Jesus remarks in the gospels that people don’t light lamps and then put them under baskets or under the bed, but rather put them on lampstands to illuminate everything in the room.
That reminds me of the tabernacle light that burns near the tabernacle in every Catholic Church and chapel throughout the world. We might well give some thought to that lamp and allow it to instruct us. First of all, why is it there? It is there to bear witness to the presence of Jesus in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist. “Jesus is here,” it says to us. “Jesus, true to his Old Testament title, is ‘Emmanuel’: God with us.” So the principal reason for the use of the tabernacle lamp is to indicate the presence of Our Lord in the tabernacle.
But the way the candle operates is also instructive to us. It is faithful and constant. It burns steadily for about a week and then is replaced with another one. Whenever we go into the church or chapel, there it is: burning and announcing by its perpetual flame the presence of the Lord. In the Old Testament, God frequently refers to himself as “a faithful God.” We are asked to bear witness to the presence of Christ in our lives; we are asked to be faithful, to be constant in our faith and our witness to Jesus.
Then, it is silent. It makes no noise; it is humble and unobtrusive. It doesn’t set anything on fire. It burns very quietly and says in its own silent way, “Jesus is here. Jesus loves you; that is why he is here.” So with us: we don’t have to be shrill or aggressive in our faith. We simply have to live it authentically, and it will be noticed by others and we will be effective witnesses to Christ.
And finally, it is self-immolating. With every minute that the candle burns, it consumes some of itself and approaches the end of its life. But I think that if candles could speak, the tabernacle candles would tell us that they considered themselves the most blessed and fortunate of candles because of the sacred reason they have for existing and burning. And so with us: God has created us in his image and likeness and wants us to live in that way. Our lives spend themselves minute by minute, hour by hour. If we love God and do his will, we glorify him with each passing moment, hour, day, month, year. And then, when we come to the end of our allotted time, we go into eternal union with our Creator in his heavenly light and radiance and beauty. Thank you for seeking God’s truth. God Bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.
Note: This message was composed some years ago.