Thousands mark Greek Orthodox Holy Fire rite in Jerusalem
Thousands of Christian worshippers celebrated Easter’s Holy Fire Ceremony on Saturday (April 30) at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem.
They packed into the ancient church, believed to be built on the site of Jesus Christ’s crucifixion, burial and resurrection.
The Holy Fire is considered a miracle occurring every year on Holy Saturday, the day preceding Orthodox Easter Sunday.
At exactly 2 p.m. local time every year, a sunbeam is believed to shine through the window in the ceiling of the church and light a lamp placed in the tomb. Church lights are switched off and a silence of anticipation descends on the church.
The Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem, Theophilos III, then lights a few candles with the holy fire, and passes them on to worshippers inside the church.
Seconds after the Orthodox patriarch reveals the Holy Fire, it spreads throughout the church as worshippers light each other’s candles. The fire is then passed on to the worshippers waiting outside.
In past centuries, worshippers were expected to bring the flame back to their villages around Russia and Eastern Europe.
Traditionally, an olive lamp lit by the “Holy Fire” is transferred soon after the ceremony to the West Bank town of Bethlehem, revered as the birthplace of Jesus Christ.