A New Candle and a New Creed
The Paschal Candle
At our Easter Bonfire on Holy Saturday, we will light a tall candle called a Paschal Candle. Set on a large candlestick and placed near the baptismal font, this candle is a traditional symbol of the light of the risen Christ. While every gathering of God’s people recalls the resurrection, this candle is dedicated for occasions that specifically focus on the promise of new life. Traditionally the church lights this candle at the Easter Vigil (what we’re calling our Easter Bonfire), throughout the Easter Season, at baptisms and affirmations of baptism, funerals, All Saints Day, and on other occasions oriented around explicit celebrations of new life in Christ.
“Fire has long been a sign of God’s presence. The Old Testament is full of examples: the burning bush on Mount Sinai, the pillar of fire in the desert, the tabernacle lamps, and the sacrificial fires on the altar of the temple in Jerusalem. Early Christians rather naturally viewed the kindling of new fire as a symbol of the presence of their resurrected Lord, the new pillar of fire.
In Jerusalem, the earliest Christians blessed and lighted candles every Saturday night. By at least the fifth or sixth century, the custom had become associated with celebrations of the Resurrection, and paschal candles had found their way into the liturgy of the Western church.”
You’ll notice that the candle is rather large. “The paschal candle should be of substantial size, even huge, if its important symbolism is to speak clearly. Even the stand in which it rests should be of great size.” We will first light this candle at the Easter Bonfire, and dedicate its use at our festive worship on Easter Sunday morning.
Quotes are from How Do We Use a Paschal Candle? published by the ELCA’s worship team.
The Nicene Creed
This Easter Season we will say the Nicene Creed in worship to announce the faith we share in God our Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier. We have not used the Nicene Creed much, if at all, during my time so far at New Joy. For some of us these words will be new; for others, this creed will bring back memories of saying what I called “the longer creed” when I was a kid.
The Nicene Creed was adopted by a council of bishops gathering in Nicaea in 325 (and updated at a council in Constantinople in 381). The bishops adopted the Nicene Creed to articulate and clarify the Christian faith in the face of various heresies (that, among other things, denied the divinity of Jesus). This creed came to be regularly used in worship by around the 11th century.
The Apostles’ Creed developed in the earliest centuries of the church’s life as part of ancient baptismal practices. However, the Apostles’ Creed was not used as a stand-alone creed in worship until about the 20th century.
Both creeds are “ecumenical” – widely accepted by Christians of various traditions, cultures, and eras. When we speak these creeds, we join with Christians of all time and place in proclaiming the timeless faith we share.