Recently I was playing around with my camera, trying a technique new to me called painting with light. I knew I wanted to experiment with candles and thought our standing cross would also provide impact. I set everything up on an end table, placed my camera on a tripod and set to turning off all the lights and shutting all the doors to eliminate all light sources. With cable release in hand and a mini pin light, I opened the shutter for 15 seconds while dancing my little flashlight around the cross and candle holders. This experiment went on for a good 40 minutes as I became inspired with each new frame.
I’ve posted my two favorite exposures and as I contemplate the one with lit candles, I can’t help but think of something I wrote in my apologetics notebook several years ago: “we humans are called to create an atmosphere conducive to miracles”
Healed by the Light
I had been studying the miracles of Jesus, particularly the story of Jairus’ daughter (St. Matthew 9:18-26, St. Mark 5:21-43 and St. Luke 8:41-56) and the woman who touched Jesus’ cloak (St. Mark 5:28). The study came about in response to a Calvinist perspective which proclaimed man has no responsibility toward his regeneration, which, from my perspective, is a miraculous event. In every case of Jesus’ miracles, man is called to have faith. In fact, Jesus frequently says “Go in peace, your faith has made you well” to those whom He has blessed and healed. Man cannot heal his own wounds, but his faith creates an atmosphere conducive to God’s miracles.
When I first entered the Orthodox church, I noticed other people entering the sanctuary and lighting small votive candles immediately inside the doorway. They would then pause to pray silently beside them. It was explained to me later that anyone can light a candle and offer a prayer for a loved one. And, what was especially touching to me was the fact that I was welcomed to this practice even before converting to Orthodoxy. Later, while reading various Orthodox books, I came to see that these candles represent much more.
The visual light of the candle reminds us that Christ is the Light of the world and the darkness has not overcome it (St. John 4,5). What joy in remembering that no matter how bleak our world seems, the Light will never be overcome by the darkness! As I look at the rows of dancing flames among the candles at church, I think of how God must be pleased to hear our voices, to listen to our sorrows, our joys, our praises to His holy name. Seeing the candles alight is a part of our worship which involves all the senses. It is a part of creating an atmosphere of worship and prayer which is pleasing to Him. Even now, as my family is gathered around the dinner table, we keep a candle at the center and each time it is lit, I remind the kids, “Jesus is the Light of the world”.
Thinking back on those first few months at St. George Orthodox Church, I know that God healed me there. Being surrounded by the visual reminder of prayers to God, the incense as a fragrant reminder of how our prayers are a pleasing aroma to Him...how could I not be transformed? With the church that has proclaimed the same style of worship for over 2000 years, based upon the things in heaven (Hebrews 8 and 9 ), how could one not be ushered into God’s Divine Presence in a place where the atmosphere is conducive to miracles?