The Holy Light arrived in Greece on Holy Saturday, May 1 in a much humbler ceremony than what Greeks were used to in previous years.
This time, the light arrived without the head of state honors as the Fire lands on Greek soil, after its lightning in Jerusalem, Israel.
Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Costas Vlasis went to Jerusalem to receive the Holy Light from the Church of the Holy Sepulchre on behalf of the Greek people and transport it to the nation.
This year’s procedures, were different than the times before the COVID-19 pandemic, as is true with the entirety of Holly week.
According to government sources in Athens that were made known earlier this week, the ceremony of the arrival of the Holy Light was planned to take place “with due humility, as circumstances demand” and not with the honors of a head of state, a tradition that goes back in decades.
The Holy Light traveled to Greece on the country’s Prime Minister’s aircraft, but upon its arrival there was no red carpet or military band to welcome it, a common practice used in the past.
The So-Called Holy Light ”Miracle”
The Holy Light (or Holy Fire) is described by many faithful Orthodox Christians as a miracle that occurs every year at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem on Great Saturday, or Holy Saturday, the day preceding Orthodox Easter.
On this day, the Patriarch of Jerusalem enters a chapel believed to be the tomb of Jesus Christ in Jerusalem, without any device that would light a fire, such as a lighter or matches.
In fact, clergy of all denominations check the patriarch to see if he is carrying any such devices before he goes in.
Inside the tomb, there is a marble slab covering the stone believed to be that upon which Jesus’ body is to have been placed for burial.
Once the patriarch is in the chapel, he starts praying and from his prayers a blue light is said to emit within Jesus Christ’s tomb, rising from the marble slab.
From that blue light, the candles he carries with him miraculously light up with the Holy Fire of the Resurrection. Then that candlelight is transferred to the faithful inside and outside the church.
Then the Holy Light is transported by aircraft to all countries where Orthodoxy is the predominant faith — namely Belarus, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Georgia, Greece, Moldova, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Romania, Russia, Serbia, and Ukraine.
The Holy Fire emission from the tomb of Jesus has been disputed by other denominations, by both scientists and skeptics alike.
Some have called it a religious fraud, saying that chemicals like naphtha or white phosphorous which cause delayed ignition are used to light the fire in the tomb.
The Holy Light to be taken to 12 more Greek cities
Unlike last year when the measures against the pandemic dictated that the Holy Light could not be transported to cities other than Athens, this year it will be taken to twelve cities across the nation.
“I will go to Jerusalem,” the deputy minister said in an interview on Mega television earlier this week, adding “I will attend the Resurrection liturgy and we will receive the Holy Light.”
“I will leave Athens on Saturday morning. The Resurrection liturgy at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre will take place at 3 pm, and around 6 pm we will be back with the Holy Light,” he noted.
Last Easter, the Holy Light was only taken to the Exarchate of the Holy Sepulchre in Plaka, a traditional neighborhood of the Greek capital. This year it will be transported to other cities as well.
“Upon its arrival in Athens, twelve planes from two different airlines will transport the Holy Light to Thessaloniki, Alexandroupolis, Ioannina, and other major cities,” Vlassis said.