Orthodox tradition holds that the Holy Fire is a miracle that happens annually on the day preceding OrthodoxEaster,
in which a blue light emanates within Jesus Christ’s tomb (usually
rising from the marble slab covering the stone bed believed to be that
upon which Jesus’ body was placed for burial) now in the Holy Sepulchre,
which eventually forms a column containing a form of fire, from which
candles are lit, which are then used to light the candles of the clergy
and pilgrims in attendance. The fire is also said to spontaneously light
other lamps and candles around the church.Pilgrims and clergy claim that the Holy Fire does not burn them.
While the Patriarch is inside the chapel kneeling in front of the
stone, there is darkness but far from silence outside. One hears a
rather loud mumbling, and the atmosphere is very tense. When the
Patriarch comes out with the two candles lit and shining brightly in the
darkness, a roar of jubilation resounds in the Church.
The Holy Fire is brought to certain Orthodox countries, such as Greece by special flights, being received by church and state leaders.
The Orthodox hegumenDaniil (Daniel),
who was present at the ceremony in 1106 AD, says that traditional
beliefs “that the Holy Ghost descends upon the Holy Sepulchre in the
form of a dove” and “that it is lightning from heaven which kindles the
lamps above the Sepulchre of the Lord” are untrue, “but the Divine grace
comes down unseen from heaven, and lights the lamps of the Sepulchre of
Thousands of pilgrims gather in Jerusalem to partake and witness this annual miracle.
The historian Eusebius writes in his Vita Constantini, which dates from around 328, about an interesting occurrence in Jerusalem
of Easter in the year 162. When the church wardens were about to fill
the lamps to make them ready to celebrate the resurrection of Christ,
they suddenly noticed that there was no more oil left to pour in the
lamps. Upon this, Bishop Narcissus of Jerusalem
ordered the candles to be filled with water. He then told the wardens
to ignite them. In front of the eyes of all present every single lamp
burned as if filled with pure oil.Christian Orthodox tradition holds that this miracle, which predates
the construction of the Holy Sepulchre in the fourth Century, is related
to the Miracle of the Holy Fire. They admit that the two differ, as the
former was a one-time occurrence while the Miracle of the Holy Fire
occurs every year. However, they have in common premise that God has
produced fire where there logically speaking should have been none.
Around 385 Egeria, a noble woman from Spain, traveled to Palestine.
In the account of her journey, she speaks of a ceremony by the Holy
Sepulchre of Christ, where a light comes forth (ejicitur) from the small
chapel enclosing the tomb, by which the entire church is filled with an
infinite light (lumen infinitum).
Despite these previous instances, the Holy Fire is believed to have been first recorded by the Christian pilgrim Bernard the Wise (Bernardus Monachus) in 876.
In 1099, the failure of Crusaders to obtain the fire led to street riots in Jerusalem.
On May 3, 1834, the Muslim governor Ibrahim Pasha of Egypt
exited the packed church by commanding his guards to slice a way out,
the Church was so packed that a stampede added to the deaths which
totaled four hundred. This was reported by Robert Curzon.
On April 26, 1856, James Finn watched Greek pilgrims battling Armenians with concealed sticks and stones. The pasha was carried out before his soldiers charged with fixed bayonets.