The hymn in praise of the paschal candle sung by the deacon, in the liturgy of Holy Saturday . In the missal the title of the hymn is "Praeconium", as appears from the formula used at the blessing of the deacon : "ut digne et competenter annunties suum Paschale praeconium . Outside Rome, the use of the paschal candle appears to have been very ancient in Italy, Gaul, Spain, and perhaps, from the reference by St. Augustine (De Civ. Dei, XV, xxii), in Africa. The Liber Pontificalis attributes its introduction in the local Roman Church to Pope Zosimus. The formula used for the "Praeconium" was not always the "Exultet", though it is perhaps true to say that this formula has survived, where other contemporary formulae have disappeared. In the "Liber Ordinum", for instance, the formula is of the nature of a benediction, and the Gelasian Sacramentary has the prayer "Deus mundi conditor", not found elsewhere, but containing the remarkable "praise of the bee -- possibly a Vergilian reminiscence -- which is found with more or less modification in all the texts of the "Praeconium" down to the present day. The regularity of the metrical cursus of the "Exultet" would lead us to place the date of its composition perhaps as early as the fifth century, and not later than the seventh. The earliest manuscript in which it appears are those of the three Gallican Sacramentaries: -- the Bobbio Missal (seventh century), the Missale Gothicum and the Missale Gallicanum Vetus (both of the eighth century). The earliest manuscript of the Gregorian Sacramentary (Vat. Reg. 337) does not contain the "Exultet", but it was added in the supplement to what has been loosely called the Sacramentary of Adrian, and probably drawn up under the direction of Alcuin.
It remains to notice three accessories of the "Exultet": the ceremonial carried on during its performance; the music to which it has been sung; and the so called "Exultet-rolls" on which it was sometimes written. The deacon is vested in a white dalmatic, the rest of the sacred ministers are vested in purple. The affixing of five grains of incense at the words incensi hujus sacrificium has probably arisen from a misconception of the meaning of the text. The lighting of the candle is followed by the lighting of all the lamps and candles of the church, extinguished since the close of Matins. The chant is usually an elaborate form of the well-known recitative of the Preface. In some uses a long bravura was introduced upon the word accendit, to fill in the pause, which must otherwise occur during the lighting of the candle. In Italy the Praeconium was sung from long strips of parchment, gradually unrolled as the deacon proceeded. These "Exultet Rolls" were decorated with illuminations and with the portraits of contemporary reigning sovereigns, whose names were mentioned in the course of the "Praeconium". The use of these rolls, as far as is known at present, was confined to Italy. The best examples date from the tenth and eleventh centuries.
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