The oil that burns in our oil-lamps, “τον του Θεού υπεµφαίνει έλαιον” writes St. Symeon of Thessaloniki, the mercy of God that was revealed when the dove returned to Noah’s Ark to signify the cessation of the flood, having in the beak an olive branch, or when Jesus, prayed at length, He watered with the sweat of His clots the olive tree, under the branches of which He knelt on the dreadful night on the Mount of Olives. Of course, we all know how infinitely superior of the material light is the internal light, a light lit by the Holy Spirit. So wrote the God-bearer Father Gregory Nazianzus: “Φωτίσωµεν… γλώσσαν” “Let us lit…the tongue” and the commentator adds: was this achieved? The oil symbolizes the infinite mercy of God, but the oil-lamps also, symbolize the Church that is imparting of the Divine Mercy and lighting. They also symbolize the saints themselves that their light shone according to the word of the Lord, “let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Mt. 5:16)
There are many reasons for which the Orthodox we should lit the oil-lamp, for example:
1. In order to remind us of the need for prayer.
2. To illuminate the space and to drive-away the darkness where the evil forces are dominant.
3. To remind us that Christ is the only true light and the faith in Him is light,
4. To remind us that our lives should be bright.
5. In order to remind us that as the candle requires our own hand to light thus the soul requires the hand of God, that is His Grace.
6. To remind us that our will must be burnt and be sacrificed.
7. For the love of God, and many more…
Needless to say, that the vigil-oil should be an olive oil and the best possible quality. Besides, the Lord prayed in the garden of Olives and the temple with the oil-lamps is converted to a new garden and mercy (oil) and Divine Mercy, their oil reminds us of the compassion of God and their light in our lives, that should be bright and holy. The shedding of light in the temple symbolizes the divine light of God’s presence that illuminates the hearts not only of neophytes but all Christians as well. The Lord revealed this great truth about Himself in the following words: “I am the light of world”(John 8:12). He is light not only because of His luminous teachings, but mainly due to His luminous presence. This is confirmed by the particular miraculous Transfiguration, where “His face did shine as the sun, and His raiment was white as the light.”(Matth.17:2).
In the Symbol of Faith (The Creed), the Son of God is presented as “light from light.” In the service of Vespers the hymnographer also presents the Lord as “Joyful Light.” And the Christians with the mysteries of the Church and their spiritual struggle can receive the light of the grace of the Holy Spirit and to radiate it with their lives. In “the sermon of the mount” the Lord advising His disciples told them: “Ye are the light of the world …. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven. “(Matthew 5:14-16). Here it is clear that the light of Christ’s disciples is the good works of their holy spiritual life. The saints, in the after-life will be like the Lord, they will become “gods by grace.” The Lord expresses this clearly with His prophetic words: ” Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. “(Matt.