An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church

Paschal Candle

A large candle that symbolizes the risen Christ. It is often decorated with a cross, symbols of the resurrection, the Greek letters Alpha and Omega, and the year. The term “Paschal” concerns Easter or Passover. At the Easter Vigil, the Paschal candle is lit from the new fire. It is carried by the deacon, who pauses three times and sings or says, “The light of Christ,” and the people respond, “Thanks be to God.” The Paschal candle is carried by the celebrant if there is no deacon. After it is carried to the chancel, its flame may be used to light candles held by members of the congregation. This symbolizes the spreading of the light of Christ into the congregation and the world. The Exsultet is sung or said after the Paschal candle is placed in its stand. It is customary for the Paschal candle to burn at all services from Easter through Pentecost (BCP, pp. 285-287).

After the Easter season, the Paschal candle is typically placed near the font. It should burn at baptisms, representing the new life in Christ that we share in baptism. The newly baptized person may be given a small baptismal candle that is lit from the Paschal candle. It may also be carried in procession at burials and placed near the coffin as a symbol of resurrection life.

Glossary definitions provided courtesy of Church Publishing Incorporated, New York, NY,(All Rights reserved) from “An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church, A User Friendly Reference for Episcopalians,” Don S. Armentrout and Robert Boak Slocum, editors.