A Paschal candle is a big, white candle used in liturgies in Western Christianity (viz., the Roman Catholic Church, the Anglican Communion, Lutheran, and Methodist churches, among others). A new Paschal candle is blessed and lit every year at Easter, and is used throughout the Paschal season which is during Easter and then throughout the year on special occasions, such as baptisms and funerals.
The equivalent of the Paschal candle in the Western Orthodox Church is the Paschal trikirion, which differs in both style and usage.
The term Paschal comes from the Latin word Pascha, which came from the Hebrew word Pesach, which in Hebrew means 'Passover', and relates to the Paschal mystery of salvation. It is sometimes referred to as the "Easter candle" or the "Christ candle."
For congregations that use a Paschal candle, it is the largest candle in the worship space. In most cases today the candle will display several common symbols:
In the [medieval] Church, Paschal candles often reached a stupendous size. The Paschal candle of Salisbury Cathedral was said to have been 36 feet (11 metres) tall. Today, in the United States and Southern Europe (e.g., Italy and France) the candle is approximately 4 inches (10 centimetres) in diameter and 36 to 48 inches (90 to 120 centimetres) tall; in Northern Europe the candle tends to be shorter in height (19 to 24 inches/50 to 60 centimetres) and wider in diameter (3 to 5 inches/8 to 13 centimetres).
For churches that celebrate the Easter Vigil on the night of Holy Saturday, the ceremonial lighting of the Paschal candle is one of the most solemn moments of the service.
On Maundy Thursday of the same week the entire church is darkened by extinguishing all candles and lamps. This represents the darkness of a world without God.
At the opening of the Easter Vigil a "new fire" is lit and blessed. The minister will trace the symbols (mentioned above) on the Paschal candle, saying words similar to: "Christ, yesterday and today, the beginning and the end, the Alpha and Omega. To Him belongs all time and all the ages; all glory and dominion is his now and forever. Amen." They then insert five grains of incense (reminiscent of the nails used to fasten Christ on the Cross) on the five points of the cross , saying: "By His holy and glorious wounds may Christ our Lord guard and keep us."
The Paschal candle is the first candle to be lit with a flame from this sacred fire, representing the light of Christ coming into the world. This represents the risen Christ, as a symbol of light (life) dispelling darkness (death). As it is lit, the minister may say words similar to: "The light of Christ, rising in Glory, dispel the darkness of our hearts and minds."
Typically, the worshiping assembly then processes into the church led by the Paschal candle. The candle is raised three times during the procession, accompanied by the chant "The light of Christ" to which the assembly responds "Thanks be to God". Following the procession the Exultet is chanted, traditionally by a deacon, but it may be chanted by the priest or a cantor. The Exultet concludes with a blessing of the candle:
Accept this Easter candle,
a flame divided but undimmed,
a pillar of fire that glows to the honor of God.
(For it is fed by the holy melting wax, which the mother bee brought forth
to make this precious candle.)
Let it mingle with the lights of heaven
and continue bravely burning
to dispel the darkness of this night!
May the Morning Star which never sets
find this flame still burning:
Christ, that Morning Star,
who came back from the dead,
and shed his peaceful light on all humanity,
your Son, who lives and reigns for ever and ever.
From the New Roman Missal:
On this, your night of grace, O holy Father, accept this candle, a solemn offering, the work of bees and of your servants’ hands, an evening sacrifice of praise, this gift from your most holy Church. But now we know the praises of this pillar, which glowing fire ignites for God’s honor, a fire into many flames divided, yet never dimmed by sharing of its light, for it is fed by melting wax, drawn out by mother bees to build a torch so precious. O truly blessed night, when things of heaven are wed to those of earth, and divine to the human.
Therefore, O Lord, we pray you that this candle, hallowed to the honor of your name, may persevere undimmed, to overcome the darkness of this night. Receive it as a pleasing fragrance, and let it mingle with the lights of heaven. May this flame be found still burning by the Morning Star: the one Morning Star who never sets, Christ your Son, who, coming back from death’s domain, has shed his peaceful light on humanity, and lives and reigns for ever and ever.
In some traditions, the base of the candle may be ritually immersed in the baptismal font before proceeding with the remainder of the service.
This candle is traditionally the one from which all other lights are taken for the Easter service.
The candle remains lit at all worship services throughout Easter season which ends on Pentecost Sunday, (or in some [ specify ] traditions until Ascension Day, when it is extinguished just after the Gospel), during which time it is located in the sanctuary close to the altar. After the Easter season, it is frequently placed near the baptismal font. Before 1955, the option existed of blessing the baptismal font on the Vigil of Pentecost, and this was the only time the Paschal candle would be lit at services after Ascension.
The Paschal candle is also lit during baptisms to signify the Holy Spirit and fire that John the Baptist promised to those who were baptised in Christ. During the baptismal rite in many traditions, a small lit candle will be given to the newly baptised by a member of the community, with words similar to, "Let your light so shine before others, that they might see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven." (Matthew 5:16)
The Paschal candle is also lit and placed near the casket or urn during funeral services such as the Mass of Repose and the Mass of Requiem.its important to note that once lit the candle should remain burning until finished. This is to signify the hope of the resurrection into which Christians are baptised.
In the Eastern Orthodox and Byzantine Catholic churches, there is no direct correspondence to the Western Paschal candle. However, throughout Bright Week, the priest carries a cross and paschal trikirion at all of the services, especially when censing, during the Little Entrance or when giving the Paschal greeting. The trikirion consists of three lit candles in a candlestick, which the priest carries in his left hand. In the Slavic tradition, the three candles may be white or different colors: green, red, blue. The deacon also carries a special Paschal candle which is a single large candle whenever he leads an ektenia (litany) or censes.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Paschal candles .|
Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913).. Catholic Encyclopedia . New York: Robert Appleton Company.
In Christianity, Holy Week is the week immediately preceding Easter. It is also the last week of Lent, in the West, – Palm Sunday, Holy Monday, Holy Tuesday, Holy Wednesday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday – are all included. However, Easter Day, which begins the season of Eastertide, is not.
Holy Saturday, the Saturday of Holy Week, also known as Holy and Great Saturday, the Great Sabbath, Black Saturday, Joyous Saturday, Hallelujah Saturday, Glorious Saturday or Easter Eve, and called "Joyous Saturday" or "the Saturday of Light" among Coptic Christians, is the day after Good Friday. It is the day before Easter and the last day of Holy Week in which Christians prepare for Easter. It commemorates the day that Jesus' body lay in the tomb and the Harrowing of Hell.
The Paschal Triduum, Holy Triduum, or Easter Triduum, or the Three Days, is the period of three days that begins with the liturgy on the evening of Maundy Thursday, reaches its high point in the Easter Vigil, and closes with evening prayer on Easter Sunday. It recalls the Passion, Crucifixion, Death, burial, and Resurrection of Jesus, as portrayed in the canonical Gospels.
Holy water is water that has been blessed by a member of the clergy or a religious figure. The use for cleansing prior to a baptism and spiritual cleansing is common in several religions, from Christianity to Sikhism. The use of holy water as a sacramental for protection against evil is common among Lutherans, Anglicans, Roman Catholics, and Eastern Christians.
"Gloria in excelsis Deo" is a Christian hymn known also as the Greater Doxology and the Angelic Hymn/Hymn of the Angels. The name is often abbreviated to Gloria in Excelsis or simply Gloria.
Dikirion and trikirion are liturgical candlesticks, used by a bishop of the Eastern Orthodox and the Eastern Catholic Churches to bless the clergy and faithful. The words mean "dual candle" and "triple candle", respectively, and may also be called by the combined Greek form, "δικηροτρίκηρα", dikērotríkēra.
The Feast of the Ascension of Jesus Christ, also called Ascension Day, Ascension Thursday, or sometimes Holy Thursday, commemorates the Christian belief of the bodily Ascension of Jesus into heaven. It is one of the ecumenical feasts of Christian churches, ranking with the feasts of the Passion, of Easter, and Pentecost. Ascension Day is traditionally celebrated on a Thursday, the fortieth day of Easter, although some Christian denominations have moved the observance to the following Sunday. In the Catholic Church in the United States, the day of observance varies by ecclesiastical province.
Easter Vigil, also called the Paschal Vigil or the Great Vigil of Easter, is a liturgy held in traditional Christian churches as the first official celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus. Historically, it is during this liturgy that people are baptized and that adult catechumens are received into full communion with the Church. It is held in the hours of darkness between sunset on Holy Saturday and sunrise on Easter Day – most commonly in the evening of Holy Saturday or midnight – and is the first celebration of Easter, days traditionally being considered to begin at sunset.
The Holy Fire is described by Orthodox Christians as a miracle that occurs every year at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem on Great Saturday, or Holy Saturday, the day preceding Orthodox Easter. However, many dispute the alleged miraculous descent of the Fire.
A unity candle is a candle used in a wedding ceremony to symbolize two people joining in marriage.
The Exsultet or Easter Proclamation, in Latin Praeconium Paschale, is a lengthy sung proclamation delivered before the paschal candle, ideally by a deacon, during the Easter Vigil in the Roman Rite of Mass. In the absence of a deacon, it may be sung by a priest or by a cantor. It is sung after a procession with the paschal candle before the beginning of the Liturgy of the Word. It is also used in Anglican and various Lutheran churches, as well as other Western Christian denominations.
In Eastern Orthodox and Byzantine Catholic churches, an entrance is a procession during which the clergy enter into the sanctuary through the Holy Doors. The origin of these entrances goes back to the early church, when the liturgical books and sacred vessels were kept in special storage rooms for safe keeping and the procession was necessary to bring these objects into the church when needed. Over the centuries, these processions have grown more elaborate, and nowadays are accompanied by incense, candles and liturgical fans. In the liturgical theology of the Orthodox Church, the angels are believed to enter with the clergy into the sanctuary, as evidenced by the prayers which accompany the various entrances.
Easter Saturday, on the Christian calendar, is the Saturday following the festival of Easter, the Saturday of Easter or Bright Week. In the liturgy of Western Christianity it is the last day of Easter Week, sometimes referred to as the Saturday of Easter Week or Saturday in Easter Week. In the liturgy of Eastern Christianity it is the last day of Bright Week, and called Bright Saturday, The Bright and Holy Septave Saturday of Easter Eve, or The Bright and Holy Septave Paschal Artos and Octoechoes Saturday of Iscariot's Byzantine Easter Eve. Easter Saturday is the day preceding the Octave Day of Easter.
The ceremonial use of lights occurs in liturgies of various Christian Churches, as well as in Jewish, Zoroastrian and Hindu rites and customs.
Altar candles are candles set on or near altars for religious ceremonies. Various denominations have regulations or traditions regarding the number and type of candles used, and when they are lit or extinguished during the services.
A triple candlestick was prescribed until 1955 in the Roman Rite Easter Vigil service, held on Holy Saturday morning.
The Paschal Trikirion is a liturgical triple-candlestick used at Easter time in the Eastern Orthodox and Byzantine Catholic traditions.
Eastern Orthodox worship in this article is distinguished from Eastern Orthodox prayer in that 'worship' refers to the activity of the Christian Church as a body offering up prayers to God while 'prayer' refers to the individual devotional traditions of the Orthodox.
Lumen Christi is a Versicle sung in Catholic, Lutheran and some Anglican churches as part of the Easter Vigil. In Lutheran and Anglican services, it is sung in the local language. It is chanted by the deacon on Holy Saturday as he lights the triple candle. In the English Sarum Rite, one candle is lit.
Easter fires are typically bonfires lit at Easter as part of liturgical and secular celebrations.