The Candles of Easter
On midnight of Holy Saturday, the Orthodox welcome the Resurrection of Christ with large white candles (lambades). This custom goes back many centuries, and its origin fades into the depths of history. The people light their Easter candles on hearing the priest chanting “Come and receive the Light …” Their light fills the Church, and with the hundreds outside it, bestows a serene glow to the faces of the faithful. Everybody repeats “Christ is Risen”, as sung by the priest, and raises their Easter candle into the air. This movement signifies the abolition of Hades, and the future resurrection of the human race.
The custom of holding a candle on that glorious night-day of the Resurrection of Christ has more than one meaning. The light disperses the darkness of the night, as well as the darkness of mind, which is due to the spiritual ignorance of many people. With the Resurrection of Christ, the faithful acquire knowledge about the great mysteries which the human mind cannot search. Death, illnesses, attrition of body, time, the past, present and future – they all assume a new meaning and a new explanation.
At the same time, the light of the Easter candle denotes the optimism which the faithful have during the difficult and tragic events of their life.
The light of the Easter candle shows the light that dwells inside ourselves. The frightful Hades has no place in our hearts, because the heart is filled by the new life of the Resurrection.
At Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came down and sat on the head of each of the Apostles, like a tongue of fire.
Likewise, the light of the Easter candle, declares the presence of the Holy Spirit in the heart of those who are in constant communion with God through the Prayer of the heart! It also shows us that our bodies on earth die and are buried, but there will come a time when they will rise into a new life.
Saint Gregory the Theologian adds another meaning to the Easter candles. The lit candles produce a spectacular illumination, reflecting our illumination in the next life. We Christians do not shut ourselves in the darkness of despair and hopelessness. Our existence is not controlled by the power of evil, nor by the darkness of Hades. All this has been defeated by the Resurrection of Christ.
Despite the joy and spiritual liberation of the Resurrection of Christ, the Christians are surrounded by the people of this world, the majority of whom suffer from loneliness and despair. For these people, true happiness is rare and short-lived. They wait for someone to infuse them with the meaning of life and the joyful significance of the Resurrection of Christ. They lack genuine ideals in their life and true morality in their hearts. Only the Christians can give them these things. But do they? It seems the majority of us are oblivious to the plight of these people!
Mostly in silence, and occasionally loudly, such people want us to take the light of our Easter candles to them, to illuminate the depths of their hearts, to dispel their loneliness and despair, and to convince them that Christ has defeated death through His Resurrection. All they have to do to overcome their plight is to sincerely repent and believe in Him.
Source: Lychnos April-May 2020