“…the Life-Light blazed out of the darkness; the darkness couldn’t put it out.”
~ John Chapter 1, The Message Version of Christian Scripture
Cora Kellogg, age 2, Christmas Eve Service 2017
St. Luke’s UMC, Highlands Ranch, CO
Winter solstice is approaching. How do you respond to the shortening days?
I notice the limited daylight on the few days a week I’m at the hospital, working mostly in the interior section with no view of the outdoors or natural light. Arriving to work in the dark and leaving work in the dark, shifts my spiritual energy, and I crave light. So this winter I have been meditating using candlelight; focusing on dancing flame and melting wax is relaxing.
My first experience with candle meditation was several years ago during a time when I was experiencing a lot of physical stress and tension. A time not unlike this busy season, for many. My spiritual director suggested that I hold a candle in my hands, close enough to see the heat soften and melt the wax. We sat together in the darkened church sanctuary admiring the light that shone in the darkness. The flame itself was captivating. Its heat built quickly and caused brilliant blues and hints of other colors to surround the flame like an aura. As the wax melted and pooled at the top of the candle it spilled over into drops that slid down the sides. As it burned, the candle wore away.
Gazing at the flame allowed me to remember the intensity of my spiritual center. At the same time, watching the candle melt away in response to heat allowed me to ponder the frailty of my physical body which needed a break. Candle meditation has continued to be a go-to practice for me in all seasons, but especially during the winter.
Mary Oliver, in her poem “the Lamps,” refers to lit candles as old friends she invites into her quiet time, “the wicks sputtering gold are like two visitors with good stories.” I love that. Might we all think of candles as our spiritual friends? I encourage you to find a candle or candles to invite into your quiet time. Consider collecting a variety of shapes and colors from simple tapers, votives or tea lights to multi-wick, or candles that illuminate a special figurine or fixture. Maybe you would welcome fragranced candles in your quiet time. A particular favorite of mine this season is the fragrance of balsam fir.
The dark days of winter are a perfect time to notice your inner movements prompted by darkness and light. I invite you to join me in playing with candle light in your space. The Jewish tradition of Shabbat is a beautiful example of marking the onset of Sabbath time with a candle ritual. Traditionally, two candles are lit as a reminder to “remember” and “observe” a time of peace each week. What traditions do you use to mark your quiet times of remembrance? I would enjoy hearing about your practices and seeing your candlelit spaces. Email me at Schawn.SacredCentering@gmail.com or post your responses on my blog page at SacredCentering.com.
You may be familiar with the Christian tradition of singing Silent Night on Christmas Eve, in a darkened church, while holding petite candles. The light shining in the darkness commemorates the birth of Christ. Might the practice of lighting a “silent night” candle be one you would like to experience in your home as well? As a special Christmas treat this season, anyone who schedules a spiritual direction session with me before the end of the month (meeting anytime, even after December) will receive a candle and drip guard to use at home. Just mention that you would like the candle when you book! I hope you will find candlelight is a welcome way of centering and deepening your spiritual connection this seepest Peace,