St Joseph and St Mary Parishes in Freeport, IL

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Symbolism in the Church #27

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The Easter Candle has special meaning in every Catholic Church. We use it for funerals and baptisms, but the special occasion that gives it prominence is the Easter Vigil Mass every year. This Mass is the Saturday evening Mass for Easter. The short version of this Mass is about an hour and fifteen minutes. The long version could be up to three hours. This is the Mass where all those adults who are becoming Catholic receive the sacraments. They start in September with the RCIA classes and go a couple weeks beyond Easter.
In the Easter Vigil Mass, one of the chants has the priest or deacon say, “a pillar of fire.” This wording should take us back to Moses, when the new people of God followed a pillar of fire by night and a pillar of cloud in the day (Ex 13:21-22). The candle resembles a pillar of fire because it is tall and thin, and we light it on top. The Saturday Easter Vigil Mass is the very first announcement of the resurrection of Jesus. The announcement of Jesus defeating death is the announcement of our very freedom. In Moses’ time, the people were freed from physical slavery. Jesus freed (past tense) and frees (present tense) us from the slavery to sin and death. It is all tied into the lamb that is slain, which we consume today in the bread given to us. With such power and authority, He has wiped out all sins, freed us from slavery to sin, and set a new path for us.
Crossing the Red Sea was just the beginning of freedom, though, just like Baptism is just the beginning of living a life for Christ. We have to follow the way of the cross as is signified on the candle. This is not just any cross on the candle. It is the cross of Jesus Christ. It has the infinite value of His blood on it because Jesus is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. The Alpha is signified by the Α. Alpha is the first letter of the Greek alphabet. That is why it symbolizes the beginning as in the first words of Genesis, “In the beginning.” The Omega is symbolized by the Ω. The Omega is the last letter of the Greek alphabet, thus symbolizing the end. You will find these symbols on this year’s Easter candle on the top band above the cross. Jesus was there in the beginning when everything was created. Jesus said in John, Chapter 8, verse 58, “Amen, Amen, I say to you, before Abraham came to be, I AM.” He is saying He is no mere human; He is God, the second person of the blessed Trinity, to be specific. He has no beginning and has no end. All other things may have a beginning and end, but there is no limit to Jesus.
There are five pieces of Incense on the cross, one for each wound on the cross. One for each hand, one for both feet, one for the crowned head, and another for the pierced heart. Jesus is the pleasing oblation before the Heavenly Father that can atone for our sins and those of the whole world. The bottom band has the year – it is 2019. Every year we get a new Easter Candle, so it will look different every year and from church to church. Regardless, they all have a cross with incense, the year, and the Alpha and Omega on it. This is part of the rite of blessing the Easter Candle.
The priest traces the sign of the Alpha and the Omega on the candle and says: “Jesus Christ, yesterday and today, the beginning and the ending, Alpha and Omega.”
The priest continues tracing the year over the candle saying: “All time belongs to Him, and all ages; to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever.”
As the priest puts the incense on the candle he says: “By His holy and glorious wounds, may Christ our Lord guard and keep us.”

Author: stjosephstmary

We are two Catholic Churches close to downtown Freeport, IL. Our communities are over 150 years old and have been dedicated to our lord Jesus Christ since our inception. We believe in God the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord, who was concieved by the Holy Spirit, born of ythe Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilot, was crucified, died and was buried; he descended into hell; on the third day he rose again from the dead; he ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of God the father almighty; from there he will come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting. Amen.

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