The Orthodox Pages



























Question 45.
Dear Fr. Christopher,

Your blessing!
On Holy Saturday, as he makes his way towards the Holy Sepulchre, the Patriarch of Jerusalem is accompanied by four to six distinct men in uniform. These men wear green jackets and red, Ottoman-style hats. They also follow the Patriarch and his delegation during litanies and processions. I was wondering if you could please explain who these men are and what their connection is to the Church in Jerusalem.

With respect



Answer to Question 45.

Dear Evangelos,
The answer to your question can once again be found in the Talk section of the website under the heading “Talk on the Holy Light and Customs of the Resurrection Service” dated 15/4/10.

The following is an extract from the talk.


“The unique service is sung only in Jerusalem at about 1 or 2pm in the afternoon of Holy and Great Saturday and is called the Service of the Holy Light. Every year during this service a miraculous fire lights by itself in the Holy Sepulchre. At around 11am of Holy Saturday the Christian Arabs chant traditional hymns in a loud voice. These chants date back to the Turkish occupation of Jerusalem in the 13th century, a period in which the Christians were not allowed to chant anywhere but in the churches. You will hear them sing “We are the Christians, we have been Christians for centuries, and we shall be forever and ever. Amen!” They chant at the top of their voices accompanied by the sound of drums. The drummers sit on the shoulders of others who dance vigorously around the Holy Ciborium. But at 1pm the chants fade out, and then there is almost a total silence. Then a delegation from the local authorities elbows its way through the crowd. At the time of the Turkish occupation of Palestine they were Muslim Turks; today they are Israelis. Their function is to represent the Romans at the time of Jesus. The Gospels speak of the Romans that went to seal the tomb of Jesus, so that his disciples would not steal his body and claim he had risen. In the same way the Israeli authorities on this Holy Saturday come and seal the tomb with wax. Before they seal the door, they follow a custom to enter the tomb, and to check for any hidden source of fire, which would make a fraud of the miracle.

Then the Greek Orthodox Patriarch, followed by the Armenian archbishop, march in grand and solemn procession with their own clergies, while singing hymns. They march three times round the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Once the procession has ended, the Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem recites a specific prayer, puts off his robes and enters alone into the sepulchre. Before entering the Tomb of Christ, the Patriarch is examined by Jewish Israeli authorities to prove that he does not carry technical means to light the fire. The Armenian archbishop remains in the antechamber, where the angel was sitting when he appeared to Mary Magdalene after the Resurrection of Jesus. The congregation subsequently chant Kyrie eleison until the Holy Fire spontaneously descends on two bunches of 33 white candles held by the Patriarch while he is alone inside the tomb chamber of Jesus.”


If you want to know more then visit the website. There is a beautiful account of what happens inside the Sepulchre by the Patriarch Diodoros.

With love in Christ
Fr. Christopher