APRIL 1, 2018
The Easter Candle and the Exsultet
The Church’s liturgical life is so beautiful and powerful to experience. This is most noticeable during the Sacred Triduum—Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Easter Vigil.
The Easter Vigil is the “greatest and most noble of all solemnities”. This is true first and foremost because on this night we celebrate the glorious resurrection of Christ our Lord. Additionally, this Mass has much more liturgical symbolism than any other Mass. I want to focus in this article on the Easter (or Paschal) Candle, and the Exsultet.
The Easter Vigil begins outside as we light the Easter Fire, and prepare the Easter Candle. The Candle is marked with symbols of Christ as the priest says: “Christ yesterday and today, the Beginning and the End, the Alpha and the Omega. All time belongs to him, and all the ages. To him be glory and power through every age forever and ever. Amen. By his holy and glorious wounds, may Christ the Lord guard us and protect us. Amen.”
Once this is done, the Easter Candle is then lit from the fire and then carried in a triumphal procession into the dark church where it scatters the darkness with its light.
The Easter Candle is a symbol of Christ, who is the light of the world. And just as Jesus brought the light of his redemption to a world that had fallen into darkness through sin, so we symbolize this wonderful mystery of our faith by the Easter Candle’s light scattering the darkness inside the church.
Additionally, each member of the Church holds a candle, which is then lit from the Easter Candle. This small candle is a reminder of the candle we were given in baptism, and it reminds us that our faith and our hope of salvation come from Christ, who is our light.
Throughout the rest of the year, the Easter Candle will be lit for every baptism and funeral as a reminder to us that Jesus, who washes us clean in baptism, is our hope of resurrection after death.
Just after processing into the church with the Easter Candle, the priest (or a deacon or cantor) will sing the Exsultet. This ancient hymn tells of the glory of Christ’s resurrection. This song is so special that it is only sung once a year, during the Easter Vigil.
The songs name, “Exsultet”, comes from the first word of the song, “Exult”, as all in heaven and earth are invited to exult in “our God invisible, the almighty Father, and Jesus Christ, our Lord, his Son, his Only Begotten. Who for our sake paid Adam’s debt to the eternal Father, and, pouring out his own dear Blood, wiped clean the record of our ancient sinfulness.”
The song goes on to proclaim how important this night is, for, “This is the night, when Christ broke the prison-bars of death and rose victorious from the underworld.”
It then speaks about the glory of Christ’s redemption from our sins, even going so far as to say: “O happy fault [of Adam] that earned so great, so glorious a Redeemer!” For in Christ, not only do we have the hope of redemption from sin, but we now have the hope of eternal glory as participants in Christ’s own glory with the Father!
May you and your family have a very happy and blessed Easter.
You are in my daily prayers.
God bless you,
Fr. Nick VanDenBroeke