The wonderful devotion of the olive oil lamp is explained by Protopresbyter Stephanos A. in “Experiences During the Divine Liturgy,” a compendium from different priests.
WHY DO WE USE OLIVE OIL? So that we would be reminded of the night when Jesus prayed in the Garden of Olives. The Lord prayed in the garden of Gethsemane where an olive oil grove was situated.
The following is a true story… On the 24th March 1942, the eve of the Annunciation,we were in northern Greece, in my hometown called Drama.
It was then under Bulgarian occupation. Deprivation, disease and famine had reached dreadful proportions and death was decimating both young and old, especially children, on a daily basis. Among my relatives was a distant aunt who was a widow with five children. Her husband had been killed by the invaders six months previously during the 29th Sept. 1941 massacre. As far as food was concerned,there remained a very small amount of olive oil and a handful of corn flour.
Hence, that evening she thought that the following day, the Annunciation, she had at least a very little food for the children, 100 grams of flour and just a little oil. Suddenly, her eyes fell on the snuffed-out vigil lamp which hanged in front of the icon stand. At that point she was faced with a dilemma: Should the oil be given to the hungry children or remain in the icon stand with the icon of the Annunciation? With a sense of determination she made the sign of the Cross and told the All-Holy Mother of God: “My All-Holy Mother! I shall light the vigil lamp because the day which is breaking is of great significance to our faith; however, You take care of my children and feed them.”
She took the very little amount of oil and lit the oil-candle of the All-Holy Lady. Its joyous light illuminated the shabby home and her heart was filled with serenity. This sense of serenity accompanied them in their nightly prayer, their sleep and throughout that unforgettable night. The next day, after the Divine Liturgy, my aunt opened the kitchen cupboard in order to get the meager flour and she was speechless. What does she see?
The oil can filled with oil all the way to the top, as well as two bagfuls of flour and spaghetti! The woman made the sign of the Cross many times, praising and thanking God and the Theotokos for this great miracle, but did not say a word to anyone. For two years the oil never emptied from the bottle nor did the flour run out, although the six-member family used it on a daily basis in order to exchange it with other types of food, and for charity which was done in secrecy. And the vigil lamp remained thenceforth lit day and night…”
*** Brothers and sisters, do you see the reality of our Holy Orthodox Faith? Do you see how those who honor God and His saints with attendance at Liturgy, with devotions, with aid to the poor, in genuine faith, are helped by God?