A Candle in the Window

A Candle in the Window

By John Mallon

This article appeared as an unsigned editorial in a different form under the title, “The Pilgrim’s light” in the Daily Oklahoman, January 1, 2000.

For twenty-one years Pope John Paul II has been sounding the message: "Come to Christ." Many who have made this journey under his watch refer to it as a "homecoming."

Apart from all the scheduled and extensively planned activities in Vatican City in celebration of the Great Jubilee commemorating the two-thousandth birthday of Jesus Christ, the Polish Pope did, as is his way, a profoundly simple, unscheduled, yet profound thing. As pilgrims gathered in the early evening of Christmas Eve looking forward to the symbolic opening of the Holy Door and the Pope's vigil Mass, they were surprised by a burst of applause among some of the crowd. Looking up, they saw the tiny white figure in the third window from the right, high up in the Apostolic Palace, place a single candle in the window. The Pope gave a simple wave to the crowd far below, and left the candle burning in the window. 

In Catholic Europe it is tradition to place a candle in the window for pilgrims traveling to Rome at Christmas. There is also a custom of a candle in the window at Christmas Eve to welcome the Baby Jesus.

Still, a light burning in the window is also a universal symbol of welcome for all who have wandered far from home.

Thus with this simple gesture the holy man humbly, yet again, broadcast the message of the Great Jubilee Year: a message of forgiveness, homecoming and welcome, across St. Peter's Square—and the whole world.

© 2000, 2007 By John Mallon