Twenty-five-hundred years ago, a Jewish family witnessed a miracle while resisting their Syrian-Greek rulers. While re-sanctifying the desecrated Temple in Jerusalem, Judas Maccabaeus and his family had just enough olive oil to keep the Temple lit for a single day. However, despite the oil scarcity, the lamp burned miraculously for eight days. Hearing of the miracle, ancient Jewish sages proclaimed an annual eight-day festival in celebration of the redemptive power of light.
Today, we celebrate Hanukkah, the festival of lights, with the ritualized lighting of menorah candles. Nightly, when we light one candle, and then another, we step into an ancient tradition set forth by our ancestors. Hanukkah observance coincides with the fourth quarter of the lunar cycle, the darkest phase of the moon, during the darkest season of the solar year. Each night of Hanukkah grows longer than the last, and concludes on the longest, darkest night of the year; heralding the coming of the Winter Solstice. Our foremothers and forefathers observed the natural cycles of the celestial seasons, and lit a hallowed flame to symbolize the promise of the return of the light with poignant simplicity. Beginning with the lighting of the first candle, Hanukkah gracefully ushers in the season of many holy-days. The holiday tradition of honoring the light that emerges from darkness spans a wide breadth of spiritual orders. The light of the menorah sets the space that lends hallowed ground to all our Solstice observances, Christmas celebrations, and Yuletide rites.
The essence of the candle’s flame on the menorah is the opened portal of all transcendence. Darkness cannot exist within the candle’s glow. A single flame holds the potential of infinity. Its very nature is growth, transformation, and expansion. When we light the menorah candles on the longest, darkest nights of the year, we honor our holy light within, even unto the darkest depths of our beings. In this sense, we are the candle, and our flame is the inner light divine. The essence of this spiritual fire is eternal – without end, and without beginning. In lighting our spirit candle night after night, we join the timeless community of soul-lighters; a radiant pillar of light whose limits are the very edges of the cosmos.
Whether your sacred space hosts a glowing menorah, a tinseled-tree, or a manger under the light of a star, may your holy-days be filled with the radiant light that shines from within us all. The portal is open, and the candles are lit.
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