Vigil Lamp

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.

Oratory with Lit Votive

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.

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3 Responses to Vigil Lamp

  1. melaniebett says:

    This is my third attempt to leave a comment on this post. Grrr, it keeps logging me out and then losing my comment when I try to log in on WordPress. Why I have to be logged in, I’m not sure.

    Anyway, here goes take three….

    Very pretty! How does it work with Geek Baby? Is he tempted to try to get at the flame? I’d be paranoid with an open flame and my kiddos, even on a high shelf or counter. I keep toying with the idea of a hanging votive lamp; but I’m not sure I could get Dom to agree. He’s even more paranoid than I am.

    My prayer shelf has turned out not to be a very good location. It’s in a high traffic area, in the dining room/hall way. And it has a crowded cookbook shelf shoved in under it. I have a little kneeler I got with high hopes of making an oratory for myself but there is no room in our tiny bedroom and the living room, where it got stuck, is too highly trafficked. I tried to keep holy cards and prayer books on it but they kept getting displaced for the kids’ games. It is not a doll house/stable/castle/podium/lectern and whatever else they need it to be. But not in a good place to use for prayer. Our house is really too tiny for the kind of dedicated prayer space I envisioned when I got it. I keep saying to myself perhaps in our next house. But who knows when that will be.

    Anyway, I love getting a peek at other people’s arrangements and keep hoping I’ll see something that will spark an idea of how to make my arrangement work.

    I love your thoughts on tending the flame. I’d never thought of it as a form of devotion. You really, really make me want to go get a hanging lamp I can put near my prayer shelf.

    • GeekLady says:

      That’s weird about the commenting. I haven’t fiddled with any setting, but I’ll go under the hood and whack things with a crowbar tonight. Just in case.

      The open flame works just fine with GeekBaby, but this is due entirely to his own specific personality quirks. First, when we’re home, he’s usually attached to either Mike or I at the hip – he’s very clingy. To some extent, this is because he’s lonely not having anyone to play with, but that’s not the whole story. He likes to be with people, people he knows, watching and imitating what they are doing. His play kitchen is in our kitchen because it was the only way to keep him from being constantly underfoot while I make dinner, and it works less and less as he grows older and wants to cook ‘real’ food. So he’s with an adult at almost all times (unless I’m letting him watch something on the computer). Second, while he enjoys lit candles, he’s never been interested in getting very close to them. Even teaching him to blow candles out was a long and slow process because he didn’t want to get near them. He’s been even more wary of ‘fire and heat’ still since he burned his arm on the grill last July. Third, I’m always aware of the lamp when it’s lit… it’s a weird sensation. And with this combination of constant accompaniment, natural skittishness, and my own awareness, I trust him. I’d never try an open flame, especially not a low one like this, with a normal kid, or any sort of kids plural. With kids plural, all bets are off. We are going to upgrade to a hanging lamp when opportunity permits, and mount it out of the reach of little hands.

      Mike was nervous about the oil lamp too, until I poured out a little dish of olive oil and stuck a lit match in it and the match went out. Then he said “wait, what?” and I did it again. The flash point of room temperature olive oil is too high to catch just from a match, and so far the oil in my lamp has never gotten warmer than gently warm to the touch. And we extinguish it at bedtime, of course.

      What you can’t see in that picture is that about 6 feet to the left is the front door. It’s in a high traffic area for us as well, but the difference is that we have a lot fewer people to traffic through. And GeekBaby just doesn’t… play like your kids do. Not as much. So I can put things there and they won’t be molested by little fingers. The way they play with the kneeler sounds ridiculously cute and it’s much better than not needing to worry about whether they’ll play with the things you put in the oratory because they don’t play much at all.

      I’m glad you liked my thoughts on tending the flame, it felt a little odd writing them down and I wasn’t sure how well they came out. Both Mike and I are pretty active people, we like to do things, and I am particularly susceptible to slipping into geek-fugue and forgetting to eat, etc. The lamp just burns right through all that. It’s weird.

  2. melaniebett says:

    Oh the commenting thing is just Word Press being jerky. Evidently at some point for some reason I created a Word Press account associated with my email address. Now it won’t let me comment using that email address unless I sign in. But when it takes me to that notification page when I hit “post comment” it loses my comment and the back button on my browser doesn’t retrieve it. Which I forgot after it did it once. And then forgot again that it had logged me out. A very stupid feature. Thanks, Word Press.

    I remember when Bella had no Sophie to play with and how hard it was that she so frequently needed interaction– though her personality is such that it would never have been a constant thing, I think. Surely the best thing about siblings is that they are free entertainment. I must remember that the time it buys me it does balance out the need to referee the squabbles and feed more mouths. It makes sense to me that an only child would more closely mimic the actions of adults and model his play on your work.

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