THE MEANING OF
THE TWO LARGE CANDELABRA IN FRONT OF THE ALTAR
By The Right Reverend Father Michael D. Jordan
As I mentioned last week, I plan to begin a series of teaching Sermons in the next few months. My goal is to educate you in the traditions and wisdom of the Eastern Orthodox Christian faith. The teachings of Orthodoxy are rooted in Scripture. There are Scripture references for virtually all objects that can be found in the Holy Eastern Orthodox Christian Churches that are used in conjunction with the Church. I will attempt to tie each of them back to Scripture from both the Old and New Testaments of the Holy Bible, plus provide you with additional things to consider along the way.
You will notice two large candelabra on either side of the Royal Entrance to the Altar. Traditionally, in the Eastern Orthodox Faith, these large candelabra are placed there to remind the people of the Pillar of Cloud, and the Column of Fire that appeared to the Jewish people to lead them away from their captivity and to the Promised Land. We find references to this Pillar of Cloud and Column of fire in the Old Testament Book of Exodus, Chapter 13: "21 And the LORD went before them by day in a pillar of a cloud, to lead them the way; and by night in a pillar of fire, to give them light; to go by day and night:
22 He took not away the pillar of the cloud by day, nor the pillar of fire by night, from before the people."
This Pillar of Cloud and Column of Fire was the Lord guiding the Jewish people on their journey to the Promised Land. The Two large Candelabra represent the Lord guiding His people to God and their eternal salvation through the Eucharist and Sacraments that are contained in the Sanctuary of the Eastern Orthodox Christian Church. If the Sanctuary represents the Kingdom of Heaven, and the Royal Doors represent the Entrance to Heaven, then the Candelabra are then pointing the way to the Door of the Kingdom of Heaven.
We are making a journey of our own today, a journey to the Promised Land, the Kingdom of Heaven. We have Jesus Christ as our Guide and Guardian on this journey. The Large Candelabra still point the way to the Promised Land just as the Pillar of Cloud and the Column of Fire pointed the way for the Jewish People.
Throughout the history of mankind, God has always provided a way for people to seek Him, find Him, and Worship Him. We need only look for the ways that God is calling to us. One of the most important ways that God calls us to us is through the Holy Scripture. The Holy Scripture is full of references to Godís Holy Son, even in the Old Testament. Itís important for you to understand that the Son of God, Jesus Christ, was with God before the world was, and has always been part of the Holy Trinity.
It was the Son of God that appeared in the fiery furnace with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, and saved them from harm. Iím going to share this very moving story from the Old Testament Book of Daniel with you concerning the protection given to Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego:
Daniel: Chapter 3
1 "Nebuchadnezzar the king made an image of gold, whose height was threescore cubits, and the breadth thereof six cubits: he set it up in the plain of Dura, in the province of Babylon. 2 Then Nebuchadnezzar the king sent to gather together the princes, the governors, and the captains, the judges, the treasurers, the counselors, the sheriffs, and all the rulers of the provinces, to come to the dedication of the image which Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up. 3 Then the princes, the governors, and captains, the judges, the treasurers, the counselors, the sheriffs, and all the rulers of the provinces, were gathered together unto the dedication of the image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up; and they stood before the image that Nebuchadnezzar had set up. 4 Then an herald cried aloud, To you it is commanded, O people, nations, and languages, 5 That at what time ye hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, dulcimer, and all kinds of music, ye fall down and worship the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king hath set up: 6 And whoso falleth not down and worshippeth shall the same hour be cast into the midst of a burning fiery furnace. 7 Therefore at that time, when all the people heard the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and all kinds of music, all the people, the nations, and the languages, fell down and worshiped the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up. 8 Wherefore at that time certain Chaldeans came near, and accused the Jews. 9 They spake and said to the king Nebuchadnezzar, O king, live for ever. 10 Thou, O king, hast made a decree, that every man that shall hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and dulcimer, and all kinds of music, shall fall down and worship the golden image: 11 And whoso falleth not down and worshippeth, that he should be cast into the midst of a burning fiery furnace. 12 There are certain Jews whom thou hast set over the affairs of the province of Babylon, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego; these men, O king, have not regarded thee: they serve not thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up. 13 Then Nebuchadnezzar in [his] rage and fury commanded to bring Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Then they brought these men before the king. 14 Nebuchadnezzar spake and said unto them, Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, do not ye serve my gods, nor worship the golden image which I have set up? 15 Now if ye be ready that at what time ye hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and dulcimer, and all kinds of music, ye fall down and worship the image which I have made; [well]: but if ye worship not, ye shall be cast the same hour into the midst of a burning fiery furnace; and who [is] that God that shall deliver you out of my hands? 16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, answered and said to the king, O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter. 17 If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. 18 But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up. 19 Then was Nebuchadnezzar full of fury, and the form of his visage was changed against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego: therefore he spake, and commanded that they should heat the furnace one seven times more than it was wont to be heated. 20 And he commanded the most mighty men that were in his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, and to cast them into the burning fiery furnace. 21 Then these men were bound in their coats, their hosen, and their hats, and their other garments, and were cast into the midst of the burning fiery furnace. 22 Therefore because the king's commandment was urgent, and the furnace exceeding hot, the flame of the fire slew those men that took up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. 23 And these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, fell down bound into the midst of the burning fiery furnace. 24 Then Nebuchadnezzar the king was astonished, and rose up in haste, and spake, and said unto his counselors, Did not we cast three men bound into the midst of the fire? They answered and said unto the king, True, O king. 25 He answered and said, Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God. 26 Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the mouth of the burning fiery furnace, and spake, and said, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, ye servants of the most high God, come forth, and come hither. Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, came forth of the midst of the fire. 27 And the princes, governors, and captains, and the king's counselors, being gathered together, saw these men, upon whose bodies the fire had no power, nor was an hair of their head singed, neither were their coats changed, nor the smell of fire had passed on them. 28 Then Nebuchadnezzar spake, and said, Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who hath sent his angel, and delivered his servants that trusted in him, and have changed the king's word, and yielded their bodies, that they might not serve nor worship any god, except their own God. 29 Therefore I make a decree, That every people, nation, and language, which speak any thing amiss against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, shall be cut in pieces, and their houses shall be made a dunghill: because there is no other God that can deliver after this sort. 30 Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, in the province of Babylon."
King Nebuchadnezzar saw an image like the Son of God in the fiery furnace with Shadrach, Mesahach and Abednego. He saw how they were protected by the Son of God from the slightest harm by the fire. How many of us today would have the same kind of faith that was displayed by these three men? The King was made to believe in God through this fiery revelation and the three Jewish menís faith in God. The Kingís new found faith caused him to turn from the pagan worship of golden idols.
Shadrach, Mesahach and Abednego refused to fall down and worship the pagan idol, and they were willing to die in the fiery furnace rather than worship a false god. God rewarded them greatly for their faith by protecting them, then God used the opportunity to convert the King and the Kingís subjects to believe in Him. We find further references to clouds and fire in the New Testament Book of Revelation:
1 "And I saw another mighty angel come down from heaven, clothed with a cloud: and a rainbow [was] upon his head, and his face [was] as it were the sun, and his feet as pillars of fire:"
12 "And they heard a great voice from heaven saying unto them, Come up hither. And they ascended up to heaven in a cloud; and their enemies beheld them."
14 "And I looked, and behold a white cloud, and upon the cloud [one] sat like unto the Son of man, having on his head a golden crown, and in his hand a sharp sickle."
15 "And another angel came out of the temple, crying with a loud voice to him that sat on the cloud, Thrust in thy sickle, and reap: for the time is come for thee to reap; for the harvest of the earth is ripe."
16 "And he that sat on the cloud thrust in his sickle on the earth; and the earth was reaped."
This reference from Revelation is to the Dread Judgment Seat of Christ. We have represented the Cloud and Fire again, which was previously referenced in the Old Testament Book of Exodus, additionally, we find references to Christ harvesting the earth of His people, which we firmly believe will take place when He comes again in Glory.
Fire has always been associated with power, and our God being the most powerful omnipotent being in the Universe is often associated with the power of fire. He also uses this power to draw mankind unto Him. I hope that I have given you a good illustration of the purpose of the two large candelabra in front of the Royal Entrance, and explained their meaning to you effectively. Also, as you see candles and lamps burning throughout our church, you will notice that fire is again represented in them. They have other meanings as well; however, in the case of the two large candelabra, fire represents Godís eternal, never-ending power to lead His people to salvation.
By The Right Reverend Father Michael D. Jordan
Almighty Lord, God of our Salvation, who delivered Shadrach, Mesahach and Abednego from the fiery furnace, and Who sits enthroned on high in Heaven; hear us today as we call upon Thee.
Teach us the ways of Salvation, and guide us in the paths that You would have us walk, just as you guided the Jewish people to the Promised Land. Help us find our way to the Promised Land, the Kingdom of Heaven, through the mercy and compassion of Your Holy Son, Jesus Christ.
Enable us to teach others by example. Re-kindle the flame of zeal in our hearts that we may proclaim Your Holy Name boldly throughout the world.
Strengthen our love and faith for You with each passing day. Protect us from the fiery darts of the evil one as you protected Shadrach, Mesahach and Abednego from harm.
Help us to glorify Your Son as we prepare for the celebration of the Holy Nativity. Remind us that the true meaning of this Holy Season is to glorify Christ Jesus, and to remember His Sacred Birth, and the wonderful impact it had on our lives.
Grant us all a blessed Christmas, and be our constant Guide and Guardian throughout the new year.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and unto ages of ages. AMEN.
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