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Easter`s Holy Fire

The Holy Fire (Greek Ἃγιον Φῶς, “Holy Light”) is described by Orthodox Christians as a miracle that occurs every year at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem on Great Saturday, or Holy Saturday, the day preceding Orthodox Easter.

Orthodox tradition holds that the Holy Fire is a miracle that happens annually on the day preceding Orthodox Easter, 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 hegumen Daniil (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 our Lord.

Thousands of pilgrims gather in Jerusalem to partake and witness this annual miracle.

History

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.

According to Shihab al-Din al-Qarafi, the 13th century Ayyubid ruler Al-Muazzam Turanshah is mentioned as having discovered the fraudulence of the Holy Fire, however, he allowed the monks to continue their fraud in exchange for money.

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.