Shining Splendor: The Easter Candle
On Saturday of this week “the night will be as clear as day.” No, there is no nocturnal phenomenon to anticipate. Rather, in Catholic churches the Paschal candle will be lit, letting Christ shed “his peaceful light on all” during the Easter Vigil. The solemn night of the Easter Vigil floods the assembly with sensory images. Our eyes adjust from darkness to the light of a single flame on the Paschal Candle. Our eyes adjust again to the brightness and beauty of the faces illuminated by each one’s individual candle.
Our olfactory sense is also stimulated by incense and the beeswax from which the Paschal Candle is made—the pure beeswax symbolizing the sinless nature of Christ whose body was formed in the spotless womb of the Immaculate Virgin.
The sublime poetry of the Easter Proclamation, or Exsultet, heard only once a year is a chant containing metaphors and images so rich that the imagination is swept up in the “evening sacrifice of praise,” the “Church’s solemn offering.” (Usually a deacon has the honors of chanting; however, he can pass on the privilege. This year the deacon’s daughter will remind us to use our “full hearts and minds and voices” to “praise the unseen God.”)
The shining splendor of the Easter candle, blessed by the Exsultet, creates a feast connecting heaven and earth. As Hippolytus (3rd century) claims, “The Pasch came from God, came from heaven to earth: from earth it has gone back to heaven.”
Such a beautiful liturgy!