The Paschal Candle is a large candle that symbolizes the risen Christ and is a sight to see in the cathedral. The term “Paschal” concerns Easter or Passover. At the Easter Vigil, the Paschal candle is lit from the new fire. Hear from our congregant and liturgical volunteer, David Boysel, on this very laborious process that we are so grateful for him to embark on!
For several years now, I’ve made and decorated the Pascal Candle for Grace Cathedral. It’s made from the stubs of candles used in the Chapel of Grace over the last year and candles from the pulpit and lectern in the nave. It also always contains wax from a previous Pascal Candle.
I poured the candle on Saturday and, after cooling overnight, was able to open the mold. I’m always anxious that it’s well-formed. This one is perfect.
Polishing and decorating come next. It will be lit for the first time at the Easter Vigil and then used for all the Sundays in Easter, then throughout the church year for baptisms, funerals, and some weddings.
In many places, the candle bears the year, but ours doesn’t because, for a second year, it’s typically used in the Chapel of Grace and then a third year in the Columbarium, by which time the remaining part may be melted and repoured.
It’s not entirely about recycling or thrift; it’s about continuity, something we don’t see enough of anymore.
I’ve found that the tradition of making the Paschal Candle on-site is done in some other places, but it is fairly rare. I know of a couple of convents, a monastery, a few churches in England, and a few on the East Coast of the US which have this practice. There are probably more – and possibly I’ve even inspired one or two more places.
I’ve had to learn by doing, and there have been a few minor mistakes and mishaps in years past, but this year went very smoothly. It’s not a project that comes with instructions.
Visit the cathedral and see Pascal Candles at our Holy Week and Easter services.