Thursday, April 9, 2015

The Paschal candle

The Paschal candle, made afresh every year and inscribed with the date and the symbols alpha and omega, is a sign that Easter remains with us: not just for one day, or forty days, but all year long. After Pentecost, the Paschal candle is moved from its place in or around the sanctuary to the baptistery, where it stands beside to be burned whenever a christening is to take place. There's not much I can add to this which you can't read about in the Catholic Encyclopedia, but I wonder if any of you noticed how much larger the candles appear to be in those Exultet scrolls from yesterday's post? I highlight one passage from the Encyclopedia's article below:
"Naturally the medieval tendency was to glorify the paschal candle by making it bigger and bigger. At Durham we are told of a magnificent erection with dragons and shields and seven branches, which was so big that it had to stand in the centre of the choir. The Sarum Processional of 1517 directs that the paschal candle, no doubt that of Salisbury cathedral, is to be thirty-six feet in height, while we learn from Machyn's diary that in 1558, under Queen Mary, three hundred weight of wax was used for the paschal candle of Westminster Abbey. In England these great candles, after they had been used for the last time in blessing the font on Whitsun Eve, were generally melted down and made into tapers to be used gratuitously at the funerals of the poor (see Wilkins, "Concilia", I, 571, and II, 298)"

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