As this is Holy Week, I am doing a series of links to articles on the Miracle of the Holy Fire, which occurs at the same place, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem on Holy Saturday.
Holy Fire from Orthodox Wiki ~ link ~ The Holy Fire (Greek 'Αγιος Φως, literally "Holy Light") is a miracle that occurs every year at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem on Holy Saturday, the day preceding Pascha. It is considered by many to be the longest-attested annual miracle in the Christian world, though the event has only been documented consecutively since 1106. In many Orthodox countries around the world the event is televised live.
The ceremony begins at noon when the Patriarch of Jerusalem or another Orthodox Archbishop recites a specific prayer. The faithful gathered will then chant "Lord, have mercy" (Kyrie eleison in Greek) until the Holy Fire descends on a lamp of olive oil held by the patriarch while he is alone in the tomb chamber of Jesus Christ. The patriarch will then emerge from the tomb chamber, recite some prayers, and light either 33 or 12 candles to distribute to the faithful.
The fire is also said to spontaneously light other lamps and candles around the church. Pilgrims say the Holy Fire will not burn hair, faces, etc., in the first 33 minutes after it is ignited. Before entering the Lord's Tomb, the patriarch or presiding archbishop is inspected by Israeli authorities to prove that he does not carry the technical means to light the fire. This investigation used to be carried out by Turkish soldiers.
The Holy Fire is first mentioned in the documents dating from the 4th century. A detailed description of the miracle is contained in the travelogue of the Russian igumen Daniel, who was present at the ceremony in 1106. Daniel mentions a blue incandescence descending from the dome to the edicula where the patriarch awaits the Holy Fire. Some claim to have witnessed this incandescence in modern times.The Miracle of the Holy Fire in Jerusalem from the Orthodox Information Center ~ link ~ "The Miracle of the Holy Fire" by Christians from the Orthodox Churches is known as "The greatest of all Christian miracles". It takes place every single year, on the same time, in the same manner, and on the same spot. No other miracle is known to occur so regularly and for such an extensive period of time; one can read about it in sources as old as from the eighth Century AD. The miracle happens in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, to millions of believers the holiest place on earth. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre itself is an enigmatic place. Theologians, historians and archaeologists consider the church to contain both Golgatha, the little hill on which Jesus Christ was crucified, as well as the "new tomb" close to Golgatha that received his dead body, as one reads in the Gospels. It is on this same spot that Christians believe he rose from the dead.
The miracle occurs every year on the Orthodox Easter Saturday. There are many types of Orthodox Christians: Syrian, Armenian, Russian and Greek Orthodox as well as Copts. In the Holy Sepulchre Church alone there are 7 different Christian Denominations. The Orthodox Easter-date is fixed according to the Julian Calendar, and not the usual Western European Gregorian calendar, which means that their Easter normally falls on a different date than the Protestant and Catholic Easter.
"I find my way through the darkness towards the inner chamber in which I fall on my knees. Here I say certain prayers that have been handed down to us through the centuries and, having said them, I wait. Sometimes I may wait a few minutes, but normally the miracle happens immediately after I have said the prayers. From the core of the very stone on which Jesus lay an indefinable light pours forth. It usually has a blue tint, but the color may change and take many different hues. It cannot be described in human terms. The light rises out of the stone as mist may rise out of a lake it almost looks as if the stone is covered by a moist cloud, but it is light. This light each year behaves differently. Sometimes it covers just the stone, while other times it gives light to the whole sepulchre, so that people who stand outside the tomb and look into it will see it filled with light. The light does not burn I have never had my beard burnt in all the sixteen years I have been Patriarch in Jerusalem and have received the Holy Fire. The light is of a different consistency than normal fire that burns in an oil lamp.
"At a certain point the light rises and forms a column in which the fire is of a different nature, so that I am able to light my candles from it. When I thus have received the flame on my candles, I go out and give the fire first to the Armenian Patriarch and then to the Coptic. Hereafter I give the flame to all people present in the Church."
Holy Fire - Wikipedia ~ link ~ The Holy Fire (Greek Ἃγιον Φῶς, "Holy Light") is described by Christians as a miracle that occurs every year at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem on Holy Saturday, the day preceding Orthodox Easter. It is considered by many to be the longest-attested annual miracle in the Christian world. It has only been consecutively documented since 1106 A.D., previous references being sporadic. The ceremony is broadcast live in Greece, Russia, Georgia, Cyprus, Lebanon and other Orthodox countries like Egypt. Furthermore, the Holy Fire is brought to certain Orthodox countries, such as in Russia, Greece, Serbia, Georgia, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Syria, Lebanon and Armenia, every year by special flights, being received with honors by state leaders at the respective airports.
On the appointed day at noon, the Greek Orthodox patriarch, followed by the Coptic archbishop and 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 Sepulcher. Once the procession has ended, the Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem or another Orthodox Archbishop recites a specific prayer, puts off his robes and enters alone into the sepulcher. 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. This investigation used to be carried out by Muslim Turkish Ottoman soldiers. The Coptic and the Armenian archbishops remain in the antechamber, where the angel was sitting when he appeared to Mary Magdalene after the Resurrection of Jesus. The congregants subsequently chant Kyrie eleison ("Lord, have mercy" in Greek) until the Holy Fire spontaneously descends on 33 white candles tied together by the Patriarch while he is alone inside the tomb chamber of Jesus. The patriarch then reveals himself from the tomb chamber and recites some prayers, before he lights either 33 or 12 candles and distributes them to the congregants. The fire is considered by believers to be the flame of the Resurrection power, as well as the fire of the Burning Bush of Mount Sinai.
Pilgrims claim the Holy Fire does not burn their hair, faces, clothes or anything else during the first 33 minutes of its appearance. One web site offers videos claiming to show worshipers having prolonged contact with the flames without discomfort or damage to skin or hair.
Description of the Miracle of the Holy Fire that happen every year in Jerusalem ~ link ~ This link is from a previous year. Holy Saturday is on this coming Saturday, 3 April 2010.
Holy Fire - Photos and videos links ~ link
Holy Fire - Video - YouTube from 2008 ~ link
Holy Fire in Jerusalem - article from 1982 ~ link
Holy Fire - Holy Week and Pascha in Jerusalem - 1846 ~ link