Monday, 24 March 2008

The Paschal Candle

The Paschal Candle is the great symbol of the resurrection of Christ. It was blessed and lit from the Easter fire on Holy Saturday night, after which it led the congregation into the dark Cathedral, dispelling the darkness and proclaiming the light of the risen Lord. It now towers over the sanctuary, and is a little difficult to see close-up, hence a few pictures here! The date is printed around a cross, while five grains of incense in gold studs represent the five wounds of the Lord on the cross. Just as the risen Lord still bore the marks of His suffering (see John 20:27), so also the candle symbolically carries these marks.

The candle is decorated with grapes, figs and olives. Grapes (above) remind us of the Eucharist, the memorial of Jesus' suffering and the means by which He remains always present in His Church.

Olives point to the Garden of Olives, the place where Jesus suffered before His arrest. They may also remind us of the sacraments, as the oil used in baptism, confirmation, ordination and the anointing of the sick comes from this plant.

At creation, the man and woman sewed fig leaves together after they had turned from God, in order to cover themselves as they became embarrassed to be naked (see Genesis 3:7). The figs therefore point us to the 'happy fault' of which the Exsultet speaks, the Fall which made Christ's incarnation, death and resurrection necessary.

The Paschal Candle now stands on the Sanctuary, where it will be lit for all liturgy in Eastertide. After that it will be moved to the font, and lit only at baptisms and funerals. In this way it shows that the beginning and the end of our Christian lives are marked by hope in the resurrection of Christ.