The Miracle of the Holy Fire


People with torches in church
The Miracle of the Holy Fire

"As many of you will recall, I was in Jerusalem for Orthodox Holy Week. My experience included being present in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre for the Holy Fire ceremony. According to Wikipedia:

The Holy Fire (Greek ‘Αγιος Φως, literally “Holy Light”) is a miracle that occurs every year at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem on Holy Saturday, the day preceding Pascha. It is considered by many to be the longest-attested annual miracle in the Christian world, though the event has only been documented consecutively since 1106. In many Orthodox countries around the world the event is televised live. The ceremony begins at noon when the Patriarch of Jerusalem or another Orthodox Archbishop recites a specific prayer. The faithful gathered will then chant “Lord, have mercy” (Kyrie eleison in Greek) until the Holy Fire descends on a lamp of olive oil held by the patriarch while he is alone in the tomb chamber of Jesus Christ. The patriarch will then emerge from the tomb chamber, recite some prayers, and light either 33 or 12 candles to distribute to the faithful. The fire is also said to spontaneously light other lamps and candles around the church. Pilgrims say the Holy Fire will not burn hair, faces, etc., in the first 33 minutes after it is ignited. Before entering the Lord’s Tomb, the patriarch or presiding archbishop is inspected by Israeli authorities to prove that he does not carry the technical means to light the fire. This investigation used to be carried out by Turkish soldiers. The Holy Fire is first mentioned in the documents dating from the 4th century. A detailed description of the miracle is contained in the travelogue of the Russian igumen Daniel, who was present at the ceremony in 1106. Daniel mentions a blue incandescence descending from the dome to the edicula where the patriarch awaits the Holy Fire. Some claim to have witnessed this incandescence in modern times.

I went to the event skeptical. In the past, skeptics have shown that you can make fire that appears to be spontaneous by using white phosphorous. I believe that it might be a miracle, but, well, I was dubious. The thing that would make me believe, I decided, would be if I experienced the stories people tell about the holy fire not burning flesh or anything else for the first few minutes. (Wikipedia says 33 minutes, but I had never heard that number.) Here is one of the many videos you can see online demonstrating that.. from the article: The Holy Fire Miracle


Holy Fire Explained

Where and when does the miracle occur?

The ceremony, which awes the souls of Christians, takes place in the Church of the Resurrection in Jerusalem. The date for Pascha is determined anew for every year. It must be a first Sunday after the spring equinox and Jewish Passover. Therefore, most of the time it differs from the date of Catholic and Protestant Easter, which is determined using different criteria. The Holy Fire is the most renowned miracle in the world of Eastern Orthodoxy. IIt has taken place at the same time, in the same manner, in the same place every single year for centuries. No other miracle is known to occur so regularly and so steadily over time. No other miracle is known to occur so regularly and so steadily over time. It happens in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, the holiest place on earth[2], where Christ was crucified, entombed, and where He finally rose from the dead. Ceremony of Holy Light

In order to be as close to the Sepulchre as possible, pilgrims camp next to it. The Sepulchre is located in the small chapel called Holy Ciborium, which is inside the Church of the Resurrection. Typically they wait from the afternoon of Holy Friday in anticipation of the miracle on Holy Saturday. Beginning at around 11:00 in the morning the Christian Arabs chant traditional hymns in a loud voice. These chants date back to the Turkish occupation of Jerusalem in the 13th century, a period in which the Christians were not allowed to chant anywhere but in the churches. "We are the Christians, we have been Christians for centuries, and we shall be forever and ever. Amen!" - they chant at the top of their voices accompanied by the sound of drums. The drummers sit on the shoulders of others who dance vigorously around the Holy Ciborium. But at 1:00 pm the chants fade out, and then there is a silence. A tense silence, charged from the anticipation of the great demonstration of God's power for all to witness.

Shortly thereafter, a delegation from the local authorities elbows its way through the crowd. At the time of the Turkish occupation of Palestine they were Muslim Turks; today they are Israelis. Their function is to represent the Romans at the time of Jesus. The Gospels speak of the Romans that went to seal the tomb of Jesus, so that his disciples would not steal his body and claim he had risen. In the same way the Israeli authorities on this Holy Saturday come and seal the tomb with wax. Before they seal the door, they follow a custom to enter the tomb, and to check for any hidden source of fire, which would make a fraud of the miracle.[1,2].." from the website Holy Fire

Miracle of Holy Fire Explained

Video from Jesus Academy


"The Miracle of Holy Fire (or Holy Light) is the most important ritual in Christianity and it happens year after year in the Tomb of Christ, inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. It is an annual celebration of Christ's victory over death and Jesus himself participates." from video introduction.


My Protestant Experience of The Holy Fire 2017

Video from Jesus Academy


"In 2017, I got a ticket from the Greek Patriarchate to attend the Miracle of Holy Fire Ceremony with a friend of mine who is a professional videographer. We were given incredible access and I stood 15 feet from Christ's tomb for most of the ceremony. This is my experience." from video introduction.



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