Photo Credit: George Agasandian via Flickr
Holy Fire celebration 2009

A special flight carrying the Holy Fire from the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem landed Saturday at Moscow’s Vnukovo airport, TASS reported. Hundreds of worshippers gathered at the airport in anticipation of taking a spark from the Holy Fire to their parishes across Russia.

The Holy Fire is described by Greek Orthodox Christians as a miracle that occurs every year at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem on the day before the Orthodox Easter.

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A capsule containing the Holy Fire from Jerusalem was delivered to the Easter service in a Moscow Cathedral, led by Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia, according to TASS. The patriarch lit candles from the Holy Fire, an act that was followed by the worshippers in attendance, and soon enough the light of thousands of candles illuminated the Cathedral.

The historian Eusebius writes in his Vita Constantini, dating back to around 328 CE, about an interesting occurrence in Jerusalem of Easter in the year 162 CE: when the church wardens were about to fill the lamps to make them ready to celebrate the resurrection, they suddenly noticed that there was no more oil left to pour in the lamps. At which point Bishop Narcissus of Jerusalem ordered the candles to be filled with water. He then told the wardens to ignite them, and in front of all present, every single lamp burned as if had filled with pure oil.

It’s a particularly interesting mix of the story of Hanukkah (oil running out) and the story of Elijah’s confrontation with the Ba’al prophets (kings I 18:33-38):

“And he put the wood in order, and cut the bullock in pieces, and laid it on the wood. And he said: ‘Fill four jars with water, and pour it on the burnt-offering, and on the wood.’ And he said: ‘Do it the second time’; and they did it the second time. And he said: ‘Do it the third time’; and they did it the third time. And the water ran round about the altar; and he filled the trench also with water. And it came to pass at the time of the offering of the evening offering, that Elijah the prophet came near, and said: ‘O God, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Israel, let it be known this day that Thou art God in Israel, and that I am Your servant […] Then the fire of God fell, and consumed the burnt-offering, and the wood, and the stones, and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench.”

The Holy Fire was first brought to Moscow in 1992. After the fire’s arrival, the Patriarch passes it over to believers who light 33 candles tied together – a candle for each year of you know who’s life.

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