An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church

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New Fire

The fire that is kindled at the opening of the Easter Vigil service. This rite typically begins in darkness. The lighting of the new fire often takes place outdoors for reasons of safety. The new fire is kindled before anything is said. The historic practice of kindling the new fire from a kindling stone or steel has been continued by some. The celebrant may then say a prayer of blessing over the new fire before it is used to light the Paschal candle (BCP, p. 285). As fire is a source of warmth and light, the new fire of the Easter Vigil represents the victory in Christ of light and life over darkness and death. The Paschal candle, lighted with the new fire, symbolizes the risen Christ. After the lighting of the Paschal candle, the deacon or celebrant bears it and leads the procession to the chancel. Candles carried by the people and other lights may be lit from the Paschal candle. The Exsultet is sung or said after the Paschal candle is placed in its stand. The ceremony for blessing the new fire and the Paschal candle is derived from the primitive Lucernarium, or blessing of light, which is derived from Jewish ritual. The lighting of the new fire as a Christian ceremony may be of Celtic origin. It is mentioned in seventh-century documents concerning legends of St. Patrick. It was probably added to the Easter Vigil rite in Gaul in the eighth century through the influence of Irish monks. It was included in the Roman liturgy by the twelfth century.

Glossary definitions provided courtesy of Church Publishing Incorporated, New York, NY,(All Rights reserved) from "An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church, A User Friendly Reference for Episcopalians," Don S. Armentrout and Robert Boak Slocum, editors.