How to Make an Olive Oil Vigil Lamp for Your Icon Corner

How to Make an Olive Oil Vigil Lamp for Your Icon Corner


“And you shall command the children of Israel that they bring you pure oil of pressed olives for the light, to cause the lamp to burn continually.” (Exodus 27.20)

As a child, I remember always having an olive oil vigil lamp to light up the icons in my room. It was comforting because I didn’t like my bedroom too dark, and it seemed like something living was there to comfort me… breathing in the oxygen, giving off heat. Its reflection on the icons of Christ and the Virgin Mary was all I saw in my dark room. I never felt alone when my vigil lamp was lit. I have continued to maintain one as the years have passed.

Since the lamp is an open flame, I am careful where I place it. We have ours on a tall dresser and have mounted the icons on the wall behind it. It can’t be knocked over and it doesn’t heat anything above it to be a fire hazard.

If you are interested in keeping an oil vigil lamp with your icons, here (above) is a quick and easy video on lighting an oil vigil lamp.

You will need the following: Olive oil, pure cotton ball, cork floater, match, glass or lead bowl.

Fill a bowl with olive oil. I like to use lead candy dishes because the openings are wide and they hold a few days worth of oil. The clear crystal also shines bright when the wick is lit. A thick glass won’t crack from the heat of the flame. Do not put water in the bowl. It will only cause the flame to spark as the oil is consumed and the floater lowers to the bottom of the bowl. If you forget to tend the wick, the flame will naturally go out as the fuel source depletes.

Place the cork floater in the bowl.

Pick off a piece of cotton, about the size of a thumbtack. Twist half of the cotton into a tight wick. The other side can be pressed against a nail or a table top to form a base.

Dip the base of the cotton wick in the oil and place it on the floater.

Light the wick.


  • Make the sign of the cross over the flame saying, “In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.”
  • The vigil lamp can be placed in front of your icons in your prayer corner or on a counter top. Just be sure it is in a safe place, where it won’t get knocked off balance or burn something above it.
  • When you are blessed with oil from a relic or a saint, it is the oil from their vigil lamp that is used.
  • Don’t buy cheap oil for your lamp. The lamp is an offering and should be the best you can afford.

Olive oil vigil lamp burning next to an icon of Christ

Posted by the Orthodox Christian Network.  You can find the Orthodox Christian Network on Google+.

About author

Presvytera Vassi Haros

Presvytera Vassi Makris Haros is a graduate of the University of Cincinnati's College of Design, Art, Architecture & Planning and Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology. She is the owner, designer and photographer of V’s Cardbox, In Service and Love. a greeting card company featuring cards with an Orthodox voice. She strongly feels that experiencing the Orthodox Faith through the church’s cyclical calendar of feasts and fasts is a gift that is too often overlooked.