The paschal candle is a large candle, often decorated with a red cross, blessed and turned on at the beginning of the solemn celebration of the Easter Vigil, Easter night, during which Christians celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
In each of the angles formed by the arms of the cross, it is engraved with the numerals of the current year. Above and below the cross, the first letter (Alpha) and the last letter (Omega) of the Greek alphabet are listed, showing that Christ is “the beginning and end of all things”.
The paschal candle is placed in the church sanctuary, near the altar, and remains there until the day of the Ascension. It is lit during each naming ceremony, and often also at funerals (as a sign of faith and hope in the Resurrection). The candle signifies the presence of the risen Christ in his Church.
Rite of fire at Easter
The Easter Vigil begins with a fire ritual, symbol of the risen Christ who is the light of the world. The priest blesses the fire and plant on the cross five grains of incense symbolizing the five wounds of Christ (hands, feet and side … etc). Then the paschal candle is lit from the fire and enter the head in the church, still in darkness, followed by the assembly, for the rest of the celebration.
Using the paschal candle
The paschal candle is used during Masses of the Easter season Sunday until Pentecost Sunday. Thereafter, it is then used throughout the year – until the Lent of the following year – for the celebration of baptisms, for which the liturgy always uses the candle as a reference to the mystery of Easter, which is at the heart of baptism: by baptism into effect, the new Christian is immersed in the death and resurrection of Christ. It is also lit during the funeral ceremonies.