A Holy Land Pilgrimage Day 8
‘The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.’ (Jn 1:5). Twice a week in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre the hanging lamps are replenished with oil and new wicks. In Orthodox churches lamps and candles are everywhere, and pilgrims who are not familiar with Orthodox churches may find the prevalence of lamps a curious thing. Why not just turn on the lights, we might ask? Well, custom predates electricity. Traditions prevail in Jerusalem, with the lights of Christ serving as practical illumination and spiritual reminders of God’s presence. The men who refill the lamps are descendants of men before them who had this privilege near the tomb of our Lord. First they lower a line of lamps hanging from a heavy wooden beam by unlashing a rope from its cleats. Then they scoop the old wicks out and add more oil, pouring from huge containers of Mazola corn oil, which is less expensive and burns more cleanly than olive oil. Finally, new wicks are set afloat. Lamps feed the mystery and warmth of Orthodox churches and speak to the truth that light is not overcome by darkness. ‘Lent’ refers to the lengthening of days towards Easter (at least in the Northern Hemisphere, where the term arose). No matter where you are in our world, go ahead, dispel some darkness. Share the light of Christ.