Is it real? Or is it fake? I have no idea, dear reader. In fact, I’ve only just learned about it today, as I’m always the last one to know about things of this sort.
But it being Holy Saturday, see, the folks crammed into the Church of the Holy Sepulchre like they’ve been doing for hundreds of years, waiting for the fire to appear.
I see from Wikipedia that Pope Gregory IX denounced the event as a fraud in the year 1238. Of course, it had been celebrated for hundreds of years before that.
And the painting at the top of the post is by a gentleman who reviled the event as a pious fake. I found an account of the event from 182O in a digital copy of The Missionary Register. It makes for interesting reading.
Miracle of the Holy Fire.
Mr. Parsons visited the Church of the Sepulchre during the week of the Passover; and on the Easter Eve, witnessed the supposed Miracle of the Holy Fire. Some account of this scene will be found at p. 389 of our Volume for 1820.
Every apartment of the Church was crowded with Turks, Jews, Christians and people from every nation under heaven: they were assembled to witness the supposed miraculous descent of the Holy Spirit, under the similitude of Fire. It is estimated, that at least 5000 people were present. The Governor of the City, and the Turks of rank, were there, A very convenient place was allotted me, to observe distinctly every ceremony.
About twelve o’clock,, we witnessed scenes of a very extraordinary nature, and highly derogatory to the Christian Profession. A.body of Arab Christians, Natives of Palestine, were admitted to perform their part in the duties of the Holy Week: they began by running round the Holy Sepulchre, with all the frantic airs of madmen—clapping their hands—throwing their caps into the air—cuffing one another’s ears—walking half naked upon the shoulders of their companions—hallooing, or rather shrieking, to the utmost extent of their voices. This was the exhibition to five thousand people, who were in expectation of soon witnessing the descent of the Holy Fire.
About one o’clock, the Turks entered the small apartment of the Holy Tomb, extinguished the lamps, closed the door, and set a watch. I was determined to enter myself the Holy Sepulchre with the Russian Consul, to see from what direction the fire proceeded: but they replied, “The Turks will not give permission to strangers to enter.” Shortly after, the principal Greek Priest entered the Holy Sepulchre, attended by the Armenian Patriarch, and also by the Syrian Patriarch. The Greek Priest, however, entered the Second apartment unattended. Every eye was fixed, as the time approached. As we stood waiting, suddenly there darted from the Sepulchre a flaming torch, which was carried almost instantaneously to a distant part of the assembly. I stood among the first to receive the fire, and to prove that, as to its power of burning, it contained no extraordinary qualities. The zeal of the Pilgrims to get. a part of the fire before the superior qualities departed, (as, they say, it burns like other fire in a few minutes,) endangered the lives of many : several were well nigh crushed to death. Some lighted candles—others, tow—with a view to preserve a part of its influence. Some held their faces in the blaze, saying, ” It does not burn.” Others said, ” Now, Lord, I believe ! forgive my former unbelief.” After this, the Pilgrims retired, abundantly satisfied with what they had seen and heard.
I have thought it rather strange, that the Greeks, when urging upon me the evidence of the superiority of their religion, have never mentioned the Miracle of the Holy Fire.
Here’s a clip from a few years back showing the above described sequence of events clearly.
You know, when most folks learn something is phony, a ruse, or a mere parlor trick, they tend to stop showing up for the miracle. But its always standing room only on Holy Saturday when the Holy Fire is expected.
Take from that whatever you will. I don’t know about you, but I like all of the candles being lit and the people celebrating. It must be the child in me.