The simple beeswax candle is a veritable powerhouse of light and heat. It is said that the light from a candle can be seen from seventeen miles on a clear, calm, moonless night. And the heat it produces? Well, don't try touching the flame! Candles are very efficient: left undisturbed, a 3/8 inch taper, 10 inches long, will burn for about 4 hours, and will completely burn away with just a trace of beeswax left behind. And the mechanics of a candle is marvelous: as a candle burns, air is pulled up into the flame from below. The moving air lifts and cools the tip of the taper all around to form a cup which holds molten wax, the fuel for the flame. Drips form on a candle when the molten wax is blown or shaken out of the cup, collecting like an icicle when the disturbances are frequent or consistent. It takes a good deal of power to blow out a candle - think about your birthday cakes! And when the flame goes out, an ember glows on the tip of the wick, which dies quickly in a puff of wispy smoke.
What would you think if you came upon a candle that you had lit and all that was burning was the glowing ember? In other words, there was no flame. Would you think that it's going to burn out momentarily; that you had arrived just when the flame went out? And if, after a couple of hours, the ember was still glowing, would you be startled to see it? And, if it kept glowing for several hours only to spring up again to radiate light and heat, would you consider it amazing? Miraculous? What if you knew that the candle was lit by the Holy Fire of Pascha?
This actually happened to a friend in 2020, at the very start of the global pandemic. He had a 7-day candle at home that was lit with the Holy Fire, brought from Jerusalem, at Pascha in 2017. He kept it burning by transferring the flame from a spent candle to a new candle. One day, the flame went out, but the ember glowed. And glowed, and glowed. When the flame reappeared, several hours later, Dcn. Gregory was amazed. It was a small miracle, a message of hope: What might seem like the end – the burning out of an ember – might actually be the glimmer of hope that faith and prayer will reignite into the fire of life. The miracle, coming as it did at the very start of the pandemic, said: Keep Hope Alive! Since then, Dcn. Gregory has been keeping the Holy Fire burning, both at home and at his church. He’s used a lot of candles!
St. Innocent of Moscow Orthodox Church, 2020. The Holy Fire burns in the glass (to this day).