The Ceremony of the Holy Light in Jerusalem:
This ceremony takes place in the Orthodox Church of the Resurrection in Jerusalem in such a way that bewilders the soul of the Christians.
On Easter Saturday, at noon, the Orthodox Patriarch, or any other Orthodox Archbishop, enters the Holy Sepulchre, recites special prayers and remains waiting. Sometimes the waiting is long, sometimes short. The crowd, in the darkened church, repeats continually with a loud voice:
“Lord, have mercy.” (Kyrie eleison).
At a certain moment the Holy Light flashes from the depth of the Holy Sepulchre in a supernatural way, miraculously, and lights up the little lamp of olive oil put on the edge of it. The Patriarch (or the Archbishop), after having read some prayers, lights up the two clusters of 33 candles he is holding, and begins to distribute the Holy Light to the multitude of pilgrims, who receive it with great emotion, accompanied with the pealing of bells, acclamations, and an unbridled enthusiasm.
The Holy Light is not only distributed by the Archbishop, but operates also by itself. It emits from the Holy Sepulchre having a gleam of a hue completely different from that of natural light. It sparkles, it flashes like lightning, it flies like a dove around the tabernacle of the Holy Sepulchre, and lights up the unlit lamps of olive oil hanging in front of it. It whirls from one side of the church to the other. It enters to some of the chapels inside the church, as for instance the chapel of the Calvery (at a higher level than the Holy Sepulchre) and lights up the little lamps. It lights up also the candles of certain pilgrims. In fact there are some very pious pilgrims who, every time they attended this ceremony, noticed that their candles lit up on the own accord!
The Holy Fire is brought to certain Orthodox countries, such as in Armenia, Belarus, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Egypt, Georgia, Greece, Jordan, Lebanon, Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Syria and Ukraine, and every year by special flights, being received with honors by state leaders at the respective airports.
The Russian 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.
This divine light also presents some peculiarities: As soon as it appears it has a bluish hue and does not burn. At the first moments of its appearance, if it touches the face, or the mouth, or the hands, it does not burn. This is proof of its divine and supernatural origin.
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).
The pilgrim Bernard the Monk mentions the holy fire in 870 AD.
In 1099, the failure of Crusaders to obtain the fire led to street riots in Jerusalem.
We must also take into consideration that the Holy Light appears only by the invocation of an Orthodox Archbishop. EACH TIME THAT HETERODOX BISHOPS TRIED TO OBTAIN IT, THEY FAILED.
Once the Armenians paid the Turks, who then occupied the Holy Land, in order to obtain permission for their Patriarch to enter the Holy Sepulchre, The Orthodox Patriarch was standing sorrowfully with his flock at the exit of the church, near the left column, when the Holy Light split this column vertically and flashed near the Orthodox Patriarch.
A Moslem Muezin, called Tounom, who saw the miraculous event from an adjacent mosque, abandoned immediately the Moslem religion and became an Orthodox Christian. This event took place in 1549 under Sultan Mourad IV, when the Patriarch of Jerusalem was Sophrony II. ( The mentioned split column still exists. It goes back to the XII c. The Orthodox pilgrims embrace it at the “place of the split” as the enter the church).
The appearance of the Holy Light is an event which occurs every year in front of thousands of visual witnesses. Nobody can deny it. On the contrary, this miracle can reinforce those who have lack of faith.
There are some very touching recent cases of some Jews, who believed in Christ after having seen the Holy Light, and who said to their compatriots:
“Why are you still waiting for the Messiah? The Messiah came indeed”.
from Irene Econimides book “Differences between the Orthodox and Roman Catholicism”