Our Lenten journey is drawing to an end. As I reflect on this time that our communities have walked this journey, I find myself increasingly grateful we were able to experience this Lent during Pope Francis’s Jubilee Year of Mercy. For me, focusing on the theme of God’s mercy - that God’s love will heal us, strengthen us, and save us - has made this season of prayer, sacrifice, and charity more rich, more relevant, more renewing.
During this week as we prepare for celebrations of the Sacred Triduum (the “Great Three Days”), there is much work to be done. Among the many tasks is the preparation of the new Paschal Candle, which will be used in a variety of ways during the coming year. The Paschal Candle, lit from the Easter Fire on Holy Saturday night, reminds us that the Light of Christ dispels all darkness. We will stand together in the dark of night, aware of the various shadows in our lives, but illumined and warmed by the Light of Christ.
The Paschal Candle is one of many signs of the Resurrection, reminding us of the promise that as we die with Christ, so we will live with him. It stands prominently in the sanctuary near the ambo and burns throughout the Easter Season, and then returns to its place near the baptismal font for the rest of the year. There it burns for the celebration of Baptism as the light of Christ illumines the hearts of the baptized. The Paschal Candle also burns during funerals, as a prayer for the fulfillment of the promise for the deceased to share in Christ’s Resurrection.
As our 2015 Paschal Candles stand today as little more than unsightly stumps (mine has already burned below one of the incense nails), I am reminded that the candle itself has burned as an “offering to God,” and there is great beauty in what has been offered. The Candle has welcomed new members in Baptism and has accompanied those who have died during their funerals. On Saturday night at the Easter Vigil I will chant the Exsultet (the Easter Proclamation), stating this about the Paschal Candle:
On this, your night of grace, O holy Father,
accept this candle, a solemn offering,
the work of bees and of your servants’ hands,
an evening sacrifice of praise,
this gift from your most holy Church.
But now we know the praises of this pillar,
which glowing fire ignites for God’s honor,
a fire into many flames divided,
yet never dimmed by sharing of its light,
for it is fed by melting wax,
drawn out by mother bees
to build a torch so precious.
May we be encouraged and enlivened by the powerful sign of the Light of Christ in our new ‘pillar’ for this Year of Grace. The staff joins me in thanking you for the privilege of supporting you in your ministry in your communities. May your music be a blessing for those you serve as an offering of praise to our Risen Lord. We wish you and your loved ones a blessed and joyous Easter.