Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Paschal Candle is extinguished

Even the Low Mass of Ascension that we celebrated here this evening had its little bit of drama as the paschal candle was extinguished immediately after the Gospel. It seems eminently logical to do so and I cannot quite understand why this was changed.

As with many things that used to take place during the Liturgy (e.g. the unveiling of the statues and images during the Easter Vigil), the paschal candle is now extinguised after the Mass on Pentecost Sunday. As it was lit with great solemnity at the Easter Vigil, should a certain solemnity not surround its extinguishing?

Jesus, the Light, has gone. Yes, I know that, as an early father wrote, as He came to earth without leaving heaven, so He returns to heaven without leaving earth. Yet, symbolically, the extinguishing of the paschal candle during the Mass somehow helps us visualise and be present at the Lord's ascent into the clouds. We experience "sacramentally" the departure of the Lord as the apostles themselves did.

As one fire - which began in the form of a huge fire outside our churches in the night of Easter - is extinguished, so we await the coming of a new Fire as the apostles and the whole Church are baptised in the Spirit at Pentecost.

The time between Ascension and Pentecost is a time of waiting.

Come, Holy Spirit...


  1. 'As it was lit with great solemnity at the Easter Vigil, should a certain solemnity not surround its extinguishing? ' No! because lighting a candle has a valuable symbolic meaning, while extinguishing it conveys nothing but the "snuffing out" of something, perhaps a life. The present custom of not emphasising the extinguishing of the Pascal Candle is greatly preferable. Is it not rather ridiculous to praise automatically older ways just because they are older and denigrate newer ones just because they are newer?

    1. But I didn't denigrate the new custom simply because it is newer? I indicated my reasons for prefering the older, not simply because it is older.

  2. This makes a great deal of sense! I have always extinguished the Paschal Candle after the last Mass of Pentecost, but when you put it like candle shall now be out!

    1. I hope this is not in the liturgy. We must obey the liturgical norms and in the Ordinary Form of the Mass the paschal candle is to be extinguished after the Mass of Pentecost.

  3. I'm not sure whether I should point out that many of us have not yet celebrated the Ascension of Our Lord - we shall be doing so on the 43rd Day of Easter!!

    I think one thing which should be taken account of is the fact that Paschal Candle is lit (in the Ordinary Form) at all Baptisms and at Funeral Masses throughout the year. So the extinguishing of the candle is no longer as dramatic or significant as it used to be (and still is in the Extra-Ordinary Form). We are now used to seeing the candle (lit or unlit) in church all the year round - not just seeing it lit during Eastertide.


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