Over the next two weeks I am going to share with you some information on this important Christian symbol. Almost all Christian denominations living a Liturgical expression of Faith use the Paschal Candle. It is the symbol of the Risen Christ in a congregation.
The Christian origins are derived from the ancient evening service known as the Lucernarium. This came to us from our Jewish heritage of lighting lamps for an evening prayer service around the weekly celebration of the Sabbath. The ritual lamp lit in the Synagogue at the close of the Sabbath and the evening sacrifice of light and incense, ordained by God to be offered in the Temple (see Ex. 27:20-21 and Ex. 30:6-8), are the rites of the Hebrew Scriptures. These constitute the origin of the Christian Lucernarium, or the service of “lighting of lamps.”
In early Christian life this rite was associated with an evening celebration of Eucharist, thus what originated in our Hebrew tradition became a celebration of the Resurrection in the gathered early church. The praying of Psalm 140 became a universal custom, still in use in some Christian evening prayer traditions. At the lighting of the lamps there is sung the hymn “Phos hilaron” or “Gracious Light” found in the Book of Common Prayer on page 118 under Evening Prayer.
Next week we will explore the development of Vespers, and the evening rites developed around Our Lords’ Sepulcher. Continue on your resolve for a Holy Lent.
See you next week–
I remain your bro. John, O.C.P.