“The large candle next to the baptismal font is the Paschal (Easter) candle. It is first lit at the Easter Vigil and it represents Jesus Christ “our light.” It is lit during the Easter season, and for the celebration of baptisms, weddings, and funerals.”
[Webmaster’s note: On display at the Catholic church in St. Joseph, Minnesota is a “work of art” created by Fr. Dunstan Moorse, O.S.B., one of the most notorious offenders of sexual abuse at Saint John’s Abbey. Moorse victimized over fifteen individuals. Moorse sodomized some of his victims, threatened others, while members of the abbey community did nothing. ]
Light of Christ Surrounds Us! (Part 1)
Part One Source: http://www.churchstjoseph.org
These words from a song by David Haas paraphrase so well what we hear proclaimed in the “Exsultet”, the “Easter Proclamation”, which is chanted at the beginning of the Easter Vigil every year. All of us stand around the newly-lit Easter candle, each with his or her own candle in hand as we hear the joyful news of the Resurrection proclaimed anew.
One cannot but be taken by the splendor and beauty of yet another tall, brand spanking new Easter Candle burning in our midst! Easter has come once again! God has been faithful to the promise of new life in 2010 just as readily as in every year past! What a promise! What a joy to know, experience and celebrate! What a relief after the rigors of Lent!
Our Paschal candle is truly the work of local talent. The candle is made by Dunstan Moorse, O.S.B. of St. John’s Abbey. It is then carved and painting each year by Lee Eisenschenk, one of our parishioners. The old candle is given back to St. John’s so that it can be melted down and the wax used for new candles.) It’s always amazing to see how tall the new candle is. One doesn’t even realize how short the old one had become until the new one arrives! I actually like when the old candle starts to look a little stubby toward the end. It’s a reminder that a lot of praying, a lot of living as church has taken place! Just think of all the baptisms, funerals, weddings, and other special occasions through which the candle has accompanied us! The stubby candle is a good reminder of the passage of time.
The Paschal candle is the principal candle in the sanctuary. It is reminiscent of the pillar of fire that led the Israelites out of slavery. As Christians, Easter is our “Exodus” and the risen Christ is the light behind which we follow. When the Paschal candle’s use is called for, we try to make sure it is lit well before any worshipper even enters the door. This gives the visual impression that it has never really been extinguished since it was first lit at the Easter Vigil. It should immediately welcome anyone who enters the worship space prior to the liturgy.
THE LIGHT OF CHRIST SURROUNDS US! – part 2 (a.k.a. “Candles, Candles, Candles!”)
Have you noticed that in addition to the new Paschal Candle the consecration candles around our church have also been lit for this season? Literally, “the light of Christ surrounds us.” Perhaps you have wondered why they burn now and not at other times of the year. These consecration candles mark the spots where the Bishop anointed the walls of our church with Sacred Chrism on the day of its dedication. The candles are then lit every year on the anniversary of that occasion. However, their use is not limited to that day only. A parish is free to light the consecration candles any time it is deemed appropriate. For the last couple of years we have decided to have them burn constantly during the two “high festive seasons” of the church year, Christmas and the fifty days of Easter. Don’t you just love the added feeling of festivity they contribute to the overall worship environment? They are like icing on the cake! The whole building communicates “joy!” Over time, using the candles in this way will hopefully come to be noticed by all as a definite signal that something “special” is taking place.
This leads to some comments I would like to offer about liturgical environment in general:
So often, when communities want to mark a season as being special, they feel they must add something to the liturgical environment. The usual thinking is that this “something” should be unique, innovative and one-of-a kind. Additionally, communities often fall into the trap of thinking that this special item needs to be huge and dramatic in order to be effective. Some liturgists even prefer or feel a need to have environment that confronts people; “in-your-face” environment, so to speak. Sometimes this is called for and it works. However, more often than not, such an approach doesn’t work as well as people thought it would. The end result can be a sanctuary that is simply inappropriately “busy” in appearance and lacking visual “discipline” or focus. What was supposed to “add” to the liturgy actually ends up being a gimmick, a cliché, inappropriate for a place of worship. It upstages or detracts from the primary liturgical symbols of altar, ambo, Presider’s chair, and in the case of Easter, the Paschal candle. Usually, some of the most effective and appropriate seasonal “additions” are those that enhance or capitalize on what is already in place, architecturally. Using the consecration candles to communicate “heightened festivity” is a prime example of this approach.
A good thing to always keep in mind when creating liturgical environment is that we never “decorate” a church the same way we do our homes. Churches are already “decorated” when they are built. This means that, being places of worship, they already have in place all of the symbols that are needed within the course of celebrating liturgy. Creating liturgical environment is not so much about “decorating” as it is enhancing and shaping what is already present. It is not so much about communicating information as it is about stimulating the imagination of those who come to worship. I’ll delve more into this aspect of “information vs. imagination” next week.
May the light of Christ… and every Easter joy… surround you and yours each and every day!
Part Two Source: http://www.churchstjoseph.org