The first thing anyone notices upon entering any Orthodox Church is the sandbox full of lit candles. We see people making an offering, taking the candle, lighting it, saying a prayer and placing the candle in the sand. So what is this all about?
Christ said, “I am the light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12) Jesus Christ IS that light. He is the light that shines for us in the midst this world of darkness. And anyone who follows Him needs not fear that darkness because we know that Christ will always shine for us, leading us in the Way to the Father. Each time we light a candle, we are called to remember that it is our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who is the True Light and that He and only He will grant us True Life.
Every candle that we light should be a time of prayer in which we reflect upon the salvation that the Lord has worked for us and also a time of recommitment, where we renew our Baptismal vow that we, as children of God, are called to “Let our light so shine before men, that they may see [our] good works and give glory to [our] Father who is in Heaven.” (Matt. 5:16)
In lighting our candles, the first thing we should do is make an offering for this candle. Everything that we have is from God and the first step is to give back to Him for all of His many blessings. The next step is to venerate the icons that guard the sandbox and lift our prayers to God on high. Next, we light the candle, remembering all of our loved ones who are sick or who have passed into the next life, or who we just want to pray for, and beseech God to have mercy on their souls.
Lastly, as we place the candle in the sand, we quietly say “Lord have mercy,” repenting for our own sinfulness while at the same time “re-igniting” our own flame and recommitting our whole life to God. Thus we begin again to live as light, helping others see the Way in a world of darkness.