The Sanctuary Lamp has always fascinated me. This litle red lamp which is found near the Tabernacle of every single Catholic Church signifies the Eucharistic Presence of the Lord in the Tabernacle. It means He is there. And that means we are in His presence. Every time I enter a Catholic Church, the Sanctuary Lamp is the very first thing I look for, just to be sure He is there.
I was thinking about the Sanctuary Lamp the other evening and precisely why it fascinates me, and something occurred to me. The Sanctuary Lamp is a little bit like the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
Like the Sacred Heart, the Sanctuary Lamp is always there, always quietly glowing – regardless of whether or not anyone one is there or paying attention or even aware of it. It is a constant. And that glow never fails – it provides a little illumination, comfort, somewhere for the eye – and the heart – to rest, if only for an instant. In fact, even the very imagery of the Lamp – red, glowing, illuminating – is suggestive of that Sacred Heart in the images we are used to seeing. And does the Sanctuary Lamp not point us to the very heart of the Church, the Tabernacle?
And there is something else, too. Sitting in a Church as the day darkens and shadows begin to fall – is that not precisely when that gentle glow takes on a greater radiance? It is in the darkness that this little Lamp begins to really shine, in a way that is perhaps less perceptible when the ambient light is brighter. Similarly, it is in the darker moments of our lives that we perhaps become more aware of the presence of the Lord, of the intensity of the fire of His Sacred Heart – even though it, like the Sanctuary Lamp, actually burns both continuously and constantly.
I give thanks for this little Lamp of constancy and of comfort, of warmth and of welcome; and even more so, for what it signifies and represents.