For the majority of Christians this is the only vigil they celebrate during the year. It is perhaps best to start with the dictionary meaning of the word "vigil" itself: "a purposeful or watchful staying awake during the ordinary hours of sleep." We wait and watch. We wait with the catechumens... As the light of day fades away, we turn our attention to the light of Christ. The Easter Vigil begins with a very special service of light. We gather around a fire and we think of Christ, the light of God's glory. As the light of this paschal candle enters the church, its light spreads to the candles held by each member of the worshiping community. In this light we keep watch. We tell our story: Creation, Abraham's sacrifice, our passing rhrough the Red Sea. Our joy and anticipation grow and we sing "Glory to God in the highest" (a hymn we have not used since Lent began). Each Easter, after the elect are baptized and confirmed, the Church turns to you and asks you again: Do you reject sin? Do you believe? Do you wish to renew your Baptism? The answers to these questions are two simple words: "I do." Simple words - but for a bride and groom on their wedding day, the "I do" contains years of history and even more years of promise. Indeed the "I do" of our Baptism, which we renew this holy night and seal in the Eucharist with the newly baptized, shapes every moment of our future, in this life and in the next. No other moment of the church year is as rich in powerful and early symbolism as the Easter Vigil. It is the night of all nights. It is the heart of Christianity. It is Easter!
[Source: Supplement to the Sunday Bulletin of February 3, 2008; St. Paul Parish, Saskatoon, SK, Canada.]
The lighting of the Paschal candle is one of the important ceremonies in the Easter Vigil. The Paschal candle symbolizes the resurrection of Jesus who overcame the darkness and death. Because of what the Paschal Candle represents, the Risen Lord in His Glory, the candle should be made of fine quality wax, pure beeswax. A new candle is used each year as a sign of each community's participation in the Easter mystery and celebrating that mystery in time. Our Paschal candle is made of pure, Saskatchewan-made, beeswax!
The Term "Paschal" comes from the word Pesach, which in Hebrew means Passover. The Paschal candle, is the largest candle in the worship space.
Traditionally, the Paschal Candle displays several meaningful symbols: The cross is the central symbol, mostly clearly identifying it as the Paschal candle. The Greek letter alpha (A) and omega (Ω) signify that God is the beginning and the end. The numbers of the current year represents God's presence here and now in the midst of the faithful. Give grains of incense, inserted into the wax, represents the five wounds of Jesus and the sweet spices brought by the devout women to the sepulchre.
The Paschal candle is lit during all liturgies during the 50 days of Easter. It provides a reminder that baptism is a symbolic death and rebirth with Christ; just like Christ's death and Resurrection. The Pascal candle is also lit at Christian funerals as a reminder that those who die in Christ are raised up with Him.
[Source: Supplement to the Sunday Bulletin of April 4, 2009; St. Paul Parish, Saskatoon, SK, Canada.]