Easter Vigil Paschal Fire Candles and The Exultet

At the opening of the Easter Vigil on Easter Saturday everyone gathers outside the church and a "new fire" is lit and blessed.  Although today was sunny there was still a brisk biting breeze so I think we'll all be trying to get as near to the fire as possible this evening. The way the weather's heading, I think I'll be bringing the whole brazier into church with me.

The flame of the Paschal candle symbolizes the Risen Christ as light of the world and his presence in the midst of his people. The Paschal candle is sometimes referred to as the "Easter candle" or the "Christ candle."

 The term "Paschal" comes from the word Pesach, which in Hebrew means Passover, and relates to the Paschal mystery of salvation. 

The tall white candle in many ways signifies the Divine pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night that lead the Israelites in their Exodus from slavery in Egypt.
The equivalent of the Paschal candle in the Eastern Orthodox Church is the Paschal trikirion which differs both in style and usage.

The  Paschal candle is the largest candle in the worship space. In most cases today the candle will display several common symbols:
  1. The cross is always the central symbol, most clearly identifying it as the Paschal candle
  2. The Greek letters Alpha and Omega signify that God is the beginning and the end (from the Book of Revelation)
  3. The current year represents God in the present amidst the congregation

  1. Five grains of incense (most often red) are embedded in the candle (sometimes encased in wax "nails") during the Easter Vigil to represent the five wounds of Jesus: one in each hand, one in each foot, and the spear thrust into his side.

In the medieval church Paschal candles often reached a stupendous size. 
The Paschal candle of Salisbury Cathedral was said to have been 36 feet tall.

Paschal Candle
Paschal Candle (Photo credit: Lawrence OP)

The priest traces the symbols on the Paschal candle, saying words similar to: "Christ, yesterday and today, the beginning and the ending. To Christ belongs all time and all the ages; to Christ belongs glory and dominion now and forever. Amen."

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 and life, dispelling darkness of death. As it is lit, the priest says words similar to: "The light of Christ, rising in Glory, dispel the darkness of our hearts and minds."

Then everyone 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: Below is a very brief extract of the old Exultet, which I prefer to this revised version here.  

Many more chants and mp3 recordings can be found  here.

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.
The video shows the lyrics along with the full sung version and revised translation of the Exultet with congregation responses...

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.

How Do You Make a Paschal Candle ?
Great video here 

This priest makes his own. Pope Francis would approve methinks :-))

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