The Liturgy Office often receives questions during Lent concerning the blessing, use, and disposal of paschal candles, particularly in large parishes and merged parishes with several worship sites. At the outset, it should be noted that, in normal circumstances, there is to be only one paschal candle blessed at the Easter Vigil. This ensures that the candle’s symbolism of Christ, the sole Redeemer and the Light of the World, is clearly manifested throughout that liturgy.
In larger parishes where there are many baptisms and funerals celebrated on a regular basis, it can be challenging to maintain a single paschal candle for the duration of the year. Parishes in this situation should be reminded that the paschal candle need be lit only in the “more solemn liturgical celebrations” during the Easter season (Roman Missal, “Easter Vigil in the Holy Night,” 70); that is, it is not necessary to light the paschal candle at the celebration of every Mass (e.g., weekday Masses) during this period. A careful observance of this option can help to conserve a paschal candle and keep it in use throughout the year.
In 2010, the USCCB’s Divine Worship Secretariat offered some suggestions to those parishes that might require the use of more than one paschal candle for multiple worship sites, as in the case of merged parishes. At that time, the Secretariat recommended the following:
- Additional paschal candles may be prepared in advance of the Easter Vigil and blessed alongside the primary candle, with deacons or other parish representatives holding them.
- In the lighting of the paschal candle at the blessed fire and at the beginning of the procession which follows, only the primary paschal candle should be lit.
- After the deacon intones Lumen Christi for the second time in the middle of the church, the supplemental paschal candles may be lit when the congregation’s small candles are taken up and lit; however, supplemental paschal candles should not be held high at this time, so as to keep the principal candle prominent in the view of the assembly.
- Supplemental paschal candles may be extinguished along with the congregation’s small candles at the conclusion of the Exsultet.
- At Masses on Easter Sunday, supplemental paschal candles may be brought to the other worship sites, where they can be lit and carried to the sanctuary in the entrance procession at the first Mass in those locations.
Lastly, it should be noted that a new paschal candle should be blessed and used each year (Congregation for Divine Worship, Paschale Sollemnitatis , 82). As with all blessed objects, old paschal candles should not be thrown away, but either buried in blessed ground or burned in a devotional manner. Sometimes, candle suppliers will accept old paschal candles and offer in return a discount on the future purchase of paschal candles. These suppliers will then recycle the older candles when making new paschal candles, which is considered an acceptable practice.