It is hard to miss the Easter Candle at our Church. The stand alone, brightly coloured, is about 1.5m tall. The Candle extends that by another 75cm. It reigns supreme in the Sanctuary, and during the great 50 days of Easter it is honoured at Mass with incense, and its stand is decorated with flowers.
The Easter Candle, the Paschal Candle, is a symbol of the Resurrection of Jesus, it represents the Risen Lord. It burns throughout the 50 days at Mass and other services. It is lit in darkness from sacred fire outside Church on Holy Saturday or Easter Eve. Then we carry it into the dark church and the light gradually gets spread to all present.
The symbolism is rich and magnificent. The candle has a very high beeswax content, the work of bees, reminding us that creation joins in Easter praise. sometimes associated with purity and makes the Candle into a sort of sacrifice. The Candle is marked with the Cross – the symbol of our faith and hope. It is made special to today by having the numbers of the current year marked on it. It has the Greek letters of the first and last letters of the alphabet to signify the timelessness, or eternity, of our salvation. It has five “grains” of incense put signifying the wounds of Christ.
As these symbols are traced on the Cross the words used state the significance – Christ Yesterday and Today, the Beginning and the End, The Alpha and Omega, to him belong all times and all ages. As the “grains” are inserted the words used are – By his holy and glorious wounds may our Lord guard and keep us. Then those words May the light of Christ rising in glory dispel the darkness of our hearts and minds are said and the procession makes it way into Church.
As we follow this Pillar of Light we are reminded that the Jews were led by God into the Promised Land by following pillar of Fire by night. We follow the Pillar into Church, and as we do so we pass by the Font and remind ourselves that the Jews passed through the Red Sea. We also enter our Promised Land. These great events of our shared histories are recalled in the rich Liturgy which follows.
The Candle remains in place throughout Easter, then it is placed next to the Font, and it is lit at Baptisms, and it is also placed near the coffin at a funeral.
This year at St Chrysostom’s we’ve a special joyful Easter initiative “Sharing the Light” A smaller version of our large Easter Candle is to go on tour! This additional Easter Candle will be lit from our Easter Candle blessed at the Vigil. It will be taken around and people will be encouraged to meet, to share their Easter faith, and smaller candles will be given out for people to take home to share the light – perhaps by lighting the candle at special times during the year. As we Share the Light this Eastertide let us rejoice at the wonder, joy and hope that we receive by our Christian Faith.