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Holy Fire Arrives in Greece Ahead of Easter

Holy Fire
The Holy Fire arrives in Athens on Saturday evening. Credit: Video screenshot

The Holy Fire, or Holy Light, arrived to Greece from the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem on Holy Saturday in time for the Easter midnight mass.

The fire will be transported to another seven destinations within Greece on both scheduled and specially chartered flights.

Earlier, thousands of Christians gathered in Jerusalem for the ancient fire ceremony, which celebrates Jesus’ resurrection.

In a ritual dating back at least 1,200 years, they crowded into the Church of the Holy Sepulchre on Saturday, where Christian tradition holds that Jesus was crucified, buried, and resurrected.

Greek Patriarch Theophilos III entered the Holy Edicule, a chamber built on the traditional site of the tomb, and returned with two lit candles, passing the flame among thousands of people holding candles, gradually illuminating the walls of the darkened basilica.

The source of the Holy Fire has been a closely guarded secret for centuries, and highbrow skeptics going back to the Middle Ages have scorned it as a carnival trick for the masses.

Holy Fire ceremony

Orthodox tradition holds that the phenomena of the Holy Fire occurs annually on the day preceding Orthodox Pascha (Orthodox Easter). During this time, blue light is said to emit within Jesus’ tomb, rising from the marble slab covering the stone bed believed to be that upon which Jesus’ body is purported to have been placed for burial.

The light is believed to form a column of fire from which candles are lit. This fire is then used to light the candles of the clergy and pilgrims in attendance. The fire is also said to spontaneously light other lamps and candles around the church. Pilgrims and clergy say that the Holy Fire does not burn them for the first few minutes..

The ceremony took place under tight security in Jerusalem which has seen a week of clashes between Palestinians and Israeli police at the nearby Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, the third holiest site in Islam, which sits atop the Temple Mount, the holiest place in Judaism.

Israel applied a safety law that limits crowd size based on space and the number of exits. Authorities said they want to prevent a repeat of last year’s stampede on Mount Meron in northern Israel during a religious festival attended by around 100,000 mostly ultra-Orthodox Jews.

It was one of the worst disasters in the country’s history, and authorities came in for heavy criticism over alleged negligence.

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