Sunday, March 30, 2014

The Paschal Candle

Opening note: During Lent and Easter we hear the adjective paschal a lot, and just presume that everyone knows what it means. It refers to things associated with Easter, and comes from the same root as passover. In Spanish it is a bit simpler. The noun of for Easter is Pascua and adjective is pascual. Our word Easter is a reference to the East and sunrise as a symbol of ressurection.

On the night before Easter we gather in the dark, we light a fire, and from the fire each year we light a new candle. This Paschal Candle is inscribed with  a cross, with five nails representing the wounds of Christ, the year, and the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet, alpha (Α) and omega (Ω). Christ is the light of the world. Christ is the beginning and the end. The candle will remain lit throughout the 50 days of Easter, and will be used when we mark the beginning and the end of a Christians earthly life (baptisms and funerals).

The readings today are all about light and darkness, blindness and sight.  In the gospel, the man born blind is the only one who sees who Jesus really is. The disciples are still just calling him "Rabbi."But there are other blindnesses. The very opening of the gospel with the debate over why he is blind, shows the ignorance of the people.

We should not be afraid of the word ignorant. It simply means lack of knowledge. There are many things of which i am ignorant. The fool is the person who will not say "I am ignorant."

In the opening of the gospel we see the ignorance of the time. Was it his sin or his parents?  The first level is that they think the blindness is a bad thing, a punishment for sin.  They can't even imagine that physical blindness could be a gift from God, and part of a larger plan. I can understand this because when I was young and foolish I saw my handicap as a bad thing and more than once asked, "Why me, God?"

The other error of course is implied question of reincarnation, when they ask was it his sin?  Christianity has from its beginnings as we see here rejected any kind of reincarnation. We pass through this earthly life but one time. Another reason why we believe that it is critical for us to see each day as a gift. We shall not pass this way again.

St. Paul gives the people of Ephesus and us one very simple command:

Live as children of light

And he explains why it is so important:

for light produces every kind of goodness and righteousness and truth.

The word for righteousness can also be translated equity or justice. 

For those who have been baptized we have already received the light. We have know excuse. If we walk in darkness or blindness it is by choice.  The good, the equitable, the truth are usually quite readily apparent if we open our hearts, if we will but listen to our conscience, if we think before we act, and if we pray.