HOLY WEEK AROUND THE WORLD: Ethiopian Christians in Jerusalem
JERUSALEM: Ethiopian Christian pilgrims hold candles during an Ethiopian Orthodox ceremony of the “Holy Fire” (also called “Holy Light”) at the Dir Al-Sultan church, held on the roof of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem’s Old City.
The Holy Fire is an ancient and yet controversial tradition, first written about in the 4th century. Eusebius related that in the year 162, church wardens preparing to celebrate the Resurrection of Christ discovered that they had no more oil with which to fill the lamps. Supposedly, Bishop Narcissus of Jerusalem ordered that the lamps be filled with water and then ignited, and the lamps became alive with flame. According to Wikipedia:
Orthodox tradition holds that the Holy Fire happens annually on the day preceding Orthodox Pascha (OrthodoxEaster), in which a blue light emanates within Jesus Christ’s tomb (usually rising from the marble slab covering the stone bed believed to be that upon which Jesus’ body was placed for burial) now in the Holy Sepulchre, which eventually forms a column containing a form of fire, from which candles are lit, which are 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 claim that the Holy Fire does not burn them. While the Patriarch is inside the chapel kneeling in front of the stone, there is darkness but far from silence outside. One hears a rather loud mumbling, and the atmosphere is very tense. When the Patriarch comes out with the two candles lit and shining brightly in the darkness, a roar of jubilation resounds in the Church. Thousands of pilgrims as well as local Christians of all denominations gather in Jerusalem to partake and witness this annual event. The Holy Fire is taken to certain Orthodox countries, such as Greece, by special flights, being received by church and state leaders.
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Photo by Menahem Kahana for AFP