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The Church gives us this octave of Easter to exult in Resurrection; to bathe in the light of our risen Lord, symbolised in the Paschal candle.  

In his Homily for the Easter Vigil, the Holy Father spoke about the Paschal candle as being ‘a light that lives from sacrifice. The candle shines inasmuch as it is burnt up.  It gives light, inasmuch as it gives itself. Thus the Church presents most beautifully the paschal mystery of Christ, who gives himself and so bestows the great light’.  We are drawn into considering how we give ourselves so that the light of Christ might be seen in us by those around us.

There is a holy beauty to the Paschal candle which is beyond words.  However, the great hymn of the Exsultet comes close to describing it and of course this year, the candle’s perfect praises were sung in our new translation for the first time.  One of the more obvious changes to the Exsultet is the reintroduction of this (previously omitted) paragraph, which helps the Exsultet come closer still to conveying that holy beauty of the Paschal candle:

On this, your night of grace, O holy Father, 
accept this candle, a solemn offering, 
the work of bees and of your servants’ hands, 
an evening sacrifice of praise, 
this gift from your most holy Church. 
But now we know the praises of this pillar, 
which glowing fire ignites for God’s honour, 
a fire into many flames divided, 
yet never dimmed by sharing of its light, 
for it is fed by melting wax, 
drawn out by mother bees to build a torch so precious. 

The Pope referred to this paragraph towards the end of his homily, as though recognising that we English speakers could do with a little reflection on what is – to us – a new and unfamiliar part of the Exsultet.  Let’s let him complete for us, then, our reflection:

The great hymn of the Exsultet, which the deacon sings at the beginning of the Easter liturgy… reminds us that this object, the candle, has its origin in the work of bees.  So the whole of creation plays its part. In the candle, creation becomes a bearer of light. But in the mind of the Fathers, the candle also in some sense contains a silent reference to the Church. The cooperation of the living community of believers in the Church in some way resembles the activity of bees. It builds up the community of light. So the candle serves as a summons to us to become involved in the community of the Church, whose raison d’être is to let the light of Christ shine upon the world.

Let us pray to the Lord at this time that he may grant us to experience the joy of his light; let us pray that we ourselves may become bearers of his light, and that through the Church, Christ’s radiant face may enter our world (cf. LG 1). Amen.

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