Lighting the Candles of the Corona for the Vigil of Pentecost, Pantokrator

Lighting the Candles of the Corona for the Vigil of Pentecost, Pantokrator

Lighting the Candles of the Corona for the Vigil of Pentecost, Pantokrator, digital print, 2006

During Vigils or night offices preceding major feast days on Mount Athos, such as Christmas, Easter and Pentecost, the candles of the great corona or crown-shaped chandelier in the middle of the Catholicon, beneath the dome, are lit and set in motion. As the chandelier moves clockwise and then counterclockwise over the course of an hour or two, the icons of saints attached to the corona appear to come alive, to “dance” in the midst of the blurring candle-light, piercing the darkness of the church. Accompanied by monastic chant, this “dance of light” evokes a mystical experience of the coming of divine light associated with the liturgical celebration of Christ’s major epiphanies or manifestations to the world. This ritual of moving light, joining earthly and celestial liturgy parallels mystical theology of the late Byzantine Church. Thus, Nicholas Kavasilas (1322-ca. 1391) evokes a vision of the end of time “when the Master appears, the chorus of good servants will surround Him, and when he shines brightly they too will shine. What a sight to see a countless multitude of luminaries above the clouds…Christ descends from heaven like lightning to earth.”

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Lighting the Candles of the Corona for the Vigil of Pentecost, Pantokrator