… about the special candles we light for Sunday morning worship?
Probably most of you are familiar with the two Eucharistic Candles that are on the altar. They are lit any time we celebrate the Holy Eucharist. Originally, like most of the candles, their original purpose was to provide light – in this case so the priest could see the book and the elements on the altar. The two three-branch candelabras behind the altar are the Office Candles. Traditionally, they were lit when there was music, because more light was needed so that musicians could read their music. We light them even for spoken services.
Then there is the tall decorated candle that is up in front of the nave (the area where the people sit) near the pulpit. That’s the Paschal Candle representing the light of Christ. Traditionally, each year the new candle is lit from a new fire at the Great Vigil of Easter. It is then carried in procession into the church where it sheds light in the darkness of the church while we listen to the stories of salvation from the Old Testament. If the Great Vigil is not celebrated, the Paschal Candle is lit on Easter Day. It stays lit for the Great Fifty Days of Easter – through the Day of Pentecost. We also light the Paschal Candle at baptisms and at funerals. The presence of the Paschal Candle in our worship reminds us of the great Paschal Mystery – the crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ. It also serves to remind us of our own baptism and baptismal vows as well as the ongoing light of Christ in our world.
Finally, the one that may not be familiar is the Peace Candle. Ours is over to the right side, near the lectern. This candle has a story to go with it. Quite a number of years ago, Bishop Vincent Warner went on sabbatical. Part of his time was spent in the Holy Land. He came home with a passion for the land and its peoples and the desire for peace in that holy place. He asked that all parishes light a candle in vigil until peace is achieved in Israel/Palestine. And so, we still light the candle in vigil and prayer for peace in Jerusalem and Israel.