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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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'The Light of Christ'

A little lesson about the large candle

May the light of Christ, rising in glory, dispel the darkness of our hearts and minds.

Each year at Easter vigils, these words pierce the darkness as Christians gather around the lighting of a large candle. This is the paschal candle, sometimes called the Christ candle or Easter candle. Its name comes from pesach, the Hebrew word for Passover.

Seminarian Michael Kern uses a variety
Seminarian Michael Kern uses a variety of tools to cut and paint melted wax onto one of his homemade candles in his Bexley, Ohio, workshop. He believes congregations can make their own paschal candle, which makes a grand entrance and takes center stage at Easter Vigil.
Congregations may have different Easter celebrations and very different-looking paschal candles, but the meaning and symbols are universal.

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it” (John 1:5).

After a period of darkness beginning on Good Friday, congregations first light this candle during their earliest Easter celebration, signaling Christ’s banishment of death and darkness. This tall, white candle represents Christ’s steadfast presence among us, and its flickering flame dances with light and warmth, illuminating our shadowed world. We continue lighting the paschal candle throughout the Easter season. In fact, most congregations light it until Ascension Day.

We also light this special candle for baptisms, signifying the Spirit and fire that John the Baptist promised to those baptized in Christ. From this flame, a member of the congregation lights another candle, which is given to the newly baptized along with these words:

“Jesus said, I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will have the light of life” (Evangelical Lutheran Worship, page 231) or “Let your light so shine before others that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Lutheran Book of Worship, page 124, and ELW, page 231).


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