ONE @ 50: Christian High Holy Days

In honor of ONE magazine’s 50th-anniversary year, the CNEWA blog series, ONE @ 50: From the Vault, aims to revive and explore the wealth of articles published in ONE magazine throughout its history. This Easter season, read about Christians in the Holy Land who overcame obstacles to attend the Holy Fire celebration on Holy Saturday in Jerusalem.

Read the excerpt below from “Christian High Holy Days,” originally published in May 2010, then read the full story.

Childhood dreams. I was 14 years old when my father decided I was ready to participate in the Holy Fire celebration on Holy Saturday, according to the Greek Orthodox tradition.

I belong to one of the 13 oldest Christian families in Jerusalem. Hundreds of years ago, locals commemorated these early Christians by placing in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre 13 banners, each named after one of these families. The only privilege the families’ descendants enjoy is that once a year, on Holy Saturday, a representative from each family carries the banner in a procession that marches around Christ’s tomb in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre three times.

After the procession, the Greek Orthodox patriarch enters the sealed tomb where the Miracle of the Holy Fire occurs, symbolizing the flame of the Resurrection. The fire is then passed out to the waiting crowds through a small window in the outer chamber of the edicule, which enshrines the tomb. Within seconds, the whole church lights up. This must be the most amazing surge of faith I experience throughout year. At that precise moment, I feel renewed as a Christian and prepared to face the many challenges we Arab Christians confront daily in the Holy Land. Since my first experience, I have never missed this amazing celebration except when I was out of the country.

Every year, as Easter approaches, we begin discussing who will represent our family on Holy Saturday. Though I must admit that, in recent years, with so many of us emigrating from the Holy Land, selecting our representative has become less of a problem. The number of adults still around who can carry the heavy banner has dwindled to a handful. As a matter of fact, about half of those 13 families have no one left in the Holy Land. For the last few years, three of my relatives have joined me in carrying the banners representing these families — an honor we deeply cherish.

Read more.

Recent Posts

Get to know us and stay informed about the impact your support makes.

Nous constatons que votre préférence linguistique est le français.
Voudriez-vous être redirigé sur notre site de langue française?

Oui! Je veux y accéder.

Hemos notado que su idioma preferido es español. ¿Le gustaría ver la página de Asociación Católica para el Bienestar del Cercano Oriente en español?

Vee página en español