Incensing the Easter Candle

Answered by Legionary of Christ Father Edward McNamara, professor of liturgy and dean of theology at the Regina Apostolorum university.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Share this Entry

Q: During Easter season, is it correct to incense both the paschal candle and the cross during Mass? — F.O., Ado-Ekiti, Nigeria

A: If incense is used at Mass the cross should always be incensed during all seasons of the year. As specified in No. 87.d of the Ceremonial of Bishops (CB), this is done at the entrance procession and at the presentation of gifts.

The incensing of the Easter candle is prescribed only during the Easter vigil before the singing of the Exsultet. In this case the deacon first incenses the Book of the Exsultet with three double swings, as if it were the Book of the Gospels. He then goes to the Easter candle and walks around it while incensing it with three double swings.

The liturgical books make little further mention of incensing the Easter candle. However, CB 88 permits the use of incense for any procession of some solemnity, and No. 95 allows for the incensing of relics and images exposed for public veneration at the entrance procession.

Thus, since the Easter candle is the primary symbol of the Risen Christ during this season, I think that, whenever incense is used for the entrance procession, it follows reasonably that it could be incensed with three double swings as during the vigil. However, this would always be something optional and not obligatory.

The liturgical books, however, would seem to exclude that this gesture should be repeated during the presentation of gifts. CB 95 is quite clear that images and relics are incensed only at the beginning of the celebration, and only the gifts and cross are mentioned.

Likewise, in the detailed norms for the solemn celebration of the Easter Vigil in the extraordinary form, the candle is incensed only at the Exsultet and is definitely not included in other moments in which incense is used, especially during lauds, which in this form is united to the solemn Mass of the Vigil, albeit in an abbreviated form. There do not appear to be any other moments in the extraordinary form in which the Easter candle as such is incensed.

However, even before the Second Vatican Council some authors recommended the custom of decorating the baptistery during the Easter octave and to incense the font after Mass, vespers or Eucharistic adoration. This custom could also be followed in the ordinary form.

* * *

Readers may send questions to Please put the word «Liturgy» in the subject field. The text should include your initials, your city and your state, province or country. Father McNamara can only answer a small selection of the great number of questions that arrive.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Share this Entry

Fr. Edward McNamara

Padre Edward McNamara, L.C., è professore di Teologia e direttore spirituale

Support ZENIT

If you liked this article, support ZENIT now with a donation