I am the light of the world: he that followeth me, walketh not in darkness, but shall have the light of life (John 8:12)
The wisdom and beauty of the Holy Catholic Church are marvelously expressed through a universe of symbols.
Consider the sanctuary lamp. In every church where the Blessed Sacrament is reserved, the eye meets that suave flickering flame, indicating the Real Presence.
What does the silent sanctuary lamp calmly say to the soul? What does it symbolize?
The warmth of its welcoming flame draws us closer to Our Lady and Our Lord. As if held aloft by Angels, the lamp is suspended, not attached to this earth, preparing souls to receive Divine grace. Its subtle light envelopes the faithful, creating a state of spirit in which all Catholic souls feel united.
At the same time, the wick burns serenely, spending itself to the point of destruction, offering itself to God, which symbolizes sacrifice.
The sanctuary lamp creates a pleasing and temperate atmosphere adequate to man. Its subtle light enhances the church and is not even slightly overpowering.
The flame's panoply of discrete shadows projects a respectful warmth and depth. It has nothing in common with the frenzied lights of a discotheque or the cold neon lighting prevalent today.
For the sake of contrast, imagine a neon light in place of the sanctuary lamp. The mere thought causes unrest. The harsh neon light destroys shadows.
What else does the sanctuary lamp say to the soul?
Imagine a dark church illuminated by a single sanctuary lamp. When a church is empty and Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament is alone, the lamp pays homage to its Creator. The flame keeps constant vigil, like a faithful soul who kneels before God in adoration while so many abandon Him or turn against Him.
If the light could speak, it might say this: "I remain faithful. I am Thine, O Lord. Although I am the least of men, I belong to Thee, I exist for Thee alone. In the worst uncertainty, in the worst isolation and darkness, I will follow Thee come what may. I am confident that my fidelity means something to Thee."
The dominant note of the lamp speaks of the relationship between Creator and creature, Redeemer and redeemed. It is a resting place for the Catholic soul. Like three bells in perfect harmony, it echoes Our Lord's words: "I am the way, the truth and the life" (John 14:6).