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The Miraculous Holy Fire Arrives in Greece from Jerusalem

Holy Fire
Holy Fire ceremony pictured in 2022. Credit: Mar Sharb / Wikimedia Commons CC BY 2.0

The light of the Holy Fire reached Athens on Saturday at approximately 20:30 after a short delay.

The Holy Fire is a miracle purported to take place every year at Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre on Great Saturday, just one day before Orthodox Christians celebrate Easter.

During the miracle, it is thought that a beam of blue light emanates from the tomb of Jesus, creating a fiery pillar from which candles are ignited. This phenomenon is known as the Holy Fire, and it is used to light the candles of the priests and worshipers who are there.

The ceremony surrounding the lighting of the Holy Fire is mostly an Orthodox affair but Christians of other denominations do gather around the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the Old City of Jerusalem to take part.

This year’s ceremony

Andreas Katsaniotis, the Greek Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, was present in Jerusalem today to represent the Greek delegation. He received the Holy Fire from His Beatitude Patriarch of Jerusalem, Theophilos III.

Taking part in the mission to touch and transport the Holy Fire was the Exarch of the Holy Sepulchre in Greece Archimandrite Raphael, New Democracy MP Maximos Harakopoulos, the president of the Inter-Parliamentary Synod of Orthodoxy and the members of the Synod: Thanasis Davakis, a New Democracy MP and Yannis Sarakiotis,  SYRIZA MP.

The Holy Fire was flown via an AEGEAN A320neo aircraft to Athens and was expected to arrive at Eleftherios Venizelos airport at 19:30, although it was slightly delayed and arrived roughly one hour later.

From Athens, the Holy Fire is distributed across Greece. AEGEAN and Olympic aircraft are responsible for taking it to Alexandroupoli, Chania, Samos, Larissa, Lemnos, Ioannina, Corfu, and Kefalonia.

Sky Express aircraft also play a role in the delivery of the Holy Fire across the country, taking the light to Thessaloniki, Heraklion, Rhodes, Kos, Mykonos, Mytilini, Santorini, and Chios.

The Holy Fire ceremony in Jerusalem

According to Orthodox tradition, the miracle occurs every year on the day before Orthodox Easter, also known as Pascha. It is believed that at this time, a blue light emanates from inside Jesus’ tomb, rising up from the marble slab that covers the stone bed where Jesus’ body is believed to have been laid for burial.

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, located in the Old City of Jerusalem, now houses the marble slab. According to belief, the blue light that emerges from Jesus’ tomb takes the form of a fiery column that ignites candles. This flame is then used to light the candles of those present, including the clergy and pilgrims.

Prior to the lighting of the Holy Fire, the Patriarch kneels in front of the stone inside the chapel, while a crowd gathers outside. Once the fire is ignited, the Patriarch emerges from the church carrying two lit candles. Thousands of people, including local Christians of various denominations, gather in Jerusalem to witness and participate in this yearly event.

It is also said that the Holy Fire has the ability to spontaneously ignite other lamps and candles in the church. People who attend the event claim that the fire does not cause them any harm.

The Holy Fire is then taken to Greece via a special flight, usually onboard the Greek Prime Minister’s aircraft. It is then lit in several major cities across the country.

The miraculous flames are delivered to other countries with large Orthodox Christian countries communities Georgia, Serbia, Ukraine, Russia, Cyprus, Bulgaria, Egypt, North Macedonian, Lebanon, and Romania.


A similar miracle which proceeded the Holy Fire was told of by Eusebius in the Life of Constantine around 328 BC. Eusebius wrote about a phenomenon said to have occurred in Jerusalem on Easter in the year 162.

According to Eusebius, the churchwardens were about to light the lamps to celebrate the resurrection of Christ but were unable to do so because they had run out of oil. Bishop Narcissus of Jerusalem instructed them to fill the lamps with water and ignite them as if they were filled with water. All present were astonished when the lamps did ignite.

However, this miracle preceded the construction of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the 4th century and was a one-off occurrence rather than an annual phenomenon.

The actual miracle of the Holy Fire is first believed to have occurred in 867 AD and was observed by a Christian pilgrim called Bernard the Wise. Since then, believers in the miracle maintain that the Holy Fire springs forth from the tomb of Jesus on the same day every year.

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