to different temperatures and currents of air.

When the air is still, they burn quietly and evenly; but in turbulence they blacken the air with puffs of smoke as tears of wax roll down their sides.

A candle has a beauty of its own even when it is unlit and at rest, but it is not actualized as a candle until it is on fire, giving light in service to others.

Orderly Chaos

A person’s nature, character, and temporary state is often revealed in the respect or lack of it he gives to candles. Some people seem compelled to fuss and manipulate the burning of a candle while others are content to let the candle do its own thing, interfering only when there is danger to or from the flame.

The latter are real lovers of candles, those who can see the beauty in the messiness of dripping wax, in their own lives, and in the ordered chaos of nature.

Candles can be simple or ornate. They can be multi-shaped and of gorgeous colors, or they can be pure white pillars of traditional beauty. They can be made from the wax of bees, the fat of sheep, or the paraffin extracted from the bowels of the earth.

Their variety, which is only as finite as the imagination of man, is a reflection of the infinite variety of the creativity of God.

Sometimes candles, in the way that their natural, earthy elements are transformed in the fire to provide a living light, can remind us of our own humanity.

And as with all things in life, their holiness, which is inherent, can only be increased by our gratitude and love.

Is a love for candles only coincidental with the search for a natural and gentle pace of life? Or is it symbolic of the great double search—that of God for man and that of man for God?

Adapted from Restoration, August 1971