What does a candle mean to you?
The pastor asked this earlier during the Christmas candlelight service. Well, candles are not as they used to be: most of us only appreciate them for aromatherapy or tealight decorations— and even these are being replaced with electronic counterparts. The rest of us only remember them during typhoons, when an impending power outage threatens us.
As I gazed into that flickering flame, I recalled some of the times I held a candle, dependent on its light. Nights when I had to vigilantly guard this small tendril of flame against the wind. A tiny glow that shielded my thoughts from worries, assuring me that everything will be alright.
A brave light, rebelling against the surrounding darkness.
I’ve been watching the TV series “Gotham” for a while now. It tells about the pre-Batman fictional city, and how an important character in the comic mythology came to be. The story clearly depicted a broken city; corruption was so ingrained, that any light attempt to change the tainted system would only be superficial. Even the police force, the enforcers of the law, had succumbed to its influence. It was, in every aspect of the situation, hopeless. Until Detective Jim Gordon came along.
The thing is, people like Jim Gordon don’t just magically appear inside the police station. Heroes like William Wallace (based on the movie) didn’t just happen to take revenge for his lost beloved out of whim or spite. Even our own local heroes Jose Rizal, Antonio Luna, Andres Bonifacio didn’t just wake up one morning and decide, “Hey, I want to be a hero.”
Why do we need heroes in the first place?
Why did we ever need candles at all?
Fire has been a sentimental power for humankind. We have always been helpless in the night, prey to the harsh environment of our world, slave to the natural order of things. Fire has been that magical tool when our ancestors needed protection from both the cold frost of nature as well as the cold terror of predators. And the lowly candle has preserved this long tradition, even in this age of electricity and electronics.
Maybe like a candle, we feel useless, outdated, in this present society. Maybe like a candle, we feel neglected, forgotten, only to be dug up in times of emergencies. Maybe that’s what we’re supposed to be, maybe that’s all we’re supposed to be: a candle ready and waiting when the darkness comes, when all the illusions of security and convenience that technology provides fall apart, when all artificial lights fail and blink out.
Maybe we all are already living in that darkness— a kind of darkness more of sense than of sight. And we all are holding a candle that can illuminate the people around us, give them back their sight. Maybe we are meant to be a small, fading glow in the night; a flicker of hope amidst the dark, meant to encourage others to wait until the greater and true light of the coming dawn. But even candles can’t light themselves.
And maybe that’s what Christmas is all about: the first living candle, a flame offered to all who are willing to draw their own candles near to spread forth and share, no longer be a hostage of the night, but a rebel for the light.