Pascal Candle By: Carol Morgan
We are nearing the end of the most important of all liturgical times, the season of Easter. There are 50 days of this season beginning with the First Sunday of Easter and ending with the observance of Pentecost.
If we go back to the celebration of the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday, you will remember the ceremonial blessing and lighting of the Pascal Candle. It is the first candle to be lit with a flame from this sacred fire, representing the light of the risen Christ coming into the world, as a symbol of light and life, dispelling darkness, and death. It is also a reminder of the pillar of fire that led the tribe of Israel through the desert into the promised land.
The Paschal candle represents the Paschal mystery, which pertains to all the things that God sent Jesus to accomplish on earth, his passion, death, and resurrection. This mystery is at the center of Catholic faith and explains why the Paschal candle takes prominence during the Easter season. It is a symbol of the very basis of the Catholic Church and our beliefs.
The Pascal candle is the largest candle in the Sanctuary and takes a place of distinction to the side of the altar. It is lit along with the altar candles, becoming part of the mass celebration, throughout the 50 days of the Easter season. On Pentecost Sunday, the Pascal Candle is extinguished just after the final Gospel symbolizing the ending of the Easter Season. The Candle is then moved to its traditional place near the baptismal font and will only be lit during those celebrations that emphasize the sharing of the light of Christ.
The first would be during the sacrament of the Baptismal rite, when a small candle is lit by the Godparent and given to the newly baptized.
The second is when the Paschal candle is lit and placed near the casket or urn during the funeral services such as the Mass of Repose and the Mass of Requiem. The candle signifies the hope of the resurrection into which Christians are baptized.
And finally, we have the parents of our First Communion candidates light a small candle from the Pascal Candle to symbolize the communion of Christ within each of them.
Only Christ, the true Light, can dispel darkness. As we gaze upon this “pillar of flame” may the Light of Christ flood every corner of our souls. As Catholics seek to restore the sense of the sacred, may we who have received the Light of Christ in Baptism be bright lights of Christ before the world.
So, after the reading of the Gospel at the 10 a.m. mass on Pentecost Sunday, the Pascal Candle flame will be extinguished. This symbolic act will remind us of the risen Christ’s ascension and the transfer of his light as a continued presence in our church and within us. As we seek to welcome the sense of the sacred, may we who have received the Light of Christ in Baptism be bright lights of Christ before the world. May our hearts burn brightly with this flame like the disciples who walked along the Emmaus road with our Lord.