Thursday, May 9, 2013
EXTINGUISHING THE PASCHAL CANDLE
At the Mass on Ascension Thursday, we have the chance to witness another beautiful ritual full of meaning in the traditional Rite.
The Paschal Candle, which we blessed and lit at the Easter Vigil, represents the Risen Lord, shining His divine light in our human darkness. For forty days, we have kept the candle lit during Mass to symbolize the earthly presence of Christ's physical and glorified body for forty days on earth. During those forty days, the Risen Lord continued to teach His Apostles, giving them more and more spiritual light and knowledge (again, symbolized by the flame of the candle).
But on Ascension Thursday, we lost sight of the visible, physical Body of the Lord. He Himself plainly says so, "...I go to the Father and you shall see me no longer." (Jn 16:10)
So, after the Gospel is read on Ascension Thursday recalling His Ascension into heaven, we extinguish the Paschal Candle to represent that absence. We see Him no more according to the flesh.
Of course we know that He is still with us in His true and real, physical Body and Blood in the Eucharist, but under the appearance of bread and wine. That is why the Paschal Candle is not lit during Benediction between Easter and the Ascension, because while Our Lord's true Body and Blood are exposed to our eyes under the appearance of bread, we do not deal with symbols anymore, as the flame is.
The Paschal Candle is not lit for requiem Masses or penitential Masses like on Rogation days because of the sadness of those occasions.
Just like the two disciples in Emmaus who saw the Lord "in the breaking of the bread," we continue to see the Lord in His Eucharist with the eyes of faith. A good reminder for this Year of Faith. We don't see, but we hear. He said it ("This is My Body"), we believe it (faith).