Easter in Jerusalem at the Holy Sepulcher.
Thousands of Christians from around the world will be spending their Easter Holy Saturday visiting the "Holy Sepulcher". It is here that the known site of Christ's burial and resurrection is located. This is where one of the oldest Christian traditions take place at the "Holy Sepulcher" in Jerusalem. On holy Saturday on Easter Weekend the clergy from the four Eastern Churches- Greek, Armenian, Syriac and Coptic all gather in the morning at the "Holy Sepulcher" to begin their ancient Christian Ceremony.
Ceremony of Holy Light!
All the lights are out in the cathedral as part of the ceremony; the clergy begin to walk around the tomb of Christ wearing their fine robes and carrying relics, chanting and reciting hymns and passages from the four gospels. They also carry crosses and banners the crosses being a symbolic comparison to when Christ carried his cross on his back through out the streets of Jerusalem. The Greek patriarch is then disrobed of his fine robes; he is left only with a plain white one not unlike the worn by the Jewish high priest when he entered the holy temple. As part of the ceremony the patriarch is searched to make sure he is not carrying matches or anything else that could aide in him making light within the tomb. He then enters the tomb alone.
Awaiting the Light!
This is the moment all Christians have been waiting for; when the miracle of the holy light within the tomb lights. When this happens the patriarch passes the light through a hole in the tomb to those awaiting it on the outside of the tomb. It then lights up these big candles that sparkle and flash like flares. Once the awaiting Christians see the light in all its glory the streets erupts with cheers and celebration. This is such an amazing Easter ritual as there is nothing inside the tomb to make the light but a miracle happens every year on Holy Saturday at Easter. The only time in history when it didn't light was when the Crusaders invaded Jerusalem. They banned the Greek Orthodox patriarch from the "Holy Sepulcher" and in his place a Latin patriarch went into the tomb but it did not light. The Crusaders allowed the Greek Orthodox access once again to the church and the next year the light came back.
Spreading the Light!
Once the patriarch emerges from the tomb he then blesses all of the people. The light continues to spread through the people by them passing the light from their candles unto others etc. Priests or clergy take light back to their own churches to relight the holy fires within them. Many people come to get a holy light to bring back to their homes and loved ones. The Cathedral bells ring a sound of joy letting all know that the holy light continues. The whole ritual seems to happen so quickly that once the light begins to spread people also start to spread or disburse to their corners of the world bringing the holy light as they do so! Symbolically the decent of the holy fire or light is done in honor of the moment of resurrection when the light of God descended into the darkness of the tomb of Christ transforming death into life. When Christians share their holy light or fire it is symbolically reviving the power of the holy light of resurrection of Christ. Spreading it throughout the world renewing the hope of Easter. We must all remember that Easter is not just a time for eating chocolate Easter bunnies. It was a time of great sacrifice when God gave the life of his only son to rid us of our sins. Jesus gave his life willingly to cleanse us of our sins; he was (symbolically speaking) the sacrificial lamb. Peace be with you and God bless!