30 May 2009

Paschal Candle

For how long should it rest in the sanctuary and burn? I always felt that there was a certain mechanistic naivete in the reasons given for extinguishing it after the Gospel of Ascension day. I wonder if readers can supply information about the varieties of usage which have existed in the Western Church: I believe, for example, that in Durham Cathedral it burned for 50 days: from Maundy Thursday until the Octave of the Ascension. And if we ever restore the baptismal understanding of Pentecost which the older liturgical books encourage, it will certainly be neater to retain the Candle's use until at least Pentecost Sunday (since it is lit and made use of in the Blessing of the Font in the Pentecost Vigil).

And I like the Novus Ordo idea of using the Candle at Baptisms and Funerals. I'm not a Pius V Fundamentalist!

Such questions could do with being resolved; since it is very untidy, in those churches that give a home to both forms of the Roman Rite, for the Candle to be alight at OF Masses ... but dematerialised away for EF Masses.


  1. Sarum, according to Sandon; in the Exsultet, after "quam in honorem Dei rutilans ignem accendit.":

    "The paschal candle is now lit with the new fire from the triple candle and is not extinguished until after Compline on the following day. It burns also on the following occasions: during Matins, Mass, Vespers and Compline on the Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday after Easter, and on the octave of Easter, and on Ascension Day, and also on the feasts of the Annunciation and the Finding of the Holy Cross if these fall within Eastertide; during Matins; Mass and Vespers but not during Compline on the Thursday and Friday after Easter; during Mass on all Sundays from the octave of Easter to Ascension Day. and on the feasts of St Mark and Sts Philip and James; during Vespers and Compline on the vigil of Ascension. The paschal candle is to be removed on the Friday after Ascension Day."

  2. The original practice seems to be that the Paschal Candle burned on Holy Pascha. The period was then extended to the Monday and Tuesday and then for entire seven days. Later Paschalitide. According to A.J. MacGregor's 'Fire and Light in the Western Triduum' the day of extinguishing was usually Ascension Day but in a few churches it was lit until Pentecost or Trinity. (pp 399-400)