One of the immediate advantages of relocating our oratory downstairs was that I could keep a votive burning constantly. I had desired to do this for a long time, but had never acted on it. Common sense demurred to leave a candle burning all day in a room I seldom entered. And my desire itself said that a candle alone in an empty room wasn’t what I wanted anyway.
But the move from bedroom to living room meant I could indulge this desire, and so I did. Himself admitted that he found the constantly burning light comforting. And I found that having the light burning was a great aid to prayer. It reminded me of the candle lit before the Presence of Christ in the tabernacle. It became my own little reminder of the light of Christ in our home and how the family is an icon of the Church. A candle that burns constantly requires attention throughout the day, and tending to the light was a small act of devotion that I immediately loved. This attention directed towards our oratory also helped me remember to pray the Divine Office throughout the day. It is a good devotion, I think, for people who like to do and make things.
Then, the red started flaking off the inside of my votive holder.
I love red. I especially love red as a candle glass, with the flame burning within. It’s just right in a way I cannot explain. And so when it became clear that the color was irreparable, I started looking for a new red votive glass. And all I could find were replacement glasses for hanging oil lamps. This led to reading about the role of the vigil lamps in eastern catholic and orthodox homes, which gave a beautiful expression to what I felt about my little candle.
Since beeswax candles are expensive, even when you pour your own, and the only nice red votive glasses I could find were for oil lamps, I decided to give burning an oil lamp a try. I made a little float by slicing a 1/4″ round off an old wine cork, bored a hole in the center, and attached a wire loop to hold up a bit of cotton kitchen twine for a wick. Then I filled my old votive glass (now cleaned of the last remnants of flaky red glass paint) up with olive oil and lit it.
And I love it. It’s a different sort of light than that of a candle, steadier and clearer. Smokeless. It burns for a long time before the wick needs trimming or the glass needs filling, and the votive can be refilled without extinguishing the light. But while it requires less fussing, it still brings the same sense of offering my attention and care to the Lord.