THE PASCHAL CANDLE AND TRANSFER – THE HOLIEST OF CANDLES
For most of my childhood, I went to Catholic school. I vividly remember parts of the religion taught to me. Some dogma still remains with me today. I have fond memories of the nuns who taught me and the religion books we would study. There wasn’t much discussion of the Bible, except for church on Sunday when the priest would discuss portions of the testament.
I DO recall the months of May being devoted to the Virgin Mary. June is the month of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. We had to attend Mass each day before school during these months, as well as Mass on Sunday. I do have fond memories of me and my mom being together during these mornings. I remember one good part was after church, before school, mom and I would have to stop for breakfast at the local luncheonette. It was decades ago. Family memories are so precious! Are you looking to create religious traditions for your family members and memories in you later years? Then you will be interested to read on!
One really special symbol of Christ and the liturgical year in our lives is the Paschal Candle. Pictured above and below in its Christmas representation, the candle is the holiest candle in the Church.
The candle represents Jesus Christ as the Light of the World. These holy candles are made from 100% beeswax – the purest beeswax is used to make this symbol of the immaculate Christ – who was produced by Immaculate Conception.
The wick signifies his humanity, which is consumed by the flame, which symbolizes His Divine Nature. The candle, usually grand in size, anywhere from 2 or 3 inch diameter to God knows how large they can be in the Church!
The Paschal Candle is decorated with symbols of the Catholic religion. For example, the candle is adorned with the symbols of the Greek Letters for first and last (Alpha and Omega), because God is the beginning and the end. Other symbols are constantly seen, from a chalice, grapes and wheat ( symbolizing the Eucharist), to a lamb or other presence of Christ, our spiritual strength.
Have you ever heard of the “Liturgical Year”? There are 5 parts to the Liturgical year, if I remember correctly: Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter and the ordinary days – not including the months of May and June, for they were NOT ordinary days. However, I DO NOT remember if the Pascal Candle was lit in my parish in those special masses during May and June, back in New York City in the last century.
The Paschal Candle has its beginning each year during the Easter Vigil Service on Holy Saturday evening. In the service, the Paschal candle is lit from a new, holy fire, blessed by the priest. The tall, white, large candle is then placed in a special stand, called the transfer.
It now serves as a symbol of the Resurrection. The priest will add five grains of incense, to represent the five aromatic spices that were used to prepare Christ’s body for the tomb. They also symbolize the five wounds that Christ’s body suffered: hands, feet and side. These wounds remained after the Resurrection.
The candle is lit during the entire Easter season, since its initial lighting on Holy Saturday. It is used for Liturgical services during this season. When Pentecost is over, it is placed next to the Baptismal Font.
The candle will be lit during all Baptisms, signifying the passing of the light to the person being baptized. The candle can also be used at funeral mass. It is a reminder that the Sacrament of Baptism is meant as a death and spiritual resurrection in Christ. It is a testament to the Christian belief in the resurrection of the dead and everlasting happiness with Christ in Heaven.
The Paschal candle is also lit during Advent and Christmas time, of course. Jesus is the light of the world ! Candles will be burned for his birthday, too. I will be blogging more about candle use in the future so be sure to come back regularly for more blogs and wax and wicks.
I mentioned earlier an interest for the faithful family spiritual leader looking for religious traditions. A scaled-down version of the Paschal candle in various household sizes is available. It can make a delightful centerpiece. The creation of this centerpiece can be a simple business; as simple as placing a large, wide, white pillar candle in a safe holder ( shop now if you need to ) and add flowers. More about creating family traditions later. Let’s examine how Constantine created an Easter mandate for candles.
As mentioned in my blog, “A Brief History of Candles”, Emperor Constantine, in the 4th Century, is said to have transformed the dark of night into that rivaling daylight in the first mandated Easter ceremony to include candles. He is responsible for placing huge pillars of wax in places throughout the small town and church.
By the middle of the 10th Century, the Paschal Candle stood in a place of honor near the Gospel. And, by the 16th Century the candles are said to have weighed over 300 pounds each. After use, they were melted down for use at the funeral services of the poor.
The word, Paschal, comes from the Greek word meaning, “to pass over”. This comes from the Old Testament, specifically the night the Israelites fled Egypt for the Promised Land. The same night God struck down the houses of the Egyptians but passed over the houses of the Israelites, sparing them and their families.
With the rise of Christianity, the word was changed to symbolize the Lord’s death, resurrection and glorification. “Christ is our Light” is the prayer the priest utters at the initial lighting of the Paschal Candle. He is our light for hope, salvation and resurrection.
God’s goodness and warmth reach down to us through the flame of the candle. We follow the Paschal Candle’s light, which symbolizes the Christian way of following Christ and His teaching to inspire our own lives. Fire is a form of transformation. The flame burns up evil and helps us through life’s troubles and stresses.
If you want to honor Christ and His teaching in your homes this Easter, the purchase and use of a Paschal Candle could be the cornerstone of your Easter tradition. Remember, flowers also symbolize resurrection, for they emerge from the frozen earth each spring with the promise of new hope and happiness.
The Paschal Candle is a very important symbol in the lives of the Church and its following. It symbolizes God’s purity and sin-free nature, besides celebrating Christ’s resurrection after death.
The candle represents Jesus Christ as the Light of the World. The wick symbolizes His humanity, while the flame signifies His powers of resurrection after death.
Those wishing to honor the life of Christ in their homes may investigate the use of a Paschal Candle in establishing their own family’s ceremonies or practices. God Bless You!
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