The Symbolism of the Paschal Candle

Each year, on the occasion of Easter, a new candle is lit and used throughout the Easter Season. Here you will learn the meaning of each of the details of this liturgical object.

Newsroom (18/04/2022 8:30 PM, Gaudium Press) Symbol of the Resurrection of Our Lord, the Paschal Candle, is the only liturgical object that can be seen for forty days only. It is the evocation of the glorious Christ, conqueror of death. The Paschal Candle appears at the beginning of the Easter Vigil and disappears on Ascension Day.

Initially, the candle was the height of a man, symbolizing Christ-light shining amid the darkness. The French and Gallican theologians enriched it with symbolic elements.

Ceremonial and symbolism of the Paschal Candle

An acolyte takes the Paschal Candle to the celebrant, who engraves on it the following inscriptions (In italics, we put the words that the priest pronounces when placing each of the symbols on the candle):

1º – A cross: “Christ yesterday and today. Beginning and end.”

2º – The letters Alpha and Omega, the first and the last of the Greek alphabet. This means that God is “the beginning and the end of everything,” that everything comes from God, exists because of him and goes to him: “Alpha and Omega.”

3º – The numerals are placed between the arms of the Cross, marking the figures of the current year. This is done to express that Jesus Christ, true God and true man, is the beginning and the end of everything. The Lord of time is the centre of history and to Him belongs time, eternity, glory and power forever and ever.

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We offer this year and all that we do in it to Him. “To him be time and eternity, glory and power forever and ever. Amen.”

4º – Five grains of incense in the shape of carnations, in the five cavities previously made in the middle of the Candle, arranged in the form of a Cross. This ceremony symbolizes the five wounds of Our Lord in which the aromas and perfumes are taken by Saint Mary Magdalene and the holy women to the sepulchre.

Symbolism of incense

Incense is an aromatic substance that we burn in praise of God; its rising smoke symbolizes our desire for permanent union with Him and that our life, actions, and prayers may be pleasing to the Lord. It also represents our prayer, which we wish to reach God, like a sweet perfume of love.

These grains also symbolize the five glorious wounds of the Risen Christ, which enabled him to love us totally, as He himself had said: “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (Jn 15: 13): “By his holy wounds, his glorious wounds, may Christ the Lord protect us and keep us. Amen.”

The priest then lights the candle in the new fire he has blessed. The candle will serve to light the other candles and the lamp of the Shrine.

By Emílio Portugal Coutinho

Compiled by Gustavo Kralj

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