Holy Fire on Holy Saturday in Jerusalem

Written by Ann Rodgers on .

   This is one of the years when western and eastern Easter coincide. And when I interviewed the Rev. John Chakos, pastor of Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Church in Mount Lebanon, for an Easter story, he reminded me that the candle lighting rituals at the midnight Orthodox Easter service are linked to a miracle that is said to occur annually on Holy Saturday in Jerusalem's Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

   This video is rough, but will give you an image of the ceremony. One that has been dubbed with an appropriate chant is below. According to Father Chakos, each Holy Saturday


at around 1 p.m., the Greek Orthodox and Armenian patriarchs of Jerusalem enter the cavern in Jerusalem's Church of the Holy Sepulchre which ancient tradition holds is where Jesus' crucified body lay, and where he came back to life.

   "They are searched before they enter" to make sure they aren't carrying fire-making materials with them, he said.

     Inside the tomb, "They kneel and say a long prayer and petition for the coming of the Holy Fire.At a certain point this fire ignites spontaneously throughout the church and people's candles will be lit. There will be a blue flame, that you can touch and bless yourself with. Then it becomes a regular flame. That has happened every year for centuries," he said.

   "That is what the midnight service is about. We don't have the same effect as they do in Jerusalem. But the ceremony that is done in every Orthodox church at midnight is the receiving of the light of Christ and its spread to the whole congregation. We sing that Christ is risen."

    Here is a more detailed description from the Web site of the Greek Orthodox patriarch of Jerusalem.

    Have a blessed Easter!

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