Paschal candle

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The Paschal Candle.

In Roman Catholic, Anglican, and some Protestant churches, the ceremonial lighting the Paschal candle is one of the most solemn moments of the Easter Vigil on the Saturday evening before Easter. On Holy Thursday of the same week the entire church is darkened when all the candles and lamps are extinguished. Then, on Saturday, a special sacred fire is lit. This represents the risen Christ whose light dispelled the darkness (death).

The Paschal candle is the first candle to be lit with this sacred flame; it represents the light of Christ which has come into the world. As the Paschal candle is lit the deacon chants the Exultet. Even a partial translation conveys the emotions of joy and exultation.

Sing, choirs of heaven! Let saints and angels sing! Around God's throne exult in harmony! Now Jesus Christ is risen from the grave! Salute your King in glorious symphony!
Sing, choirs of earth! Behold, your light has come! The glory of the Lord shines radiantly! Lift up your hearts, for Christ has conquered death! The night is past; the day of life is here!
Sing, Church of God! Exult with joy outpoured! The gospel trumpets tell of victory won! Your Savior lives: he's with you evermore! Let all God's people shout the long Amen!

This candle is traditionally the first to be lit and the one from which all other lights are taken. In most cases today the candle will display the Greek letters alpha and omega (the beginning and the end), together with the year indicated at the base. Five grains of incense in red are embedded in it to represent the wounds of Jesus Christ (from the nails in each hand and foot and the spear in the side).

It is also used at baptisms to light the candles that represent the light of Christ. For that reason, after the Easter season, it is frequently found near the baptismal font.

Throughout the year, the Paschal candle is lit in all instances of baptism and in the rituals of death: funeral, Mass of Repose and Mass of Requiem.

In the medieval church they often reached a stupendous size. The Paschal candle of Salisbury Cathedral was said to be 36 feet tall.

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