During the Easter season, you will see the large white Christ Candle at the front of our worship space. This candle is blessed and lit at an Easter Vigil or on Easter Day and is lit at worship throughout the 50 days of Easter and then when there’s a baptism or funeral/memorial service.
Sometimes we have called this candle the Paschal Candle. The term paschal is from the Latin word for the Hebrew word “Pesach” which means “Passover.” We use it to signify our belief that the death of Jesus is related to the sacrifices of the Hebrew people during their flight from slavery in Egypt. Both stories reflect a God whose love supports God’s people when they face into forces of domination and control.
The candle is referred to as the “Christ Candle” because its symbolism is tied to Christ’s resurrection. Traditionally, the lights inside a church are extinguished at the stripping of the altar on Maundy Thursday and not re-lit until the Easter Vigil, late on Holy Saturday. The Easter Vigil begins with the lighting of a fire – symbolizing the light of Christ returning to the world in the Resurrection. This tradition is rooted in ideas about light and darkness being paralleled to life and death. It is from this fire that the Christ Candle is lit. Frequently, it is a new candle each year and it lights candles throughout the church (and even in the hands of worshippers) at the Vigil.
At baptisms, the Christ Candle is lit to signify the flame of the Holy Spirit that is promised to us in baptism. We light a baptismal candle from the Christ Candle which is handed to the newly baptized with the words, “Receive the light of Christ.” At funerals and memorial services we lit the Christ Candle and place it near the casket or urn to symbolize the hope of the resurrection.