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Setting Easter Alight

by Michael Ford last modified 02 Apr, 2021 12:43 AM

Bishop Nicholas will start his last Easter Sunday service as the Bishop of Salisbury lighting the 2021 Easter Candle in the grounds of the Cathedral.

Setting Easter Alight

Photo taken in 2020 by Russell Sach

The lighting of the candle is highly symbolic and usually takes place with a large congregation and big bonfire on the West Front. This year the congregation will be inside (in darkness as the service starts) and the Bishop will be outside on the West Front with the West Doors to the Cathedral open.

A fire in the brazier will be used to light the Paschal candle, which is carried into the Cathedral in a small procession.

Talking in advance of the service, the Bishop said:

“The lighting of the Paschal candle from the new fire, in the half-light early on Easter morning, is a great moment of resurrection and new life. The single candle is carried into the Cathedral and the proclamation of the Light of Christ fills the whole space. The light is spread round the Cathedral with candles held by all the baptised - truly the light of the world.”

Last year the Bishop lit the candle in the grounds of his home during the first lockdown and a photograph of this act appeared on the front page of a national newspaper and was heralded as a symbol of hope.

The Paschal candle is the largest candle used in the Cathedral - around 3” diameter by 40” height. The candle bears a set of symbols, which (this year) have been painted on by Natalie Davies, a member of the congregation.

Setting Easter Alight- this year's Paschal candle

These symbols include:

  • The cross - the most prominent symbol, which identifies it as the Paschal candle
  • The Greek letters alpha and omega, which symbolise that God is the beginning and the end (taken from the Book of Revelation)
  • The year when the particular candle is being used, which represents God amidst the present congregation
  • 5 wax covered nails pressed into candle to represent the 5 wounds of Jesus: the 3 nails that pierced his hands and feet, the spear thrust into his side, and the thorns that crowned his head

This is Bishop Nicholas’ last Easter before he retires in July 2021 after 10 years in the role.

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