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The Paschal Candle

Each year the paschal candle design is based on our Lent theme for the year, as well as the required elements of the Cross, Alpha and Omega, and the calendar year.

This Lent we have been exploring the Eucharistic liturgy, with the help of Alexander Schmemann’s book ‘The Eucharist: Sacrament of the Kingdom”. The paschal candle is symbolic of Christ’s Resurrection light in the darkness. Wanting to draw on at least some of the rich themes presented in the book, I based the design on the seven “I am” statements of Jesus recorded in the Gospel of John. These offer themes to represent the whole journey of both the Eurharistic liturgy and Christian discipleship, from gathering to sending out.

Graphic showing the design of the paschal candle1. I am the Way, the Truth and the Life           John 14:6
Our journey to the Kingdom starts with the gathering of the faithful, and with baptism to become followers of the Way of Christ and seekers of God’s truth. The vine grows from the waters of baptism; pruned by God the vine-dresser and trained with the good stewardship of the shepherd.

2. I am the Good Shepherd           John 10:11, 10:14
In the Christian journey, the sacrament of baptism is followed by that of confirmation, here represented by the shepherd’s crook or Bishop’s crozier. A nod, too, to our Old Testament heritage: Moses strikes the rock with his staff to find living water, and God’s reveals his name – ‘I am who I am’ – to Moses through the burning bush (Exodus 3:14). This narrative is the archetype for the sayings found in the Gospel of John, showing Jesus to be truly divine as well as truly human.

3. I am the Gate           John 11:25
‘I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture’. Hopefully the gate here looks familiar. We pass through it each Sunday to enter the Sanctuary and attend the great wedding banquet of the Kingdom – the Eucharist.

4. I am the Resurrection and the Life           John 11:25
Jesus offers this statement to Martha before raising her brother Lazarus from the dead. Here, his words are represented by the empty Cross – the Resurrection of Christ at dawn on Easter Day.

Photo showing the paschal candle in church5. I am the Bread of Life           John 6:35
In the next two sayings Jesus offers us an insight into his Eucharistic nature – he tells the crowd that he is the true bread from heaven, which will satisfy them eternally, unlike the manna in the wilderness. The wheat motif is a nod to our monstrance, used to hold the consecrated Host during Evensong & Benediction.

6. I am the True Vine           John 15:1
In this saying Jesus asks the disciples to abide in him so that they might bear fruit; our Communion wine is ‘fruit of the vine and work of human hands’. The design of the vine mimics that of the carvings on our high altar – hidden other than during Holy Week.

7. I am the Light of the World           John 8:12, 9:5
This part of the design represents the candles at the high alta during the Eucharist. More importantly, it symbolises our sending out to be the Light of the World in Christ’s stead, recognising that the Eucharist is God’s gift to the whole world and not merely to those gathered in church. The flame looks forward, too, to the Feast of Pentecost and the birth of the Church through the Holy Spirit.

It’s a great privilege to serve Old Saint Paul’s by designing the Easter candle – thank you for trusting me with it.

As always, may the Light of Christ scatter the darkness from your heart and mind.

With every blessing,