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Why Vigil Lamps?

Christ is Among Us!

As you enter the cathedral you will notice that there are vigil lamps hanging up in front of the icons. Many people wonder about the significance of these lamps and why they are important..

When you see these lamps, there are five key aspects to keep in mind:

1. Just like when we light candles in the candle table or on the alter, the light represents and reminds us that Christ is the light of the world (John 8:12). It is Christ who illuminates our heart, mind, body and soul. It challenges us to remember to love Him with all that we are (Luke 10:27).

2. The very word “vigil” before the word “lamp” tells us that it is about remembering and paying attention to what is before us. Even those who are not Christians, will gather for “vigils” and reflection in times of tragedy. When we light a candle or see vigil lamps lit, they remind us to keep watch and to pray, remembering always that we are called to be light and salt to the world (Matthew 5:13-15). The vigil lamps are lit in front of the icons to remind us that we are gathered together with the great cloud of witnesses for prayer and the worship of God (Hebrews 11:1-12:3).

3. The vigil lamps illuminate the icons of the saints for us to remember that it is not their own glory but rather Christ’s life within them that we see and aspire to. We are encouraged to follow their example of life, suffering and running the race (Eph. 2:10; Phil. 1:6; Heb. 12:1; 2 Tim. 4:7; James 1:12; 2 Cor 9:24-27).

4. We are reminded by the vigil lamps to keep watch, to be vigil (vigilant) in prayer just as Christ instructed His Disciples (and us) to keep watch and pray (Matthew 26:41). It reminds us also of what St Paul said, “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:17). One of the simplest ways we can practice this vigilant prayer is to pray the Jesus Prayer, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.”

5. Candles and vigil lamps remind us to walk in the light. We are children of the light and not of darkness. Jesus said that we are in the world but not of the world. Instead, we are to be a light to the world, pointing people to Christ. Missions is bringing the light of Christ to a dark work, and bringing the light of Christ to dark hearts so they too may experience God’s mercy (1 Thess. 5; John 17:16).

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