There is nothing more sacred during Advent than the silence that permeates stone hallways in a monastic settlement -- the smell of incense wafting through the hallways and the sound of a bell, tolling the Angelus.
I am blessed enough to live just down the street from a vibrant contemplative religious community called the Community of Saint John in Princeville. Composed of brothers and both contemplative and apostolic sisters, this community has been a light to me, and I love nothing more than frequenting their daily Masses and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. This Advent season in particular, their humble facilities in the country have been the perfect place for me to rest and listen to the still voice of the Beloved, Jesus Christ, and His Mother.
During adoration the other night, I watched as one of the brothers approached the altar to “trim,” as it appeared to me, the candles on either side of the monstrance. Reverently, he stepped up into the sanctuary and, using an oddly shaped knife, trimmed off the top of the candle wicks without extinguishing the light. He carefully placed the access wick into a dispenser and did the same to the next candle. This puzzled me, as I could not fathom what profit there could be from cutting off parts of the wick on a candle.
Upon researching, I discovered that trimming candles is a common practice with multiple benefits, the primary being that it helps the wick burn more brightly, better distributes the heat in order to melt the wax more evenly, and prevents the candle from giving off black soot which tarnishes the glass case and/or the surrounding environment (like walls and ceilings).
While praying about this in adoration, the analogy became very clear to me, and it is a fitting one for this season of Advent. I hope all of you will pray along with me as I raise this simple petition and act of thanksgiving and surrender to the Humble Child in the manger, arriving very soon:
O Sweet Jesus,
May you set on fire the candles of our hearts.
We praise you for the light we give, for it all comes from you.
We praise you for any warmth we give to others, for it all comes from you.
Thank you for the crosses and daily struggles in our lives that trim the wicks of our candles. The process is a painful one – cutting off our attachments, desires, anxieties, and fears. Like the black soot on the tip of a candle, may they be cut off and cast aside, so as to reveal the raw and unburnt areas of our souls that have yet to be consumed by the fire of Your Love. May the fresh interior be relit and give off a stronger, warmer, and more vibrant light to set the world aflame with Love for You.
Sweet Mother Mary, prepare our hearts for this trimming, so that we do not resist it and in so doing, tarnish those around us through the soot and black smoke which pours forth from an untrimmed soul.
Ora pro nobis, Maria, nunc et in hora mortis nostrae.
Have a sacred and blessed Advent, everyone!