Easter Holy Week celebrations are continuing in Jerusalem with a traditional ceremony at the holiest place in Christianity.
Orthodox Christians crowded into the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem’s Old City for the Ceremony of the Holy Fire. Following a 1,200-year-old tradition, priests entered the ancient stone tomb of Jesus as the cavernous church was plunged into darkness. Suddenly, the priests emerged with candles said to be lit by the Holy Spirit.
The crowd cheered as the flame quickly spread to thousands of worshippers holding candles. It symbolizes that Jesus is the light of the world.
Worshippers came from countries where the Orthodox churches are strong, including Serbia, Russia, Armenia and Greece. Rasia Katsaros came from Athens. “Seeing the actual place that all these events took place makes them more real in your mind,” she said.
She said seeing the candles illuminate the church was an experience of Jesus’ resurrection. “It renews my faith in many levels. And all the spiritual consequences that come from visualizing everything. For me it does renew my faith and it strengthens it actually,” she said.
About 2,500 Israeli police and soldiers deployed in and around Jerusalem’s Old City to secure the event.
Flames from the holy fire were taken from Jerusalem and put on flights to Moscow, Athens and other cities, linking 200 million Orthodox Christians worldwide to their spiritual roots.