Non solum: Paschal Candle in Misson Parishes

Our parish is one of two mission parishes attached to a larger church in a nearby city. While each of our parishes has an Easter Sunday Mass, all of the other Holy Week services take place at the main city parish.

While this causes a number of issues, a practical one that I’ve been unable to resolve is what to do with the Paschal Candle each year. Since we haven’t had an Easter Vigil Mass for years, we’ve simply taken the new Paschal Candle out of its box, inserted the wax nails, and placed it in its holder, ready for Easter Sunday Mass.

Is there a better way we could do this? It seems theologically questionable to take the candle to the city parish for the Easter Vigil, thus resulting in two Paschal Candles at one Mass. Is there another way we could properly and ritually mark the beginning of the Easter season with this important symbol of Christ outside of the Easter Vigil?

7 comments

  1. I was in a Parish with a Chapel recently, and had looked this up on the USCCB site, which had said to merely bless the candle and set it out in the Chapel. However, being in a Parish with a Mission attached, I looked this up again and came across the info below. They actually suggest having all Paschal Candles present….
    via: http://www.usccb.org/prayer-and-worship/liturgical-resources/triduum/questions-and-answers.cfm

    14. In the case of mission churches and cluster parishes, can multiple paschal candles be used for the Service of Light?
    The Roman Missal, not envisioning the pastoral situation of mission churches or cluster parishes, specifies that only one paschal candle is used. To accommodate the particular circumstances, the Secretariat of Divine Worship might suggest that the candles from the mission churches or other parish churches could be present at the Easter Vigil, having been prepared in advance, and blessed alongside the main candle (perhaps having deacons or other representatives holding them). In keeping with the rubrics, for the lighting and procession only one candle should be lit (the principal one, or the one which will remain in that particular church). As the other candles in the congregation are lit, the other paschal candles could be lit and held(but not high, in order to maintain the prominence of the one principal candle) by someone at their place in the assembly. Once all the candles are extinguished after the singing of the Exsultet, the other paschal candles are put aside. On Easter Sunday morning, those candles could be taken to each of the missions and carried, lit, in the entrance procession at the first Mass at each church and put in place in the sanctuary.

  2. Parishes in this part of the world resolved this problem a number of years ago.

    For example, a parish has three churches: A, B and C. The churches and their communities are each several miles apart from each other, in two separate towns (A and C) and a former village (B) which is now a dormitory suburb. The original parish was church A with church B as an outstation. Church C, formerly a separate parish, was clustered with A and B later.

    Although the pastor lives alongside church A, the Vigil takes place in church C, the largest of the the three, and some people from churches A and B make the journey to be present. There are three paschal candles present and all three are blessed, but only candle C is lit and processed into the church. Candles A and B are put aside. At the end of the Vigil, candles A and B are lit from candle C and solemnly processed out of the church in the exit procession. The following morning, candles A and B are relit and solemnly processed into their respective churches at the beginning of their respective morning Masses. This (a) provides each church with the candle it requires for baptisms, funerals, etc, (b) gives each church a tangible link with the Easter Vigil, and (c) gives each church community a tangible link with the wider parish community. There does not seem to be any theological problem with this.

    As a matter of interest, the first parish to pilot this now has two more churches, both of which are in another town and village even further (10 miles) from the original three, though they are fairly close to each other. The Vigil still takes place in church C, now in the geographical centre of the enlarged parish, and five candles are blessed.

  3. Our mission parish has the remnants of a Paschal Candle from years gone by. All of the decorative wax has been carefully removed and it is a simple, dignified, somewhat significant candle, used maybe once or twice a year (at most) for a funeral or maybe a baptism. It sits in the confessional room otherwise.

    To the best of anyone’s recollection that same candle has been there for over 30 years … long before my time. It will probably be there for another 30 years … long after my time. Trying to change that tradition is not for the faint of heart.

  4. When one carefully looks at the 1962 Missal and the 1970 (and later) Missal, one notices that any references to “blessing” the Paschal candle have been dropped, as was the explicit prayer “blessing” the lit candle (immediately after the prepared Paschal candle was lit). In the current Missal, the new fire is “blessed” but the candle is only “prepared.” Hence I see no real reason why Paschal candles used at churches/chapels at which there was no Easter Vigil need to be present at some Vigil. On the other hand, the practice noted above in comment 2 (i.e., lighting other candles at the end and carrying them out) has some symbolic merit, although I would even omit the formal entry into the mission churches on Easter morning.

  5. When I was pastor of two rural parishes, we would hold the Easter Vigil in one of the parishes (alternating odd and even years), and for the parish that did not host the Vigil Service, on Easter morning I would compose a brief blessing prayer and proclaim it during the introductory rites.

    But Fr. Smolarski brings up a good point not often realized — the Paschal Candle is NOT blessed, the fire is. I would now rethink my former practice in light of his insight and remarks.

  6. Perhaps I should clarify that I was using “bless” as a convenient shorthand for “what happens to the candle before the procession”.

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