- St John Chrysostom
It therefore seems appropriate somehow that our sister churches in the Orthodox and Coptic traditions celebrate their Easter ceremonies this weekend with the marking of Pascha when "entire congregations previously waiting in darkness and filled with anticipation will light up, their faces shining with joy and hope. Together they will all chant in numerous languages, depending on geography and culture, the triumphant hymn familiar to young and old: "Christ is risen from the dead, trampling death by death, and granting life to those in the tombs."
Read the reflection of His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, Archbishop of Constantinople and New Rome and spiritual leader for the world's 300 million Orthodox Christians on this great Christian festival HERE.
You can read the homily of His Holiness, Kirill, Patriarch of Moscow and all the Rus, Primate of the Russian Orthodox Church HERE.
The Holy Fire ceremony from the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem has taken place:
Orthodox tradition holds that the Holy Fire is a miracle that happens annually on the day preceding Orthodox Easter, 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.
The Holy Fire is brought to certain Orthodox countries, such as Greece by special flights, being received by church and state leaders.
The Orthodox hegumen Daniil (Daniel), who was present at the ceremony in 1106 AD, says that traditional beliefs "that the Holy Ghost descends upon the Holy Sepulchre in the form of a dove" and "that it is lightning from heaven which kindles the lamps above the Sepulchre of the Lord" are untrue, "but the Divine grace comes down unseen from heaven, and lights the lamps of the Sepulchre of our Lord."
Thousands of pilgrims gather in Jerusalem to partake and witness this annual miracle.
In 1238, Pope Gregory IX denounced the Holy Fire as a fraud and forbade Franciscans from participating in the ceremony.Information about Orthodox Easter Day and further information on the Orthodox celebration of Holy Week and Easter from BBC.
Reports on the Holy Fire from Jerusalem Post and Huffington Post