7. WHAT IS A PASCHAL CANDLE?
The paschal candle is an ancient symbol of the risen Jesus and commonly used in liturgical parishes during the Great Fifty Days of Easter. It is a very large white candle, the largest and tallest of all sanctuary candles. Paschal candles are always inscribed with a cross, the current year, and the Greek letters alpha and omega (Revelation 1:8 and 22:13), signifying that the Lord is present in His church now in the present year and forever in eternity.
Sometimes, five grains of incense, symbolizing the five wounds of Christ, are pressed into the arms and center of the cross with pins or small nails. The paschal candle is prominently featured in the service of the Great Vigil at which it is first lighted and brought into the sanctuary.
According to ancient liturgical tradition, it is allowed to shine continuously throughout the Great Fifty Days until it is finally extinguished on Ascension Day. After that, it is removed from its place next to the altar and placed near the baptismal font. In the Catholic Church and most orthodox churches, it is lighted at baptisms to remind Christians that in baptism we are crucified and raised with Jesus (Romans 6:3-5).
The paschal candle is also lighted at Christian funerals as a reminder that those who die in Christ are raised up with Him.
8. WHAT ARE THE ORIGINS OF EASTER EGGS AND THE EASTER RABBIT?
In many ancient cultures, eggs were a common symbol new life and immortality. In medieval times, Christians adapted the egg to their own religious devotions by giving up the eating of eggs during Lent and resuming it after Easter. Eggs came to represent the Lord’s resurrection, just as Christ broke out of the tomb on Easter morning, the yolk of the egg breaks out of its shell when cracked. The decoration of eggs for Easter is part of the folk traditions of many cultures, although it has little or no religious significance any more.
The Easter rabbit is a popular secular symbol for Easter that has never taken on a Christian interpretation. It seems to have originated from the hare, a symbol of fertility in ancient Egypt and later on in parts of Europe. It is not altogether clear how the Easter rabbit became associated with the laying of eggs. Funny isn’t it?
9. WHAT IS THE SIGNIFICANCE OF EASTER TO THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH?
The foundation of the Christian faith is the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Christ Jesus lived the righteous and perfect life that we, because of our fallen and corrupt nature, cannot. He suffered the penalty for our sins by taking our guilt upon Himself and dying horribly on the cross at Calvary. He rose bodily from the dead that first Easter morning ensuring that we who have been baptized into His death and resurrection will rise again in glorified bodies on the Last Day.
The apostle Paul joyfully declared: Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive … “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ! (1 Corinthians 15:20-22 and 55-57).
Easter is not treated simply as a commemoration of events that occurred at one time in the past but instead, it should be regarded as a living symbol of the very nature of Christianity. During Easter, Christians believe that they symbolically pass through death and into a new life (spiritually) in Jesus Christ, just as Jesus passed through death and three days later rose from the dead.
Although Easter is just one day in the liturgical calendar, in reality preparations for Easter take place throughout the 40 days of Lent, and it plays a central role in the following 50 days of Pentecost (also known as the Easter season). Thus, Easter can rightly be regarded as the central day in the entire Christian calendar.
There is a deep connection between Easter and baptism because during the time of early Christianity, the season of Lent was used by catechumens (those who wanted to become Christians) to prepare for their baptisms on Easter day, which was the only day of the year when baptisms for new Christians were performed. This is why the blessing of the baptismal font on Easter night is so important today especially for the Catholics.
On Easter Sunday therefore, all Christians will celebrate God’s great triumph over sin, death, and the devil himself with the ancient greeting:
Today is Easter.
Alleluia! Christ Is Risen!
He Is Risen Indeed! Alleluia and Glory be to God!!