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Orthodox Easter in Jerusalem 2023

Updated: Aug 12, 2023

Passover in Israel
Passover in Israel

Orthodox Easter in Jerusalem 2023

Easter Sunday in 2023 falls on April 9, but special services will take place the whole week before starting on Palm Sunday, April 2, and continue until Easter Monday on April 10.

Passover for the year 2023 starts on the evening of Wednesday, April 5th and ends the 7 day festival at sunset on Wednesday, April 12th.

Passover in the Time of Jesus

"Can you imagine the town or city you live in swelling to six times its normal size? That’s what happened to Jerusalem at the time when Jesus the Messiah carried out His earthly ministry.

According to the noted scholar Joachim Jeremias, Jerusalem had a population of about 20,000 to 30,000 people. But at Passover, one of the three festivals that must be celebrated in Jerusalem mentioned in Leviticus 23 and Deuteronomy 16, the Holy City’s population swelled by perhaps another 150,000.1 Imagine every room filled, with campsites popping up on every available hillside, inhabited by Jewish people who had traveled from throughout the world.

First and foremost in their thoughts would have been the Temple itself. Alfred Edersheim, the noted Messianic Jewish scholar, captures something of the flavor of the Jewish attitude toward the Temple at the time of Jesus in his book The Temple: Its Ministry and Services.

In all his wanderings the Jew had not seen a city like his own Jerusalem…Nor has there been, either in ancient or modern times, a sacred building equal to the Temple, whether for situation or magnificence; nor yet have there been festive throngs like those…who, with their hymns of praise, crowded towards the city on the eve of a Passover.2

Preparations for Passover in Jerusalem were a painstaking task. According to Edersheim, bridges and roads had to be put in shape for the thousands of pilgrims that would stream into the city, and special care would be taken to keep Jerusalem and its environs ceremonially clean for the feast.3 Then, after other preliminary activities and offerings, the Passover Lamb would be sacrificed between the evenings of the 14th and the 15th day of the month of Nisan.

Edersheim describes the solemn scene on the Temple Mount:

It was done [in this way]-the first of the three festive divisions, with their Paschal lambs, was admitted within the Court of the Priests. Each division must consist of not less than thirty persons (3 x 10, the symbolical number of the Divine and of completeness). Immediately the massive gates were closed behind them. The priests drew a threefold blast from their silver trumpets when the Passover was slain. Altogether the scene was most impressive.4

One can only imagine the thoughts of Jesus the Messiah at His final Passover as He beheld the slaying of the lambs at the Temple, knowing that His own hour had at last come.." from the article: PASSOVER IN ISRAEL – PAST AND PRESENT

The Miracle of the Holy Fire in Jerusalem

by Niels Christian Hvidt

"On Holy Saturday believers gather in great crowds in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. For on this day fire comes down from Heaven and puts fire on lamps in the Church." Thus one reads in one of the many Easter itineraries to the Holy Land.

"The Miracle of the Holy Fire" by Christians from the Orthodox Churches is known as "The greatest of all Christian miracles". It takes place every single year, on the same time, in the same manner, and on the same spot. No other miracle is known to occur so regularly and for such an extensive period of time; one can read about it in sources as old as from the eighth Century AD. The miracle happens in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, to millions of believers the holiest place on earth. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre itself is an enigmatic place. Theologians, historians and archaeologists consider the church to contain both Golgatha, the little hill on which Jesus Christ was crucified, as well as the "new tomb" close to Golgatha that received his dead body, as one reads in the Gospels. It is on this same spot that Christians believe he rose from the dead.." from the article: The Miracle of the Holy Fire in Jerusalem

The Sacred Fire - Easter in Jerusalem 2022

"Christ is risen", "He is truly risen!". At the first sparks of the Sacred Fire, the cries of the Orthodox faithful inside the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre announce the Resurrection of the Lord. Which here - as had happened for Catholics the previous week - is announced on Saturday. Also this year, the faithful who follow the Julian calendar celebrated the Holy Triduum and Easter one week later than the Catholics. On Holy Thursday they participated in the rite of the washing of the feet in the square of the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre. On Good Friday, after retracing the Via Dolorosa for the Via Crucis, they gathered to participate in the evocative ceremony of Christ's funeral. A cloth covered with red petals, symbolizing the dead Christ on the cross, was carried in procession from Calvary, passing by the stone of the anointing, to the Tomb. All in prayer until the door of the Sepulchre was closed. From dawn on Saturday, a multitude of faithful poured toward the Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher. Every year it is the most awaited moment, that of the ceremony of the Sacred Fire, which kicks off the Easter celebrations. The flame, according to Orthodox tradition, generates itself in a miraculous way, by divine will, right on the stone of the tomb that kept the body of Jesus. The Patriarchs of the Orthodox Churches make three laps around the Wayside Shrine of the Anastasis. The Greek Orthodox Patriarch enters with the Armenian Patriarch, the only witness, who remains in the antechamber. The lights of the Basilica are turned off, and Theophilus III invokes the sign of the Resurrection from Heaven. A few minutes pass. The Sacred Fire is lit once again and explodes with joy. The Patriarch comes out with bundles of lighted candles. The light spreads quickly in the Basilica, reaches the streets and the houses of Jerusalem, and even farther, all the Orthodox Churches, which are waiting for its arrival in order to celebrate the Easter Vigil." from the video introduction

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