The Holy Fire Ceremony is one that goes back several centuries. It happens within the Church of the Holy Sepulcher every Holy Saturday, or the day before Orthodox Easter. It has taken place at the same place, at the same time, in the same manner ever since its humble beginnings long ago. It is something that has awed and inspired countless Christians over countless years. The Church of the Holy Sepulcher, considered by many to be the holiest place on earth, is said to be the place where Jesus Christ was buried and raised from the dead. The ceremony draws thousands to Jerusalem every year and has attracted controversy from various sources and even from Christians. So what, exactly, is the Holy Fire Ceremony?
The Holy Fire is said to be a miracle that happens every year during this mass event. According to Orthodox tradition, a blue light glows from the stone bed Jesus was said to have been buried on. The light seems to behave different from year to year, but one fact remains- it doesn’t burn. The Holy Fire then rises to form a column, and candles are able to be lit from it. The patriarch kneels in front of the stone in the chapel, and there is darkness. There is said to be a loud mumbling, and when the patriarch finally comes out with two candles lit, a roar of jubilee resounds in the church. But it doesn’t end there. The Holy Fire is actually said to appear actively even outside the tomb, moving in different places within the Church.
Accounts of the Holy Fire date back as far as the fourth century. It may be one of the biggest, closely held, and most influential traditions held in religious history. Unfortunately, the majority of Protestants are uninformed and unaware of this phenomenon due to a general disinterest in miracles. Even many Catholics, who have historically been more interested in miracles, have never heard of the Holy Fire ceremony. The main reason that the ceremony is not more well-known, as speculators have concluded, is that only Orthodox Churches attend it and are highly involved in its celebration. No matter who knows of it, though, the ceremony of the Holy Fire is one that will be carried on for years to come.
Of course, with every account of a miracle comes criticism. One of the main arguments of skeptics is that there has never been video evidence of the 'miracle.’ They claim that the 'Holy Fire’ is lit manually by someone on the inside. Defenders of the ceremony also have compelling counterarguments, one of them being that many forms of ignition are fairly recent inventions, and the Holy Fire is an ancient phenomenon. Regardless of where you stand on the matter, the impact of the ceremony on countless lives is nothing to be ignored. For those who witness it, the Holy Fire is just another way by which their faith is strengthened.