The Holy Fire (Holy Light)

Beloved brothers and sisters in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,


The Holy Fire is described by Orthodox Christians as a miracle that occurs every year at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem on Holy and Great Saturday, the day preceding Orthodox Holy Pascha. It is considered by Christians to be the longest-attested annual miracle in the Christian world. It has been consecutively documented since 1106 A.D., with previous references being sporadic. The ceremony is broadcast live in Georgia, Greece, Ukraine, Russia, Romania, Belarus, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Lebanon and other Orthodox countries like Egypt. Furthermore, the Holy Fire is brought to certain Orthodox countries, such as in Georgia, Greece, Russia, Belarus, Cyprus, Serbia, Montenegro, Bulgaria, Romania, Moldova, Ukraine, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, every year by special flights, being received with honors by state leaders at the respective airports. But my question is why have we in the United States and the various Orthodox Archdiocese have not even heard about the Holy Fire that takes place at the Church of the Resurrection? It is not even discussed or even mentioned in the official newspapers of the Church.

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 Pascha Saturday, at noon, the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem, 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 and divine way, miraculously, and lights up the little lamp of olive oil put on the edge of it. The Greek Orthodox Patriarch after having read some prayers, light up the two clusters of 33 candles he is holding, and begins to distribute the Holy Fire [Light] to the multitude of Christian pilgrims, who receive it with great emotion, accompanied with the pealing of bells, acclamations, and an unbridled enthusiasm and joy.

The Holy Fire is not only distributed by the Patriarch, but operates also itself. It emits from the Holy Sepulchre having a gleam of 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 Calvary (at a higher level than the Holy Sepulchre) and lights up the little lamps. It lights up also the candles of the Christian pilgrims. In fact there are some very pious pilgrims who, every time they attended this ceremony, noticed that their candles lit up on their own accord!

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. We must take also take into consideration that the Holy Fire appears only by the prayers and invocation of the Greek Orthodox Patriarch. 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 from 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 fleshed near the Greek Orthodox Patriarch.

A Moslem Muezin, called Tounom, who saw the miraculous event from an adjacent mosque, abandoned immediately Islam 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. The Orthodox Christian pilgrims embrace it at the "place of the split" as they 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 Economides book "Differences between the Orthodox and Roman Catholicism"]


The Holy Fire is first mentioned by the pilgrim Bernard the Monk, in 870 AD. A detailed description of this phenomenon is contained in the travelogue of the Russian hegumenos Daniil (Daniel) who, was present at the ceremony in 1106 AD. Daniel mentions a blue incandescence descending from the dome to the edicula where the Patriarch awaits the Holy Fire.

With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+Father George