What is the significance of the Holy Light?

The Holy Light (το Άγιο Φως) refers to a miracle that happens every year at Pascha at the Cathedral of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. The flame of the Holy Light lights up on its own, without a material flame source. There are references to the miracle of the Holy Light from the fourth century AD, and it has been documented consecutively every year since 1106 AD. Each year, the miracle has occurred at the same time (in relation to Pascha), in the same manner, at the same place, and to the same person, being the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem.

Before the Patriarch enters the shrine over Jesus’ tomb, the authorities check the tomb for any sources of fire and then seal it. They also search the Patriarch for any source of flame. The Patriarch then enters the shrine, at around midday on Holy Saturday, in utter reverence and holy fear. He says prayers that have been passed down to him from over the centuries. Then, from the stone that covered Jesus’ tomb, an indefinable light pours forth.

The light resembles a moist fire cloud around the stone and, from this, the Patriarch’s candles are lit. The Patriarch then comes out and the light is spread to everyone in the Holy Sepulchre. The unlit lamps hanging outside the shrine often light on their own. Sometimes the candles of worshippers light on their own too. The light does not cause burns in its initial stages. People hold it under their chins and they are not burned. Light has special significance in relation to Pascha. Consider the following hymn; chanted when we receive the light at Pascha:

‘Come receive the light, from the never-setting light; and glorify Christ who has risen from the dead.’

In beholding the words of this hymn, we remember the words of Christ, ‘I am the light of the world’ (John 8:12). Light is the source of life; light means joy, illumination and warmth. Indeed, Christ as the Son of God is the source of life who dissipates the darkness, which is sin and death. Christ could not be contained by the darkness of death; he resurrected to give life to us who are in darkness.

Therefore, the Holy Light at the Sepulchre of Christ in Jerusalem is a repeating and living affirmation by Christ Himself about the events of the Resurrection. It is confirmation that our faith is alive; that it is not a theory or a myth. Despite our frailties and weaknesses, Jesus continues to send this message of ultimate hope. The Holy Light is a re-living of His resurrection; the resurrection which gives us the opportunity for reunion with Him, our Creator, and the realisation of the promise to eternal life. May the Holy Light inspire and strengthen us in our lives so that through our devotion to Christ we may live in this never-setting light.

Source: Lychnos April 2022 /May 2022