Candles, the Gospel, and the Easter Vigil

Date: March 9, 2024
Author: Fr. Edward McNamara, LC

Question: The rubrics on Easter vigil Mass, No. 35, says: "At the Gospel lights are not carried, but only incense." Does this instruction apply during all the Masses of Easter season, or is it only for the Easter vigil? -- G.O., Orlu, Nigeria


Answer: On the night of the Easter vigil Mass the two candles that usually accompany the Book of the Gospels are omitted because the Easter candle is considered as sufficient to honor the risen Lord in the Gospel.


However, two unlit processional candles and the processional cross may be prepared and left at a suitable location in the sanctuary for use in the final procession at the conclusion of the celebration.


The Ceremonial of Bishops, No. 353, allows for the minister who reads the Gospel at the Easter vigil to be accompanied by the thurifer and two servers, without candles and with hands joined. In practice it is usually sufficient for him to be accompanied by the thurifer.


If the Book of the Gospels has been placed on the altar before the celebration began, the minister goes to the altar to take it up. If not, he proceeds with the servers directly to the ambo. All in the Gospel procession proceed without making any sign of reverence toward the altar.


After the proclamation of the Gospel they return to their places, this time bowing toward the altar when passing in front of it.


Nothing in the rubrics would suggest that the processional candles be omitted on Easter Sunday or any other solemn celebration during Eastertide. Indeed, the candles would be part of the celebration from the entrance procession.


The omission on the night of the vigil is due to the character of this solemn celebration in which all candles, beginning with the Easter candle, are lit from the new fire.


Since these elements are lacking on other days the celebrations revert to the general norms for solemn celebrations unless something to the contrary is specifically indicated.


This is the usual procedure for special liturgical norms. When some detail is indicated as an exception on a particular day it is exclusive to that celebration and is not extended to other days.


Another example of such a particularity is the indication that on Easter Sunday, and only on Easter Sunday, the faithful may renew their baptismal promises after the homily using the same formula as the Easter vigil. When this is done the Creed is omitted.


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