All Christians who go to church upon entering the church take candles and after lighting them place them in the designated places, candelabras, usually in front of the icons of the Saints. Many do not know what this act symbolizes. Some think they do it to financially support their parish church. Indeed, the temple is financially strengthened by the offering of the faithful, but behind the lighting of the candle there is a deeper symbolism.
Why, then, do we light candles?
We will cite the answers of two great saints and great theologians of our Church who explain this symbolism, Saint Symeon of Thessaloniki and Saint Nicodemus of Mount Athos (Agioritis). Each gives 6 reasons.
Saint Simeon tells us that we light the candle and symbolizes:
a. The purity of the soul, because the genuine candle is made from pure beeswax.
b. The malleability of our soul. Just as we easily carve what we want on the wax of the candle, so we carve the bad or the good in our soul.
c. The fragrance of Divine Grace, because the candle comes from fragrant flowers.
d. The purpose of the Christian's life which is likeness to God, i.e. deification. Because the believer is burning with this desire, he remembers it by lighting the candle and seeing its flame.
e. The light of Christ. As the light of the candle illuminates and dispels the darkness, so the light of Christ illuminates the lives of believers.
f. The love and peace that every Christian should have, because the candle comforts the man with his light in the darkness.
Saint Nicodemus the Saint tells us the following symbols.
We light candles:
a. That God may be glorified, who is the true and only light that enlightens every man.
b. To dispel the darkness of the night and comfort us from the fear of the dark.
c. To show that we have joy in our souls.
d. In honor of the saints and martyrs of our faith, thus imitating the first Christians who lit candles at the tombs of the Martyrs.
e. For our good works to be symbolized, according to the word of the Lord: "let your light shine before men, so that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven".
f. For the forgiveness of sins of those who light a candle and those for whom they light it. That is why in many temples of different regions there are separate candelabras where candles are lit for the living and for the dead.
(St. Nicodemus Agioreitou, Eortodromion, p. 433)