In a time of darkness and cold, we especially appreciate the power of a small flame. As I sit here in the evening watching the flicker of candlelight, the bitter cold seems farther away. The waning moon yields little light out my window. I imagine the Maccabees pouring the last of the prepared and dedicated olive oil in the reconsecrated Temple, lighting it and watching the flame, moved by its burning even on the first night.
The holiday celebrates the miracle of the oil, naturally enough for one night, lasting for 8, the time it took to press and consecrate new olive oil. Two things come to mind. How often have I had patients come in needing an herb that I haven’t finished macerating in tincture, where I need to stretch out the little I have. What if there were no other herbs in the formula and I could not stretch it with decocted or immature tincture? What a miracle it must have been for the old oil to stretch the eight days.
And my other thought is the old question of why the holiday is celebrated for eight days instead of seven when the first night’s burning was natural and the seven days that followed were the miracle. But why should oil burn at all?
Creation is a miracle that we take for granted. Why does the new moon come after the old one wanes? Why do plants, or people grow? Why is Artemisia annua bitter and cooling while Mugwort (Artemisia argy) is sweet, bitter and balanced in temperature? Why does lemon balm relieve shingles and raw garlic treat pneumonia? Why are leaves green, or red or multicolored? Why do people have open hearts? Creation is full of miracles and it helps to have special times to focus upon them.