Each year, one of the most striking moments of the Easter Vigil is the presentation of the Paschal Candle and the Exultet the Easter Proclamation. It speaks to us not only of the candle itself, but also about us, about who we are. Lifting the light up onto the paschal candlestick, its light is multiplied, divided yet undimmed, among us, each of our lights representing our baptism, our new identity given to us in Christ the very first time we received the light so long ago. During the Easter season, admiring that light, that pillar of fire, what can it tell us about ourselves and who we are called to be?
To begin with, as the proclamation reminds, the candle is “the work of bees”… many bees. Thousands of little instruments of earthly nature came together to make the wax of this candle. Likewise, we are – each of us – the product of a multi-generational effort. All that came before us worked together to make us who we are. We should give thanks and pray daily for those who went before us, not only in our family lines, but in the lineage of the Church. We are the inheritors of their efforts.
But the our identity doesn’t stop with the natural. If that were the case, life would be meaningless, colored and condemned by the inevitability of death. All those generations that came before us knew this… and so, well aware of our mortality, we were – like the Easter candle – raised up to the glory of God, “hallowed to the honor of His name.” Scored with the Greek letters Alpha and Omega, the candle shows an awareness of our beginnings, but also of the divine end in store for those who live out their baptismal identity. Never lose track of that orientation, lest you should fall back into mortality and its consequences.
The candle, made by nature, lifted to the glory of God is by its nature made to be shared. It’s light spreads, not only on its own within the limits of the church building. In us, that light spreads into the whole world. It’s sanctifying power is meant to, “dispel wickedness, wash faults away, restore innocence to the fallen and joy to mourners.” If we keep all that locked up in a building, or even with the polite confines of our immediate family, we deny the candle’s identity and our own. Be joyful and share that light in whatever way you can each day.
So often we come up with excuses to put off our sharing of the light. Like the Italians we say, “domani, domani, e dopo domani.” “Tomorrow, tomorrow and after tomorrow.” Have we forgotten the very first words of Lent, “Now is a very acceptable time. Now is the day of salvation.” (II Cor. 6:2) The candle is marked by the year, “2-0-1-8.” It was built and consecrated for this time, no other; likewise each of us. “I am too young and inexperienced.” The Lord says otherwise (Jer. 1:7). “I don’t know what to say.” Neither did Moses (Ex. 6:30), and God made him leader of his people. I am too old, too infirmed. God doesn’t accept sacrifice only from the young and the able… He asks us each to give our all whatever that may be! Be an evangelist, share the light now, like the candle, in 2018!
Finally, as Holy Week reminded us so well, the candle, like our lives, is marked by the cross. It suffers as the cross is carved into its base… but it is not defeated by that mark. Indeed, the contrast of the cross’ wounds and the prevailing light gives the light so much more credibility. Like Jesus with the Apostles in the Upper Room, show the world your wounds. It’s not a matter of taking pride in our battle scars, but rather of reminding our brothers and sisters that vulnerability is not the end of us… that the limits of our flesh are not the limits of our being. Its worthy to note that the nails we insert into the candle contain a grain of incense in each of them… a reminder that each wound is a completely offered gift to God. Through that gift the wound is transformed.
This Easter season pay special attention each time you see the Paschal Candle burning in church. It’s an eloquent reminder and inspiration for us to be who we are meant to be, a people of the Light. -Amen