Pilgrimage to the Holiest of Shrines: Ten Thousands of Pilgrims Witness the Miracle of the Holy Fire
As promised, here is the first of posts about pilgrims, pilgrimages and shrines. We start with the best, the greatest, the holiest of shrines: the tomb of Our Lord.
Each year, on Holy Saturday, the tomb of Christ in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is searched thoroughly by the Israeli police to make sure it contains no incendiary devices. The tomb is then sealed with wax. The church is filled with pilgrims witnessing the process. The Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem is searched to make sure he carries nothing to light a fire with. He breaks the seal, enters the tomb with bundles of unlit candles and prays a sequence of ancient prayers. It is dark in the tomb and the church. At the end of the prayers, a fire emerges from the tomb which lights the candles but does not burn the patriarch's beard. This Holy Fire is then shared among the pilgrims in the church and carried out into the world.
The Reverend Know It All, aka Father Richard Simon of St.Lambert Roman Catholic Church, Skokie, Illinois, wrote a funny and very informative blog post titled What's with this "Holy Fire" nonsense? The post contains a comprehensive history of the Holy Fire. Enjoy!
YouTube has many videos of the miracle: Here is one that shows the entire ritual beginning with the sealing of the tomb.