Today is the last Sunday in Easter, the 43rd day of the Great 50 days of Easter. You will have noticed the large candle with the symbols and the date on it, which has been prominently burning on the steps the near the pulpit during our worship. This the Paschal candle. “Paschal” comes from the Greek word “Pascha,” the term for Easter used in much of non-English speaking Christianity, which literally means Passover. The Paschal Candle is a lovely symbolic tradition. In general, candles in church are symbolic of presence. The candles on and behind the altar anticipate and honor Christ who is made present to us on that table in the Bread and the Wine. The candle that always burns before the Reserved Sacrament to the right of our altar again represents the belief that Christ is truly present in the Sacrament. The small candles we light in prayer near the pulpit represent our own presence before God in prayer and supplication; they are a visual reminder that God sees us as we are, hears our prayers, and offers God’s presence in response.
The Paschal candle represents Christ’s post-Resurrection presence with his disciples in the 40 days after Easter. The candle is blessed at the Easter vigil and lit in near darkness, representing the light of Christ’s life rekindled in the darkness of the grave. The Paschal candle is then lit at every service from Easter until the Feast of the Ascension when Christ ascends to heaven (but we are extending its use until today: the Sunday after the Ascension). The Paschal candle is lit again whenever there is a baptism or a funeral. It is meant to remind us that in baptism we are joined with Christ in his death and resurrection, and that Christ is present with us always. At funerals the Paschal candle reminds us that Christ’s resurrection is a promise to us that our own death is not the end, and that we will always be in the loving care of the Resurrected Jesus.
Our Paschal candle has been recycled for a few years now, and it is burning low. Next Easter, it will be time to replace it. If you would like to contribute something toward a new Paschal Candle please contact Patty Wertz, the Altar Guild president. A Paschal candle is traditionally made out of beeswax (or least 51% beeswax), and they cost around $200-$400. This request is not made in desperation, Altar Guild members have been excellent stewards of their funds over the years and there is money enough to buy what we need for the church’s worship. However, contributing toward a new Paschal candle would be a meaningful and beautiful way to honor a person you love who has died in the hope of the Resurrection, and that is why I am offer the opportunity to contribute.