At the beginning of the Easter Vigil a fire is lit and blessed. This new fire begins the vigil, for it represents the inflaming of the heavenly desire we should each have in our hearts as a response to God’s love. The desire in our hearts should be to love God in the same manner God has loved us; the God who laid down his life for each of us.
Once the fire is lit and blessed the Easter, or Paschal, Candle is prepared. In most places the candle has been prepared ahead of time and the priest/bishop merely traces over what has already been cut or placed on the candle.
The markings are as follows:
- He cuts a vertical line and says: Christ Yesterday and today
- He cuts a horizontal line and says: The beginning and the End
- He cuts the letter Alpha above the vertical line and says; The Alpha
- He cuts the letter Omega below the vertical line and says: The Omega
- He cuts the first numeral of the current year in the upper left corner and says: All Times belong to Him
- He cuts the second numeral of the current year in the upper right corner and says: And all ages
- He cuts the third numeral of the current year in the lower left corner and says: To Him be glory and power
- He cuts the fourth numeral of the current year in the lower right corner and says: Through every age and for ever. Amen.
After that the priest continues. Five holes representing the wounds of Christ should have been place in the cross. One above where the vertical line was cut, one in the center of the vertical line, hole two, one at the bottom of the vertical line, hole three, at the left side of the horizontal line is hole four and one the right side of the horizontal line is hole five. Into each of these holes the priest places a grain of incense. After placing the grains of incense in the holes the priest will place a small nail into each of the holes to help us remember Christ nailed to the cross. The five grains of incense inserted into the candle in the form of a cross recall the aromatic spices with which His Sacred Body was prepared for the tomb, [remind us] and of the five wounds in His hands, feet, and side. As the priest/bishop places the grains of incense in the holes or as he touches the prepared nails he says:
- By His holy
- and glorious wounds
- May Christ the Lord
- guard us
- and protect us. Amen
The priest/bishop then lights the Easter Candle saying or singing “May the light of Christ rising in glory dispel the darkness of our hearts and minds.”
Generally the Deacon, following the thurifer then carries the lit Easter candle into the church. At the doors of the church the Deacon proclaims “The Light of Christ” and the people respond “Thanks be to God”. After this proclamation the priest and other ministers light their candles from the Paschal (Easter) candle and share that light with those entering the church. If a fire cannot be started outside then the preparation prayers of the candle and the fire is omitted, and the procession starts with a simple lighting of the candle and procession from the back of the church to the front.
When the procession arrives at the middle of the church the Deacon once again proclaims "The Light of Christ" and the people respond "Thanks be to God." Again when the procession reaches the Altar the Deacon proclaims "The Light of Christ" and the people respond "Thanks be to God." One would hope that by the time the Easter (Pascal) Candle reaches the Altar the people would have filled the church with light and silence. The focal point of all of this is the Light of Christ come into the world. Each of us by our baptism takes the light of Christ to the world. Our commissioning at the end of every mass is to go out into the world taking Christ with us and returning with the needs of the world so we might pray for the needs of the world.
When the Easter (Paschal) Candle is in its stand beside the Ambo and everyone is in their places the Deacon goes to the Priest/Bishop seeking his blessing so that he might proclaim the Paschal praises in a worthy and fitting manner. This prayer is called the Easter Proclamation or the Exsultet. There are two forms both a long and short form but NOW: here comes the important part. In both the long form and the short form these words must be said/sung. “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 of your most holy Church." The pure beeswax of which the candle is made represents the sinless Christ who was formed in the womb of His Mother. The wick signifies His humanity, the flame, His Divine Nature, both soul and body. The work of making the candle is a joining with God in God’s creative power.
During the year, as the candle is used for the Easter season, for baptisms, funerals, and sometimes even weddings, we see the candle burn down. It should not retain its shape or size. AS it burns down we are reminded that time does not stand still and that our time on this earth is running out, have we changed. We, like the candle, must diminish so that Christ might increase. The Easter Candle is a reminder of Christ in our lives and our need, our calling, to be transformed to be healed from every form of evil and sin.
Why do insist on making my own candle? Because the liturgy of the church invites me to.