Exploring the rich symbolism of the Paschal (Easter) Candle

father steven labaireI am pleased to present this guest post from Father Steven LaBaire, pastor of Holy Family Parish in Worcester, MA.

Exploring the rich symbolism of the Paschal (Easter) Candle

During the entire 50 days of the Easter Season, from Easter Sunday until Pentecost Sunday, the Easter (Paschal) candle stands prominently at the head of the center aisle, at the entrance to the sanctuary.

A sign

The Easter candle is a sign of the Risen Christ’s enduring presence in our midst and of our participation in his victory over death.

Details of the Easter Candle

Pascal Candle Alwyn Ladell St Francis of Assisi Church, Flickr Creative Commons
Pascal Candle Alwyn Ladell St Francis of Assisi Church, Flickr Creative Commons

You will notice that there is a cross on the Easter Candle. There are also five nails into which five grains of incense have been placed, While the cross represents the instrument of Christ’s death, the nails represent the wounds on his body, The candle, therefore, represents the Lord’s passing from death to life. The grains of incense represent Christ’s death which has been accepted by God as a “fragrant offering and sacrifice” (Ephesians 5:2). Furthermore, the book of Revelation says that incense represents “the prayers of the saints” which rise before God (Revelation 5:8)

Beginning and the End

from wikipedia
from wikipedia

Above and below the cross are the letters “Alpha” and “Omega” (see image). These are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet respectively. In between these letters are numerals indicating the current year—2015. The juxtaposition of these numerals conveys that Christ is eternal, his love is undying, his victory is everlasting: “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” (Revelation 22:13)

The symbolism

Mike Baptism, Flickr Creative Commons
Mike Baptism, Flickr Creative Commons

At the conclusion of the Easter Season, after the last Mass of Pentecost Sunday on May 24, the Easter Candle is moved to a place next to the baptismal font where it will be lit at every baptism. It will also be lit and placed next to the casket at every funeral Mass. Hence it will remind us that in the water of Baptism we are called to share in Christ’s victory or sin and death by embracing a life of discipleship. With the death of every Christian we celebrate his or her passing from death to new life—in the pattern of Christ himself.

The final word

The Easter Candle silently, yet eloquently, expresses the story of our Easter faith. This “pillar of light” towering over us, reminds us that “God’s Grace is taller than us, bigger than us, greater than us.” The victory of Christ is the final word to the human story.

Copyright 2015 Steven Michael LaBaire

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