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Holy Fire

About Easter

Holy Fire

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The Holy Fire (Greek 'Αγιο Φως, "Holy Light") is believed by Orthodox Christians to be a miracle that occurs every year at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem on Holy Saturday, the day preceding Orthodox Easter. It is the longest attested annual miracle in the Christian world. The ceremony is broadcast live in Greece, Russia and other Orthodox countries.

Russian pilgrims bathing with the holy fire that doesn't hurt. Another picture here. Russian pilgrims bathing with the holy fire that doesn't hurt. Another picture here.

The ceremony begins at noon when the Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem or another Orthodox Archbishop recites a specific prayer. The congregants 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. The patriarch will then reveal himself from the tomb chamber and recite some prayers and light either 33 or 12 candles and distribute them to the congregants.

The fire is also said to spontaneously ignite other lamps and candles around the church. The only claimed video documentation of this "spontaneous ignition" is a handycam recording so jittery that whatever it is recording cannot be clearly distinguished. Pilgrims claim the Holy Fire will not burn their hair, faces, etc. in the first 33 minutes after it is ignited, provided they are genuine Orthodox believers. Before entering the Lord's Tomb, the patriarch is examined by Israeli authorities to prove that he does not carry technical means to light the fire.

The Holy Fire is first mentioned in the documents dating from the 4th century. A detailed description of the supposed miracle is contained in the travelogue of the Russian hegumen Daniil 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.

During the many centuries of the supposed miracle's history, the holy fire is said not to have descended only on certain occasions, usually when heterodox priests attempted to obtain it. According to the tradition, in 1099, for example, the failure of Crusaders to obtain the fire led to street riots in Jerusalem. It is also claimed that in 1579, the Armenian patriarch prayed day and night in order to obtain the holy fire, but the lightning miraculously struck a column near the entrance and lit a candle held by the Orthodox patriarch standing nearby. Upon entering the temple, the Orthodox Christians would embrace this column, which bears marks and a large crack which they attribute to the lightning-bolt.

In 2005, in the midst of a host of scandals, which would ultimately bring his ouster from the throne, Jerusalem Patriarch Irenaios shocked the public when he berated those who were skeptical concerning the "Holy Fire" miracle as "vermin".

Criticism

Skeptics question these claims, citing observations that at least some pilgrims withstand the fire only for very brief, and perfectly normal periods of time, as could be achieved with any fire; not only do those observed not expose their flesh to the fire for any appreciable period of time, they also frequently switch hands or move through the fire rapidly. In 2001, live in Greek television, a professor that follows the ancient greek faith in the 12 Olympian Gods (Δωδεκάθεο), dipped 3 candles in phosphorus which were lit after approx. 40 minutes, all by themselves just like the Holy Fire does. Those who were present could touch the fire without getting hurt. Phosphorus was also used by Persian "wizards" in the early fifth century BC, in a similar way it is used by the Eastern Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem to light the Holy Fire. [1]

References

  1. Videos showing pilgrims briefly exposing themselves to fire
  • Auxentios of Photiki, The Paschal Fire in Jerusalem: A Study of the Rite of the Holy Fire in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, 3rd edition, (St John Chrysostom Press, 1999), ISBN 0963469207

External links


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This guide is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia.


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