From the Pastor
A Message From Pastor Miranda Denler
The Church calendar between Christmas and Easter is jam packed with celebrations that are passing by with little notice. January 5th was Epiphany, the celebration of the wise men visiting Jesus. For some around the world, this is the day they exchange presents instead of Christmas morning. It’s a recognition that the birth of Christ was celebrated beyond just a single night. On January 12th, we celebrated the baptism of Jesus by John in the Jordan. On this Sunday, we typically remember our own baptism and the gift of the Holy Spirit that each of us have within us. On February 23rd, we will celebrate the transfiguration of Jesus, the time when Jesus showed his true self to a handful of his disciples on a mountaintop. The very next Wednesday, we will be reminded of our mortality on Ash Wednesday and begin a season of reflection throughout the 40 days of Lent. During Holy Week we will celebrate Jesus coming into Jerusalem for a final time on Palm Sunday, eat together on Maundy Thursday, and finally mourn the death of our savior on Good Friday. Finally, on Easter morning, we will celebrate the risen Christ.
You may be wondering why I am telling you about a calendar when the question many of you have asked was about a candle. Why is there a white candle on the altar being lit every Sunday? This time between Christmas and Easter, for us, the heart of winter, is important in the life of the Church. We remember in special feasts and celebrations the entire life of Christ, from beginning to end, from birth to resurrection. On Christmas Eve, we lit a white candle to represent the birth of Christ. Its light is a reminder of the physical presence of God among us. We then pass that light to each other in the service as a reminder that the light of Christ lives within each of us, and as we leave the church on Christmas Eve, we are taking the light of Christ into the world.
There is a second tradition in the Church called the Pascal Candle. This white candle is lit on Easter morning to represent the risen Christ. It then, depending on the specific church, remains lit, or is lit every Sunday until Ascension Day, 50 days after Easter. The light of the Pascal Candle reminds us of the presence of Christ among us in his eternal form. The physical light represents the light of Christ that burned all that much brighter after his resurrection, and still burns within each of us today.
I discovered over the course of researching for this article, that my own tradition does not fall within the Church’s tradition. But, for me, it just makes sense. During this part of the Church year, from the birth of Christ, to his death, resurrection, and ascension, the candle on the altar is a physical reminder of the presence of Christ. We will light the candle every Sunday to remind us that the light of Christ lives on within us, as well as to remind us that we are currently celebrating the life of Christ, the time when God lived on Earth. Then, in the Good Friday Service, we will extinguish the candle, representing the death of Christ. However, the candle is not put out for good. I hope you will join me for an Easter Sunrise Service.
There we will start our celebration outside, light the candle once more, and parade into the sanctuary in celebration. The candle will remain on the altar until Ascension Sunday, where it will remain unlit for a single Sunday to remind us that while the light of Christ’s physical presence has gone on to the eternal kingdom, we remain on Earth to represent the light of Christ to others. After that Sunday, the candle will be put away until we light it again on Christmas Eve.
C.S. Lewis wrote The Screwtape Letters from a demon perspective. It’s a How-To on leading Christians away from the faith. Chapter 25 reads:
The horror of the Same Old Thing is one of the most valuable passions we have produced in the human heart – an endless source of heresies in religion, folly in counsel, infidelity in marriage, and inconstancy in friendship. The humans live in time, and experience reality successively. To experience much of it, therefore, they must experience many different things; in other words, they must experience change. And since they need change, the Enemy (being a hedonist at heart) has made change pleasurable to them, just as He has made eating pleasurable. But since He does not wish them to make change, any more than eating, an end of itself, He has balanced the love of change in them by a love of permanence. He has contrived to gratify both tastes together in the very world He has made, by that union of change and permanence which we call Rhythm. He gives them the seasons, each season different yet every year the same, so that spring is always felt as a novelty yet always as the recurrence of an immemorial theme. He gives them in His Church a spiritual year; they change from fast to feast, but it is the same feast as before…. We pick out this natural pleasantness of change and twist it into a demand for absolute novelty.
We go through this same calendar every year, each feast and fast a reminder of all God has done for us. Every promise fulfilled despite the sorrow felt in the past is down payment on the eternal kingdom, our future. We are now amid a time in the Church Year where we focus specifically on the life of Christ. I hope that every Sunday, as you see the candle lit, you will be reminded of the time we celebrate, that of God on Earth. But also, I hope you will feel the light of Christ in your own hearts, that burns much more brightly than a single candle and will never go out if you keep your eyes focused on God. See, remember, celebrate, and live!
In Christ’s Love,