Q: At various times I have heard people–many quite reputable–mention that the elect should not have candles at the Vigil fire because they have not received the Light of Christ at Baptism. I find this spurious. It’s not mentioned in the RCIA nor in the Missal. But I may have missed some deep historical precedent. Which isn’t necessarily a good reason to do it today. Thoughts?
A: My opinion: Pass out those candles. You’re correct that there’s nothing in the missal nor in the RCIA that forbids handing candles to the elect at the start of the Easter Vigil. Nor is there anything in history.
People light their candles twice during the Vigil. The second time is for the renewal of their baptismal promises, and that’s where the candle has more to do with the one that they received at baptism.
But at the beginning, the candle serves a different purpose. It spreads the Easter fire, which is blessed, and it shows the full brightness of the candle, which is offered to God as a sacrifice in the exsultet.
This is an oversimplification, but the candles at the beginning are more about the risen Christ, and the relighting of the candles is more about renewing people’s baptismal faith.