The Paschal Candle

The Rev. Jim Richardson, Priest-in-Charge

You will notice a very tall candle near the Altar, and it is adorned with a Jerusalem Cross with five nails. This candle will remain lit during all of our worship services in the Easter season, which lasts until Pentecost on June 4.

Called the Paschal Candle, it was first lit at the Great Vigil of Easter on Saturday evening April 15. The Great Vigil marked the beginning of the Easter season.

At the Great Vigil, our congregation followed the Paschal Candle, carried by Deacon Pamela, into the darkness of the church. The Paschal Candle signified the Light of the Risen Christ has come into the darkness of our world. As she carried the candle, Deacon Pamela chanted “The Light of Christ.” There was no cross in the procession – signifying that the Cross is vanquished. All that remains is the Light of Christ.

The nails in the candle signify the five wounds of Christ at the crucifixion, reminding us that the Light of Christ comes at a terrible cost.

The Paschal candle will be put away after the Easter season, but we will bring it out and light it for baptisms and for funeral services when someone dies.

From where does the candle get its name? Prime among the Christian feasts is Easter, or Pascha as it is called in Greek and Latin. Pascha derives from the Hebrew word Pesach – the Jewish Passover celebration. We are closer to our Jewish forbearers than we sometimes realize.

The origins of the English word Easter are murky. The Venerable Bede, writing in the 8th century, claimed the word came from festivals for Eostre, the Anglo Saxon goddess of spring and fertility. More likely it came from the high German word for the season, Ostern.

Whatever we call this season, the Paschal candle – the Easter candle – remains a reminder of the Light of the Risen Christ burning in our midst and in our hearts.

— Pastor Jim