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The “Holy Light” of Jerusalem debunked

2010 Οκτώβριος 11
Δεν επιτρέπεται σχολιασμός στο The “Holy Light” of Jerusalem debunked
by Editor Group

Columnist: Kostas (Κώστας)
Adaptation and Translation: EvanT

● Introduction

▪ An Overview of the "miracle"

▪ Important Notes

● The Patriarch’s Prayer

▪ The "secret prayer" myth

▪ An astonishing confession

▪ Rev. Metallenos’ opinion

▪ Reading the prayer

▪ The Christian Apologetics

● Other assorted myths

▪ The body search and the Sleepless Lantern

▪ The Church may be declared innocent…

▪ …but what about the unanswered questions?

▪ The Antiquity myth

▪ The torn pillar

▪ The Orthodox exclusivity

● Elements of the Miracle

▪ In what form does the light appear?

▪ And when?

▪ The flame that doesn’t burn

▪ The eye-witness excuse

● Theological Objections

▪ Natural or Supernatural

▪ The necessity of the miracle

● The Challenges

▪ A ruthless challenge

▪ The Candles







Let us be honest: For us who are dissociated from religion, the "Holy Light" phenomenon being a miracle cannot but be viewed as a highly improbable, theoretical possibility, equidistant between acceptance and utter rejection. It is a fact though, that the various attempts to demystify it by the skeptics, even though they explain some aspects of the phenomenon, for the time being they have not managed to offer convincing answers to all questions raised by its complexity. What really happens every Good Saturday in Jerusalem cannot be the object of rigourous scientific study under current circumstances. That which can be approached critically is the phenomenon’s theological foundation and its (little known to the faithful) history.

An overview of the "miracle"

The following description can be found found here, under the title: «Great miracle given by God only to the Orthodox Church; The Ceremony of the Holy Light in Jerusalem. It was selected because it summarizes the whole legend of the «Holy Light», which this article attempts to analyze.

This ceremony takes place in the Orthodox Church of the Resurrection in Jerusalem in such a way that bewilders the soul of the Christians.

On Easter Saturday, at noon, the Orthodox Patriarch, or any other Orthodox Archbishop, enters the Holy Sepulchre, recites special prayers and remains waiting. Sometimes the waiting is long, sometimes short. The crowd, in the darkened church, repeats continually with a loud voice: «Lord, have mercy.» (Kyrie eleison). At a certain moment the Holy Light flashes from the depth of the Holy Sepulchre in a supernatural way, miraculously, and lights up the little lamp of olive oil put on the edge of it. The Patriarch (or the Archbishop), after having read some prayers, lights up the two clusters of 33 candles he is holding, and begins to distribute the Holy Light to the multitude of pilgrims, who receive it with great emotion, accompanied with the pealing of bells, acclamations, and an unbridled enthusiasm.

The Holy Light is not only distributed by the Archbishop, but operates also by itself. It emits from the Holy Sepulchre having a gleam of a hue completely different from that of natural light. It sparkles, it flashes like lightning, it flies like a dove around the tabernacle of the Holy Sepulchre, and lights up the unlit lamps of olive oil hanging in front of it. It whirls from one side of the church to the other. It enters to some of the chapels inside the church, as for instance the chapel of the Calvery (at a higher level than the Holy Sepulchre) and lights up the little lamps. It lights up also the candles of certain pilgrims. In fact there are some very pious pilgrims who, every time they attended this ceremony, noticed that their candles lit up on the own accord!

This divine light also presents some peculiarities: As soon as it appears it has a bluish hue and does not burn. At the first moments of its appearance, if it touches the face, or the mouth, or the hands, it does not burn. This is proof of its divine and supernatural origin. We must also take into consideration that the Holy Light appears only by the invocation of an Orthodox Archbishop. EACH TIME THAT HETERODOX BISHOPS TRIED TO OBTAIN IT, THEY FAILED.

Once the Armenians paid the Turks, who then occupied the Holy Land, in order to obtain permission for their Patriarch to enter the Holy Sepulchre, The Orthodox Patriarch was standing sorrowfully with his flock at the exit of the church, near the left column, when the Holy Light split this column vertically and flashed near the Orthodox Patriarch.

A Moslem Muezin, called Tounom, who saw the miraculous event from an adjacent mosque, abandoned immediately the Moslem religion and became an Orthodox Christian. This event took place in 1549 under Sultan Mourad IV, when the Patriarch of Jerusalem was Sophrony II. ( The mentioned split column still exists. It goes back to the XII c. The Orthodox pilgrims embrace it at the «place of the split» as the enter the church).

The appearance of the Holy Light is an event which occurs every year in front of thousands of visual witnesses. Nobody can deny it. On the contrary, this miracle can reinforce those who have lack of faith.

There are some very touching recent cases of some Jews, who believed in Christ after having seen the Holy Light, and who said to their compatriots: «Why are you still waiting for the Messiah? The Messiah came indeed».

Important Notes

This article repeatedly refers to three people: Rev. George Metallenos, Constantine Kalokyres and Michael Kalopoulos. Since they’re all Greek (to you) a short introduction is in order.

  • Reverent George Metallenos (Γεώργιος Μεταλληνός) is a Greek-Orthodox Protopresbyter (archpriest), Professor of Theology at the University of Athens. He has also authoured several books of Orthodox Christianity and often takes part in TV programs about the «Holy Light». All in all, he is considered an authority on Orthodox Theology in Greece.
  • Constantine Kalokyres (Κωνσταντίνος Καλοκύρης) is a professor of byzantine antiquities at the Aristotelian University of Thessaloniki who has written extensively on Orthodox semiotics and symbolism, including a book on the Holy Light of Jerusalem.
  • Michael Kalopoulos is an author who has written extensively against Christianity and its role in the elimination of the Ancient Greek culture. While his books are controversial (to say the least) he has become quite an influential figure due to his frequent public confrontations with members of the clergy.

Also note that roman numeral footnotes are all in English. Footnotes marked with english letters refer to offline material written in Greek. If you want to read them while browsing the main text, scroll to the bottom and reveal them first.


The Patriarch’s Prayer

The "secret prayer" myth

Wondrous myths and legends have been woven around the special prayer chanted by the Greek-Orthodox Patriarch; the common denominator being that it is a special prayer that only he knows! This is in no way true. The prayer was first published in 1933 by Archimandrite Kallistos Meliaras (professor of the University of Athens) and published again in 1967 in the "New Zion" (Νέα Σιών) magazine, official publication of the Jerusalem Patriarchate. [a] It is obvious that we’re not talking about a big secret, to which no one has access other than the Greek-Orthodox Patriarch, but a text that has been in circulation for more than 80 years!  

An astonishing confession

One cannot but wonder what this legendary prayer says. What is the Patriarch praying for after secluding himself in the Holy Sepulchre Chamber? One might think "What else other than what (supposedly) happens every time; for the Holy Light to miraculously descend from heaven and illuminate the world!" Alas. The wording of the prayer is clear and leads to the unforced conclusion that the ceremony is purely symbolic and that the light that appears every Good Saturday in Jerusalem does not descend from heaven, but has an entirely natural source and is called "holy" just because it is extracted from the Holy Sepulchre!

This conclusion -which is easily drawn simply by reading the prayer- was also admitted to by Rev. Mettalenos himself (!) in his book "For and Against the Holy Light" (Φωτομαχικά-Αντιφωτομαχικά) agreeing with his"esteemed teacher, famous archaeologist and well-versed in the field of Orthodox Worship, professor and academician, Mr. Constantine Kalokyres".

Rev. Metallenos in his book condenses and comments on works by people for and against the miracle theory, works that he quotes precisely. Some arguments -for and against- are carefully and objectively commented upon, while others are left without comments. But what leaves the reader speechless is that in the prayer (which the clerical professor explicitly adm really its that it is "the key to understanding the Ceremony and the nature of the "Holy Light" ) "[…] there is not even a mention (not even a hint) about an immaterial light descending from above at that moment, but it is implied that the light is only natural and is lit in memory of the Risen Christ".[b]

With this astonishing comment, Rev. Metallenos (as he already admitted last Easter in a TV appearance he made) expressed his reservations on the "Holy Light" phenomenon and and remarked that he should rather be congratulated for this than criticized! In the middle of all this dispute he falls in line not only with the interpretation of his teacher, Constantine Kalokyres, but its core is also partly similar with Spyros Karatheodores, medical doctor, important figure of the Fanari literary circle and author of several important works on literature and theology, considered by the extended Orthodox Church as a theological giant [c]. In his unpublished work "Objection" (Αντίρρησις 1832-1836) Karatheodores, while criticizing Koraes for his polemic against the Jerusalem Patriarchs, leaves no margin for misinterpretation on the matter of the "Holy Light" [d]:

"[…]it became customary to ignite light over the Holy Sepulchre and from that other festive lights[…]"
"Concerning the Holy Light of Jerusalem, none of the patriarchs, bishops, priests and those with [decent] ecclesiastical background believe it to be miraculous[…]"
"But why do they call it "Holy Light"? Yes! Holy Light! Because it is lit on the Holy Sepulchre and the faithful piously receive it, but this piety has degenerated into superstition, because of the ignorance of the many, and made stronger amongst the naivest of our brothers the belief, which the papal priests always spread, that the light is lit miraculously."
«Therefore, the light is blessed for no other reason than for the fact that it is lit on the Lord’s Sepulchre [I], on the day the great mystery of the resurrection transpired[…]"  

Rev. Metallenos’ opinion

If one takes into account Archbishop Nikeforos Theotokes’ statement of 1880 that the light doesn’t miraculously descent from heaven, but is lit by the Patriarch and then distributed sanctified to the faithful, with the church being unable to cure "the people’s vulgar perception"[e] and combines it with older sources, like that of Etheria of 385 CE, one cannot but wonder. Just to illustrate, Etheria records:

Hora autem decima, quod appellant hic licinicon, nam nos dicimus lucernare, similiter se omnis multitudo colliget ad Anastasim, incenduntur omnes candelae et cerei et fit lumen infinitum. Lumen autem de foris non affertur, sed de spelunca interiori eicitur, ubi noctu ac die semper lucerna lucet, id est de intro cancellos. Dicuntur etiam psalmi lu cernares, sed et antiphonae diutius. Ecce et commonetur episcopus et descendet et sedet susum, nec non etiam et presbyteri sedent locis suis, dicuntur ymni uel antiphonae. Now at the tenth hour, which they call here licinicon, or as we say lucernare, all the people assemble at the Anastasis in the same manner, and all the candles and tapers are lit, making a very great light. Now the light is not introduced from without, but it is brought forth from within the cave, that is from within the rails, where a lamp is always burning day and night, and the vesper psalms and antiphons are said, lasting for a considerable time. Then the bishop is summoned, and he comes and takes a raised seat, and likewise the priests sit in their proper places, and hymns and antiphons are said.[f]

Rev. Metallenos himself, in his study, distanced himself from the logic of the purposeful cover-up by the Church, characteristically stating that he prefers "the "atheists" who downright reject any possibility of a miracle, concerning the "Holy Light" to the concealment of the truth, […] for any reason."[II]! A truth indirectly confessed by the church through the prayer read during the Good Saturday ceremony, as Mr. Kalokyres puts it. Mr. Kalokyres quotes and analyzes in depth this prayer in his book, reaching the conclusion that Rev. Metallenos himself accepted in his 2001 study; i.e. if we want to understand the ceremony and the nature of the light ("natural or supernatural") we must see what the prayer says and the unforced conclusion is that the light is lit in a perfectly natural manner, its purpose is purely symbolic and its sanctity is derived from the fact that it comes from the Holy Sepulchre!   

Reading the Prayer

Here are some of the important parts of the prayer, where the reader is invited to focus on:

[…] μνείαν ποιούμεθα καὶ τῆς ἐν Ἅδου καθόδου σου, […] τῇ ἀσταπῇ τῆς σῆς θεότητος φωτὸς πληρώσας τά καταχθόνια. Ὅθεν […] κατὰ τοῦτο τὸ ὑπερευλογημένον Σάββατον […] σὲ τό ὄντως ἱλαρὸν καὶ ἐφετὸν φῶς ἐν τοῖς καταχθονίοις θεϊκῶς ἐπιλάμψαν, ἐκ τάφου δέ θεοπρεπῶς ἀναλάμψαν ἀναμιμνησκόμενοι, φωτοφάνειαν ποιούμεθα, σού τήν πρός ἡμᾶς συμπαθῶς γενομένην θεοφανείαν, εἰκονίζοντες˙[…] Διά τοῦτο, ἐκ τοῦ ἐπὶ τοῦτον τὸν φωτοφόρον σου Τάφον ἐνδελεχῶς καί ἀειφώτως ἐκκαιομένου φωτός εὐλαβῶς λαμβάνοντες, διαδίδομεν τοῖς πιστεύουσιν εἰς σὲ τὸ ἀληθινὸν φῶς καὶ παρακαλοῦμεν καὶ δεόμεθὰ σου, Παναγιότατε Δέσποτα, ὅπως ἀναδείξῃς αὐτὸ ἁγιασμοῦ δῶρον καὶ πάσης θεϊκῆς σου χάριτος πεπληρωμένον, διὰ τῆς χάριτος τοῦ Παναγίου καὶ φωτοφόρου Τάφου σου· καὶ τοὺς ἁπτομένους ευλαβῶς αὐτοῦ εὐλογήσης καί ἁγιάσης […]. Αμήν. […] we also do this in remembrance of Your descent into Hades,[…] with the lightning of Your divine light You filled the underworld. Here […] during this most blessed Sabbath […] remembering Your truly joyful and much desired light, that divinely shone in the underworld, we produce this light, as an icon of Your sympathetically divine appearance to us […] For this reason, we piously take from the light that diligently and eternally burns on Your luciferous Sepulchre, we spread it among those who believe in You, who are the true light, and we pray and plead with You, oh Holiest Lord, so that You will elevate [the light] into a gift of sanctification and fill it with Your divine grace, through the grace of Your Most holy and luciferous Sepulchre and that You will bless and sanctify those who piously receive it […]. Amen

As Mr. Kalokyres notes "the prayer is very illuminating". Indeed, there is no mention of a miraculously appearing light, but "it is implied that the light is natural and lit in remembrance of the Risen Christ, the only true light of the World". So the Patriarch himself (!) produces the light, in remembrance of that miracle, symbolically reproducing Christ’s theophany. "And the Prayer […] goes on to explain where the light used to light the candles and then passed on to the faithful comes from. And the place is the Holy Sepulchre and the source of the light, which the Patriarch piously receives, is the holy lantern that CONTINUOUSLY burns and is always kept lit there".

Completing his analysis, Mr. Kalokyres particularly stresses the word "elevate" (ἀναδείξῃς) which "clearly states that light (not only isn’t being sent down from heaven, but) hasn’t yet been turned into a special "gift of sanctification" […] However, if the light had been sent from heaven, then the Patriarch wouldn’t be asking for it to be elevated. And how will this elevation become possible? The prayer explains it: Through the grace of the Holy Sepulchre".

In support of his interpretation Mr. Kalokyres points to the blessings of the Great Sanctification of the Waters during Theophany (which prays for the water to become «an apotropaic gift of sanctification» (‘‘ὕδωρ ἁγιασμοῦ δῶρον καί … ἀναδειχθῆναι αὐτό ἀποτρόπαιον…”), and the transubstantiation prayer offered during the St. Basil’s Eucharist [the priest requests that God "bless, sanctify and elevate" (‘‘εὐλογῆσαι, ἁγιάσαι και ἀναδεῖξαι”) the Holy Gifts. In both these prayers we have "sanctification" and "elevation", just like in the Holy Light prayer.  

The Christian Apologetics

The Orthodox retort that the prayer nowhere states clearly that the light does NOT descend miraculously (but someone lights it symbolically). Besides, the phrase "…so that You will elevate it into a gift of sanctification" («ὅπως ἀναδείξῃς αὐτὸ ἁγιασμοῦ δῶρον») doesn’t mean at all that the light isn’t already holy. The Patriarch is simply praying that the faithful who will piously receive it be blessed and participate in its holiness. Exactly what happens during the Divine Liturgy, when the priest after offering Communion (i.e. the ALREADY sanctified bread and wine) prays for that those that communed be blessed.

These objections are completely baseless. To begin with, the excuse that the prayer nowhere specifically states that the light does NOT descend miraculously from heaven, but is lit by someone, clashes with the position expressed by Rev. Metallenos in his book. We remind the reader that the clerical professor refers to Kalokyres’ conclusion, that the prayer nowhere states nor implies that the light comes from heaven, as being (verbatim) CORRECT. Any attempt to force the opposite conclusion, automatically challenges Rev. Metallenos’ judgment. Of course, Orthodox Christianity is not represented nor bound by what a clerical professor or any other theologian says, but since the apologists attempted to distort the meaning of these statements and devalue the whole issue, its necessary to set the record straight.

Besides, since when the lack of proof in favour of a conclusion, is proof of its validity? How can one say that because the prayer does NOT mention something, then that could easily…be true?! [III]

Regardless, we don’t need to go searching for things that were never said, since what has already been said is more than enough. For instance, that the light does not descend from heaven, but is manmade, is derived from the phrase "we produce this light" («φωτοφάνειαν ποιούμεθα»). As for the phrase "the light that burns", it may not be obvious who or what causes it to burn, but it matters little. After all, Rev. Metallenos completely agrees with the conclusion that it can be implied from the prayer that is lit by someone (and not by itself)! He agreed unprotestingly that the light is being lit by someone! As far as the symbolic nature of the ceremony is concerned, the phrases "remembering[…]the light", "we produce this light" and "as an icon of Your divine appearance" are more than concise and for that reason (the well-versed in matters of theology and linguistics) Rev. Metallenos did not object in the slightest.

As far as the arguments against the parallels drawn between the Eucharist (or the sanctification of water, or the Ευχέλαιο etc) are concerned, they are entirely baseless. For starters, contrary to what people believe about the "Holy Light", the bread and wine of the Communion are entirely natural in the beginning. They become holy AFTER the priest’s special prayer, while the benedictions of thanks are offered AFTER communion, i.e. after the miraculous transubstantiation (or metabole). But the Patriarch’s prayer is uttered BEFORE this dubious miracle, while there is not so much as a single spark of supernatural light in the Chamber!

Also, prayers like this: «May the glowing coal of Your holy Body and of Your holy Blood grand me Your divine grace» («γενέσθω μοι ὁ ἄνθραξ τοῦ παναγίου σου Σώματος καὶ τοῦ τιμίου σου Αἵματος […] εἰς προσθήκην τῆς θείας σου χάριτος»), cannot be considered similar to the «elevate it […] and fill it with Your divine grace» of the Patriarch’s Prayer. In the first case it is requested that those who communed be filled with divine grace, while in the second case the Patriarch asks that divine Grace fills the DIVINE MATTER itself, which supposedly was already sent from heaven!! Let us repeat: Does an otherworldly, extra-universal light, that supposedly descends miraculously and directly from God’s eternal Grace, need any special prayer to be filled with something it should be bursting with by definition? Of course not. So?  


Other assorted myths

The body search and the Sleepless Lantern

On the matter of the body search that the Patriarch is (supposedly) subjected to, Mr. Kalokyres says that it is "a legend, the product of the lower, pious naivety of the people […] which degrades [the Patriarch’s] honest and flawless behaviour and renders him as an accomplice to the production of a false miracle […]". Because "the removal of the vestments and his appearance with the sticharion alone is part of this ceremony of the Church. The process is meant to signify that the Patriarch, expressing humility and deep piety, before even approaching and crossing into the Most Holy Inner Sanctum is disrobed of all vestments that reveal his rank as a bishop" remaining with "the sticharium alone (the simplest and common vestment of all ranks of the clergy)" [g]! There is a large gap between the process of voluntarily disrobing of all external vestments and an "exhaustive body search"!

The matter becomes even more complicated when one comes face to face with theologically trained Orthodox who openly admit that the Sleepless Lantern (i.e. the sanctuary oil lamp, which is supposed to be extinguished on Good Saturday) is in fact… left lit! Rev. Metallenos, for instance, during a talk show and in the presence of Mr. Michael Kalopoulos, stated his personal opinion, which was verbatim: "When a specific Patriarch has faith and the grace of God, then the miracle takes place. When faith is lacking, the lamp may be used…"! Of course, if the Patriarch can use the sanctuary lamp in case he’s not worthy, that means it has not been extinguished! Mr. D. Kokores’ opinion (a theologian) on the matter is no less troublesome. Even though in his book "Holy Light" («Άγιο Φως») he clearly writes that all flames are extinguished, during a talk show on Good Thursday he repeatedly claimed that THERE IS flame in the Chamber, but it just is not… used!

A question arises: How can people trained in theology and who have dealt extensively with this issue make statements such as these so casually? How can Mr. Kokores inform us in his book that there is not a single source of flame burning in the Temple on that specific day and then on TV admit CLEARLY AND REPEATEDLY (i.e. it was no mere slip of the tongue) that, yes, inside the Chamber there is a flame source, but the Patriarch doesn’t use it to light his candles?! And not only that, but he also appealed to the… body search that supposedly takes place.

It is quite obvious that even among the people whose opinion (theoretically) matters, there is confusion, if not doublespeak. We are not trying to establish what goes on with the sanctuary lamp, but why the Orthodox experts have so much divergent opinions on the matter. What the orthodox literature has to say on the matter is more or less known. The same goes for the eye-witness accounts. What is not known is how some people make such outrageous statements and others, instead of recognizing the problem, whistle indifferently…  

The Church may be declared innocent…

Mr. Kalokyres’ indisputably valid study, which was supported spiritually and materially by the Holy Sepulchre Fraternity itself (hence a dedication in the book’s prologue). This study not only prompts serious questions, but validates all doubting voices ever raised about this dubious phenomenon. Now, revelations like the one made by the anonymous Cypriot cantor on 9/12/2002 during a talk show on EXTRA Channel and statements like these of the locum tenens of the Jerusalem Patriarchal Throne and Metropolitan of Petra, Cornelius on MEGA Channel on 11/4/2001 gain all the more validity.

Mr. Kalokyres, even though he ever so gently "chastises" the Church for its choice to "silently bypass the underlying religious enthusiasm and holy fervour" of the faithful ("perhaps not willing to shake the beliefs of the simple folk")[h], in the end he declares the Church free of any responsibility, since "the Church of Jerusalem has officially, with a special ceremony (i.e. the special prayer) expressed the whole truth about the Holy Light and its nature".  

…but what about the unanswered questions

But things aren’t so simple. The questions raised by these claims, that the Patriarchs’ integrity is intact and the Church is not to blame for the mythicization of the ceremony, demand an answer. And all those hymns chanted by the Holy Sepulchre Fraternity, all those solemn assertions about the miracle being genuine, what are they for? Why is the Sepulchre being sealed? Why does the time the Patriarch remain in the tomb vary? Why do the candles of the pilgrims self-ignite? And the oil lamps? What about the balls of fire whizzing through the air? And blue bolts of lightning? If the Orthodox themselves claim that this isn’t a miracle, then someone must be responsible for all these displays. But who? If it isn’t God, nor the faithful, nor the Church, then who the heck is it?! And whoever it might be, why does he allow "the people’s vulgar perception" to spiral out of control?

These important questions were never integrated into Mr. Kalokyres’ (nor anyone Orthodox’s) critique. No one had the nerve to do it. They cast doubts, they demystified, they chastised, but in the end they did not dare " place their fingers on the print of the nails". To put it simply, it was a job half-done. At long last this matter has to be untangled. Because, on one side we have the reality of a prayer that says that the Light is holy, though not for the reason the faithful believe, and on the other side we have the equally tangible reality of self-ignitions and flaring lights. These two realities cannot coexist. In fact they cancel each other out! Because if all this Light was of divine origin, the Patriarch wouldn’t say what he says in the Chamber and certainly wouldn’t ask for the sanctification of an ALREADY holy light!

The case is clear: Either the miracle is genuine and the Patriarchs are obsessed with using a prayer that debunks the miracle itself, or things happen as described in the prayer and we should find those responsible for one of the greater religious hoaxes of all time!

Yet, the contents of the Patriarch’s prayer is not the only discrepancy we should seek to explain. There are some other dark corners we should illuminate so, as Mr. Kalokyres puts it, we can move "from disinformation to being properly informed". For instance, the issue of the miracle’s antiquity.  

The antiquity myth

Many Orthodox apologists try to bridge the gap of several "lightless" centuries and prove that the miracle is a lot older, claiming that there is "a continuity that spans to the 1st century, when the Apostle Peter sees the Light in the Tomb of Jesus" [i] and then denounce Koraes who, in his "Dialogue", places the first mention of the light as being divine no sooner than 870 CE. Indeed, St. Bernard’s reference is not older than this. According to Moschemius, in the 8th century, the cleric Othmarus of Pictavium (modern-day Poitiers) had seen the supernatural light with his own eyes. [j]. However, the mention made by Etheria (or Sylvia of Acquitania, as some claim) which the apologists count as proof of the phenomenon’s antiquity, in no way describes the light as sent from heaven, but simply mentions that the candles that today we see self-ignite, were being simply LIT by people and the flame used for this purposed was being extracted from the Holy Sepulchre, where it burned ALL DAY LONG! Not a word about self-ignitions, blue lightning bolts and whizzing. How can these things have been happening at those times as well, without Etheria ever wasting a single word to record them? It is obvious that this testimonial cannot be linked with the miracle version. The argument that the Spanish pilgrim "NOWHERE specifically mentions whether the light is lit miraculously" is similar to the claim that the special prayer does NOT mention the light descending from heaven and does not bear close examination. As we’ve already explained one cannot write about something and at the same time make sure to debunk all other possible scenarios! Should Etheria have made sure to record that something that… wouldn’t appear for another few centuries was not true, when she didn’t even know about it?!

The apologists also make mention of two passages to support their case. One by John Damascen and one by Gregorius of Nyssa. John Damascen writes about John 20:1-6:

[…] καὶ δρομαῖος ὁ Πέτρος, ἐπέστη τῶ μνήματι, καὶ τὸ φῶς ἐν τῷ τάφω, ὁρῶν κατεπλήττετο, ὅθεν καὶ κατεῖδε, τὰ ὀθόνια μόνα, χωρὶς τοῦ θείου σώματος, ἐν αὐτῷ κατακείμενᾳ, καὶ πιστεύσας ἐβόησε, Δόξα σοὶ Χριστὲ ὁ Θεός […] […] and running, Peter arrived at the tomb and was amazed seeing the light in the tomb, where he [also] saw the linen clothes alone, without the divine body, laying inside it and believing he cried: "Glory unto You, Christ oh Lord" […][XIV]

Gregorius of Nyssa comments on the same New Testament passage:

"[…]Καὶ ταῦτα ἱδόντες οἱ περὶ τὸν Πέτρον ἐπίστευσαν, οὐχ ἀπλῶς μόνον, ἀλλὰ καὶ κρείττονι νῷ καὶ ἀποστολικῷ θεασάμενοι. Πλήρης γὰρ ἦν ὁ τάφος φωτὸς, ὢστε καὶ νυκτὸς οὒσης ἒτι, διπλῶς θεάσασθαι τὰ ἓνδον, καὶ αἰσθητῶς καὶ πνευματικῶς.[…]" (PG 8D, 363) "[…]And after seeing these things those that were with Peter believed, not in a simple and superficial way, but deep in their minds, and understood the importance of their mission. Because the tomb was full of light and even though it was night they could see the inside twice as good, physically and spiritually […]"

These references to John Damascen and Gregorius of Nyssa are pointless, since the connection between these passages and the "Holy Light" are ridiculously far-fetched and secondly, the relevant gospel passage (which is cited as the oldest witness of the miracle) makes no mention of the holy light; and Peter’s surprise was caused (as is explicitly stated) by the empty linen clothes!

Τhe absence of any mention of a light in the aforesaid pericope is again being bypassed by the Orthodox apologists by claiming that since Peter arrived "when it was yet dark" and he could still see the empty linen clothes, then logically there must have been some light source other than the angels [k], ignoring the fact that the gospel says (as Archimandrite Prokopios Dendrinos of Mount Athos also points out in 1833) that it was not Peter who is said to have arrived "when it was yet dark", but Mary Magdalene. So, by the time Peter was informed and went to the tomb, it’s logical to assume that it was no longer dark [l], which means that this argument is also confuted.

It is obvious that things do not change with verbal acrobatics and assumptions upon assumptions. The Church Fathers and the entire armies of pilgrims and travelers that had been crisscrossing the Holy Lands for centuries continue to remain silent on the issue of the "miracle", leaving the faithful with a huge question mark. Yet the answer is simple: Because there was no miracle at all! What numerous sources up to 745 [m] claim is that what used to happen every Good Saturday was a simple benediction ceremony of an entirely natural light, coming from one or more oil lamps that were burning continuously in the Holy Sepulchre Chamber! At some point, probably around the 8th century, this ceremony entered the realm of myth and was turned into a "miracle". This isn’t mere conjecture. It’s a simple conclusion that can be easily drawn by most of us (faithful and not) by studying the little-known "Holy Light" history.  

The torn pillar


Another detail worth pointing out when studying the "Holy Light" history is the famous torn column and the miracle connected to it. The legend says that once upon a time some non-Orthodox Christians tried to prevent the Patriarch from receiving the light. At that time the light miraculously burst through a pillar, which bears the marks of the supernatural event to this day! Many Orthodox call this a "historical event" even when hard-core apologists recommend caution. [VII]. The truth is that this story bears all the tell-tale signs of a legend. For instance, we have no idea when this "event" transpired or who was behind this. Was it between 1579 and 1580 at the time of Patriarch Sophronius IV and caused by the Armenians? Or in 1520 (60 years earlier) at the time of Patriarch Dorotheus III with the involvement of the Catholic Church? [p] Besides, in 1634 at the time of Patriarch Theophanes III a similar event took place, again with the involvement of the Armenians, though this time the flame didn’t burst through a pillar, but the earth shook and it fell through an opening on the dome!

Looking at both these stories, some questions are being raised. For instance, the fissure on the column (located near its base) is limited to the surface and does not appear on both sides! We need a convincing explanation how the light left a trace only on the exterior surface of the column as it went through it (unless the crack was formed by the application of force from the outside, and not from the inside, or the fire originated inside the column). Jason Evangelou in his book "The Phenomenon of Religion" («Το Θρησκευτικό Φαινόμενο») claims the pillar was damaged in the 1808 fire, while Kalokyres claims it was caused by a lightning bolt without giving any extra information or how this can be proven. Extremely interesting though is the theory that the legend of the miraculous appearance of the light through the pillar "is likely connected to an old tradition mentioned by Clemes of Alexandria, according to which God "amazes the people by lighting fire through a pillar" […] But here as well God "amazes" and frightens the people with the fire of the lightning bolt […] tearing the pillar"![q]

Regardless, it is improbable that the Armenians witnessed this incredible miracle with their very own eyes and instead of discarding their heretical beliefs and embracing Orthodoxy, they merely departed "disheartened and in shame" as the Orthodox gloatingly claim. Why didn’t they act as the famous muezzin that abandoned his religion and became a Christian as soon as he saw the miracle? After all, only a few decades later another miracle is supposed to have happened, with he light coming through the dome! The Armenians weren’t convinced even then? And let’s accept for the sake of argument that for some reason they weren’t. Since then more than 400 years have passed and they have seen the miracle performed an equal amount of times! Do they still not believe? As Michael Kalopoulos comments in his book "The ‘Holy Light’ of Jerusalem. Miracle or Hoax"(«Θαύμα ή απάτη το «Άγιον» φως τής Ιερουσαλήμ») the Armenian observer must be "the most stubborn Christian of all times! […] Only Satan himself would be so negative about it!"  

The Orthodox exclusivity

Another inseparable element of the supernatural appearance of the light is the Orthodox exclusivity. The legend says that the Holy Light has never been prayed down by a representative of another denomination, except by the Greek-Orthodox Patriarch! A case can be made here, but since matters are not entirely clear, caution is advised. First we have the following piece of information (or speculation as some say) by Adamantios Koraes, who wrote that the Papists, during the period they ruled Jerusalem (1099-1187) "for 88 years they fed with this miracle their depravities". There is also a note in the "Jerusalem Anthology" («Ανθολόγιο τής Ιερουσαλήμ») by T. Psarakes that "the leaders of the Crusades saw the Holy Light ceremony as a veritable goldmine […] and have been trading in the holy flame intensively.". Independently from the Papists’ assertions that the miracle could only be performed by them, there is also a mention by an Orthodox monk, Bartholomes Vritzianos, an eye-witness to the miracle in 1168 (19 whole years before the Holy Sepulchre was reclaimed by the Orthodox Church) [r]! However, Apologists bypass this, claiming it is "suspicious and worthy of rejection". The reason? Because Bartholomes saw the miracle in 1168, but not during his first pilgrimage to Jerusalem 10 years earlier [s]! One cannot but make a comparison with Etheria’s claims, which is unhesitatingly being counted among the proofs for the antiquity of the phenomenon, even though she makes no mention of it…  


Elements of the Miracle

In what form does the light appear?

The form in which the "Holy Light" is reported to appear makes matters even more complex. Ancient testimonies simply refer to a "a light descending from heaven" with no further specification. After the 10th century the light appears either as a dove flying down through the open roof or even as divine golden rain (the parallels with the myth of Zeus and Danae are obvious)! Today, with the help of technology, we record blue bolts of lightning, balls of fire and patriarchal chambers bursting with flames, but not burning down! [VIII]


Should all these unbelievable things truly be happening, then it would certainly be quite hard to consider any other possible explanation than that of a miracle. However, many of the phenomena considered by the Orthodox as rock-solid proof of a divine presence, can be easily explained without resorting to the supernatural. For instance, as the thorough examination of Rev. Slylianakes’ video [IX] much-discussed video shows, the much-vaunted "fireball" that we see maneuvering through the crowd, without the pilgrims getting burned or noticing its presence, can’t have been anything else, but one of the torch-bearers that run through the crowd just before the Patriarch exits the Chamber! Various bolts of lightning, sparks and flares that appear later on video and photographs can easily be traced to entirely natural causes or explained as film artifacts and lens flares! [X] All these phenomena can have natural causes. There are some suspicions even about the self-ignitions of candles and oil lamps, mainly expressed by the author/researcher Michael Kalopoulos. His theory, however, that candles and oil lamps self-ignite by coating with a white phosphorus solution (which ignites when the water evaporates and the phosphorus is exposed to atmospheric oxygen) does not explain the phenomenon in its entirety and needs further documentation. Even so, one cannot shake off the feeling that something is rotten in the state of Denmark…  

And when?

And it’s not just the manner in which the light appears, but also the time of the appearance. Approximately at the end of the 4th century the miracle used to take place in the afternoon. Later on, around the 5th cent. and up until the 7th, at dusk. Today, apparently because the light has to be transported with a special flight to Greece and be received with honours due to a head of state, it happens at noon, around 12 o’clock. Well, the orthodox indeed seem to have God dancing to their tune… But the time issue is not limited to this. Beyond the obvious problem of the Old and New Calendar (……), also notable is the following theological dimension. Archimandrite Prokopios Dendrinos, in 1833, noted that "the Church believes that during the Good Saturday Christ was under the earth". Therefore the ceremony and the miracle happens "before its proper time" and "according to St. Basil the Great, anything that happens before its ‘proper time’, is also happens ‘against the order’, i.e. against the will of God". [t]  

The flame that doesn’t burn

The evolution of the "Holy Light" could not but affect its most notable property as well; the "fact" that it doesn’t burn. Supposedly, the flame doesn’t burn and it gains its normal natural properties only after 33 whole minutes (equal to the age of Jesus at his death) [XI]! What is amazing is that this has NOTHING to do with how much faith the holder has or his religious convictions or even if he even believes in the "Holy Light"! Apparently though, even this has changed over time. The hieromonk and clerical teacher Gabriel (1755-1815) assures us that the absence of heat depends DIRECTLY on the particular degree of every person’s faith. Pious and righteous pilgrims "faithfully held it long enough in their hands, bosom and face without getting burned. But if you started to hesitate […] and test it, not with faith, but doubt […]? It burns, I admit it"! [u]

The actual case remains foggy. However, the Press Secretary representative of the Jerusalem Patriarchate, when asked directly and in public by Michael Kalopoulos if there is official recognition of the phenomenon, responded with a flat "No", as the author himself testifies! It is a fact though that a lot of pilgrims come in contact with the flame, one way or the other, and apparently do not get burned. Of course, all these videos that circulate online are heavily criticized because they portray people moving their hands quickly over the flames, avoiding prolonged contact with the flame. Some also point to the ancient custom of walking on hot coals, claiming that this phenomenon may be explained the same way (i.e. the ecstasy of the faithful and the intense perspiration that follows) Very impressive and hitting the myth straight at its core are also the displays of the Russian skeptic Igor Dobrokotov (who makes most christian experiences look like child’s play!) [XII] Also of note is the fact that the flame is apparently hot enough to ignite wicks when passing the flame from candle to candle.

Εικόνα Εικόνα

Regardless, a question is raised: Why does the light lose its properties after 33 minutes, or 23 or 13 or God knows how many, and doesn’t retain them indefinitely? Why is the miracle so impressive at its birth, so hyperlogical, but then degrades to be limited by natural laws? Why this mediocrity? Let’s not forget that the light supposedly descends miraculously from heaven, directly from the divine Grace of the Triune Deity and as such it’s UNTHINKABLE and completely POINTLESS that it should be undergoing such an alteration! Even holy water, which is plain water in the beginning, according to the Orthodox does not spoil no matter how many years have passed, but the "Holy Light" that supposedly comes down from heaven does? As for the counter-argument that demanding from the light a perpetual absence of the property to burn is disrespectful to God, since miracles do not occur to impress the faithful, it comes in full contrast will the whole magnificence of the events leading up to the miracle; the wheezing sounds, the supernatural, otherworldly glows, the sparks, the tornados, the balls of fire, the self-ignitions and all these… humble divine signs that are recorded every Good Saturday in the Temple of the Resurrection! Unless these are not meant to impress us either…  

The eye-witness excuse

One has to wonder if those who have never witnessed the miracle have the right to discuss it. Why not? Indubitably, a first-hand, level-headed observation has by default its advantages; the main one being that one can have a more accurate and complete opinion on the subject. But even this argument has to be controlled. First of all, challenging-inviting all skeptics to visit the Holy Land so they can see that the miracle is genuine is a red herring. This would matter if one could run a test with an independent scientific group who could work with full access to all relevant spaces, who could follow suit all those involved and could record the entire phenomenon in all its phases (including what happens in the Chamber!) Otherwise, they would have no advantage over any other simple pilgrim. What more would they be able to see that they cannot watch on film? Would they see candles self-ignite? They already have. Oil lamps lighting up by themselves? Ditto. Balls of fire whizzing through the air and luminous crowns hovering over the heads of the pilgrims? The pilgrims themselves cannot see these things! So, what exactly is the problem here and skeptics who haven’t visited Jerusalem have no right to talk? It would certainly be ideal to have a personal experience there, but even more ideal would be to have cameras scanning every square inch of the Temple of the Resurrection, the Chamber included!

What is ideal and what not, is a matter which alone could place us in a loop of endless conversations. And in any case, no one becomes automatically an Orthodox Christian nor are convinced that a miracle takes place just by being present at the ceremony. For instance, Jason Evangelou and Constantine Demopoulos, even though they were present at the ceremony themselves, not only did their doubts not die down, but they exponentially increased instead and became utter denial [v]! On the other, the fact that some people convert doesn’t mean that the reasons of their conversion lie within the real world! For instance, Rev. Stylianakes believed that he recorded a ball of fire moving immaterially through the crowd without anyone feeling it, while in fact it was just man carrying a torch! This is solid evidence that one’s presence in the Temple of the Resurrection is hardly enough to reveal the truth!  


Theological Objections

Natural or Supernatural?

There is a problem with this issue as well. According to orthodox doctrine, the supernatural light directly flowing from the Triune God, is accessible to those few chosen ones, who, with prayer and ascesis manage to attain a higher spiritual level. A natural flame comes either from man (e.g. candles, torches etc.) or natural causes, such as the sun. But what is the "Holy Light"? Is it supernatural or natural? We can ignore the first option right off the bat. If it was supernatural then it wouldn’t be accessible to "all without exception; the just and the unjust, the sinners and the pure, the faithful and the infidels, various tourists and curious, the Orthodox and those of other denominations, even to those mocking the faith and fanatic heathens"[n]! Of course, if one accepts the second alternative (i.e. natural flame) any chance of a miracle must be rejected, so the Orthodox claim that the "Holy Light" is in fact something in between: an action of the divine Grace of God, but certainly not the supernatural divine light of Mt. Tabor and the Resurrection. "Just like water and oil can be sanctified, so can the element of the flame". These are the words used by Metropolitan Ierotheos of Naupactus & St. Vlasius in his article in the newspaper "Vema" for the "Holy Light" phenomenon, missing one important detail: by comparing it with natural matter (water and oil) which, according to the orthodox faith, become sanctified only after the special prayer of the priest, he basically claimed that the "Holy Light" is entirely natural in the beginning and becomes holy only after the Patriarch’s blessing!! It’s obvious that this statement doesn’t settle the issue. The opposite is true: it gets even more tangled!

The same error occurs in N. Logades’ (1779-1835) unpublished work "Counter-offensive" («Αντιπροσβολή») where he tries to explain the fact that the "Holy Light" does not remain immutable and makes a parallel with baptism water, claiming that while both sanctify and fill the faithful with grace both degrade with time. Exactly like Metropolitan Ierotheos, he focuses on the common denominator between water and flame (the power to sanctify) ignoring the difference that the water, before the priest’s blessing DOES NOT miraculously appear, nor is it holy by itself, nor can it be used to sanctify anyone! How can then water be used as a parallel to the "Holy Light", which according to the Orthodox both miraculously appears and is holy from the start?

Regardless, Logades claims that the light indeed descends from heaven, but because it doesn’t flow from "the immutable essence of God" is not of divine essence and that is the reason that it becomes corrupted (when it loses its non-combustive properties) [IV]. How can the light (when we see it appear miraculously year after year) be called an action of the divine Grace of God and on the other hand not "flow from the immutable essence of God". What sort of double-talk is this? They least they could do is introduce a new term so we have a decent conversation. Let them call the light "semi-supernatural": a light that appears one every year and even though it flows from the divine Grace, it is visible by all and after a few minutes it loses the properties that differentiated it from any other natural flame!  

The necessity of the miracle

Beyond this, there is another question that demands an answer: Why is it necessary for this impressive, but predictable miracle to occur? What is its purpose? "Why… in order for the Grace of God to be revealed, Orthodoxy elevated and for the people to gain faith!" This is the most common and simplistic answer. But those that accept this answer should not forget the "theological assurance that "miracle is the child of faith and will" of a person"[o]. In other words, the miracle comes from faith and not the other way around! After all, that’s what Jesus preached according to Scripture: "your faith has saved you", "blessed are those that have not seen and yet have believed"! Isn’t this in the core of christian doctrine? That faith must be the product of free will and not imposed by an almighty God? Isn’t this the same answers theologians use when asked why Jesus didn’t break his bonds and miraculously jump off the cross even though he was God? So, why doesn’t all this pretty talk apply to the "Holy Light"? Perhaps because one falsehood is followed by thousands more…

Let’s remember the incredible public statement by Rev. Metallenos we’ve already mentioned, according to which "when a specific Patriarch has faith and the grace of God, then the miracle takes place. When faith is lacking, the oil lamp may be used." Do the Orthodox realize the severity of this statement? Do they realize that with this statement an important figure in the Orthodox Church has: a)made the miracle look mediocre, b)left a question hanging on when the light was produced miraculously and when not, c)did not leave out the possibility that the light may be a natural light from the Sleepless Lantern, d)basically he calls all the people that assure us that the Lantern in the Chamber is extinguished that specific day, liars or insane, e)directly contradicted the orthodox doctrine that the blessings bestowed on the faithful during sacraments, prayers and other acts of worship do not depend on how worthy is the person conducting the ceremony [V]? Have the Orthodox considered all these points? We highly doubt that. In any case, they should at least wonder why this man, who some apologists tried to present as a dedicated defender of the miracle, had the golden opportunity to say what other Christians wouldn’t hesitate to shout from the top of their lungs, in front of the most important denier of the miracle and millions of Orthodox who watched the talk-show, and he NEVER did! Instead, he limited himself to an original, but mediocre "yes, but not really…", which instead of satisfying the Christians, in the end raised even more questions! [VI]  


The Challenges

A ruthless challenge

The Archimandrite Prokopios Dendrinos of Mount Athos, in his unpublished treatise On the Holy Light (Τα περί του Αγίου φωτός) heavily criticizes all this secrecy surrounding the "miracle", calling it directly suspicious and misleading. He even directs an incredible challenge to the Fraternity of the Holy Sepulchre:

"Let them leave the lanterns of the Temple unprepared, without oil and wicks, the Chamber doors open, so anyone can see the plaque over the tomb, so everything is visible, as was the case with prophet Elijah. Let the doormen step away, or even better, conduct a diligent search of the Tomb and clean the entire plaque with clear water and then pour an entire amphorae over it. Have them even restrict entry even to the representative of the Patriarch from Good Thursday morning till Sunday morning. And then let the "light-producer" enter and receive the Light! All this secrecy is suspicious and is not meant to prevent the introduction of man-made light -since this is impossible- but so that the preparations, i.e. the fraud, won’t become obvious. Because the candles are prepared by the Patriarchal Warden and not the laymen who do the temple chores, as usual. The candles are covered with a flammable material and no one else is allowed to receive the light; not even the most prestigious clerics and pilgrims. Everything suggests that this is a downright human fabrication and this is even whispered among the Sepulchre Fraternity." [w]  

The candles

If the phenomenon is indeed a vulgar fabrication (as has already been stressed) under current conditions and given our inability to conduct a thorough scientific study, it is impossible to verify with solid evidence. Assumptions can be made, but there are still a lot that need to be cleared. In any case, there ARE answers to some of the Orthodox’s arguments against Mr. Kalopoulos’ theory.

For instance, they claim that the skeptic author overlooks the fact that while the candles are all bought at different times, "against all logic they ignite all at one". This is demonstrably FALSE and is verified by the abundant video footage and various eye-witnesses. In the hypothetical case of trickery, the fact that the candles are bought at different times means absolutely nothing, since it wouldn’t be important when they were bought, but when they were treated with phosphorus. Secondly, Kalopoulos claims that he has a taped interview of the former director of the Democritian Research Institute Mr. Nikos Katsaros saying that the ignition time-delay for an item drenched in a phosphoric solution can be up to A WHOLE WEEK! Besides, the fact that the candles smoke before self-igniting is very suspicious [XIII]! You see, the same happens with phosphorus and naturally it’s difficult to accept that a divine light has the same properties! In any case, ignitions before the proper time are very likely to happen. In his book, Mr. Kalopoulos mentions a comical anecdote, when instead of a girl’s candle, her hat burst into flames! "Which means that […] someone touched with the chemical-drenched candle wick her hat; the result being that at the time of the miracle, the girl’s faith ignited…her hat and not her candle!"[x]. Equally possible is that NOT ALL candles have been tampered with. If ALL candles self-ignited, there would be little point for the Patriarch to emerge from the Chamber and distribute light to the faithful, not would people pass the "holy flame" to those next to them!  



No matter what happens on Good Saturday at the Holy Sepulchre, we have no way to ascertain it. It is certain that one who does not believe in the christian God, obviously has trouble accepting the (un)orthodox miracle version. As we’ve already mentioned, suspicions and hints abound. Who knows? Perhaps one day we’ll also see the evidence…  

FOOTNOTES (from the original greek article)

I  Rev. Metallenos disconnects faith in "the event of the Resurrection [...] from the nature of the Holy Light", referring to its holiness as "unquestionable because of the place where it comes from" (Φωτομαχικά-Αντιφωτομαχικά, εκδ. Κάτοπτρο-Ιστορητής, 2001, σελ. 35)
II  Μεταλληνός, σελ. 34

According to some apologists this statement by Rev. Metallenos means that anyone who denies the "miracle" is an atheist!! When confronted with the fact that if that were so, that would mean that Rev. Metallenos considers even his teacher, Constantine Kalokyres an atheist (who, despite his training in theology and deep-seated belief, still rejects the miracle) apologists have replied that it is indeed true(!) and perhaps the reverent wanted to correct his "beloved teacher"! They have basically claimed that Metallenos rejected what he had just declared... preferable! Of course, the cleric/professor doesn't consider all deniers of the miracle as atheists and he used the word in quotemarks, distancing himself from this idea.
III  On a different matter, but quite similar, the linguist B. Argyropoulos, debating word orthography and etymology of a greek word (about which some claim that a different spelling is the correct one even though it appears in no text) comments: "[...] turning ignorance about the existence of a word into certainty could lead us to absurdities, since the same logic could be used and say that it cannot be proven [that a third spelling didn't exist!]" (Βασίλειος Μ. Αργυρόπουλος, Αρχαιολατρία και γλώσσα, εκδ. Σ. Ι. Ζαχαρόπουλος, 2009, σελ. 239) (the passage has been altered slightly omitting needless greek linguistics)
IV  This explanation by Logades has been attempted by some apologists to be presented as something Rev. Metallenos himself ascribes to, even though his book gives no hint to this. A bibliographical quotation was basically turned into an agreement!
V  There are apologists who claim that this doctrine is only valid for the 7 sacraments, but they should answer what happens in case a memorial service or a blessing ceremony performed by an unworthy priest! Since these are NOT sacraments, does this mean that the faithful's requests are not taken into consideration?
VI  An extensive online discussion can be found here and here (in Greek).
VII  "Note: One would be wise to be skeptical about this event, without saying it didn't happen, since I want to believe that God doesn't discriminate among ethnicities. Let's not forget that the Holy Light inside the temple makes no such distinction among the faithful. Do you suppose He discriminates among denominations?" (From a relevant article by Anonymous Apologist; in Greek)
VIII  Apologists often claim that this is supported by the fact that there are no accidental fires despite the profuse presence of flames. Even if one ignores minor accidents that happen from time to time, or the fire that destroyed most of the temple in 1808, Rev. Stylianakes also writes in his website (in Greek): "Thankfully there were many police officers with small fire extinguishers putting out dangerous flames from afar! We all would've caught fire and at some point I almost lost my camcorder to the flames!" Miraculous indeed (the fire extinguishers were working...)!
IX  An analysis and debunking of this phenomenon can be found here (in Greek). The described footage can be downloaded here and here.
X  Photographic documentation can be found here.
XI  The candles are 33, the minutes the light doesn't burn is also 33 (as was the age of Jesus). Apparently there is no point for experts to be arguing about the true age of Jesus. Problem solved! He was 33!!
XIII  The fact that the candles start to smoke before self-igniting is affirmed by Rev. Stylianakes himself on his website: "My own candle did not get lit, but I saw with my own eyes and shivered as other candles in the crowd started to get lit, one here, one there, after smoking for a while."
XIV  This text has also been quoted as saying the following (with an important difference), but I have not been able to locate it. It should be noted that Rev. Metallenos does not deny this version:
[…] καὶ δρομαῖος ὁ Πέτρος, ἐπέστη τῶ μνήματι, καὶ τὸ φῶς ἐν τῷ τάφω, ὁρῶν κατεπλήττετο, ὅθεν καὶ κατεῖδε, τὰ ὀθόνια μόνα ۬ ουδείς γαρ βλέπειν δύναται εν νυκτί τα προκείμενα καὶ πιστεύσας ἐβόησε, Δόξα σοὶ Χριστὲ ὁ Θεός […]
[…] and running, Peter arrived at the tomb and was amazed seeing the light in the tomb, where he [also] saw the linen clothes alone; but no one could see in the night these things and believing he [i.e. Peter] cried: "Glory unto You, Christ oh Lord" [...]

FOOTNOTES (Greek Bibliography)


a  π. Γ. Δ. Μεταλληνός, Φωτομαχικά-Αντιφωτομαχικά, εκδ. Κάτοπτρο-Ιστορητής, 2001, p.33
b  Ibid.
c  Op.cit., p.131-132
d  Op.cit., p.369-388
e  Op.cit., p.29-30
f  Κ. Δ. Καλοκύρης, Το αρχιτεκτονικό συγκρότημα τού Ναού της Αναστάσεως Ιεροσολύμων και το θέμα του Αγίου Φωτός, University Studio Press, 1999, p.164-165
g  Καλοκύρης, p.218-220
h  Op.cit., p.22
i  Μαρία Σταματιάδου, Το Άγιο Φως, από: Τα 20 Μεγαλύτερα μυστήρια τού πλανήτη, εκδ. Αρχέτυπο, 2005, p.17
j  Μεταλληνός, p.159, 399-400
k  Op.cit., p.186-189
l  Op.cit., p.350-351
m  Καλοκύρης, p.165-167
n  Op.cit., p.211-212
o  Μεταλληνός, p.20
p  Καλοκύρης, p.172-173
q  Op.cit., p.195
r  Op.cit., p.185-186
s  Μεταλληνός, p.272
t  Op.cit., p.125, 349
u  Μεταλληνός, p.96, 205-206, 214
v  Ι. Ευαγγέλου, Το θρησκευτικό φαινόμενο και Κ. Δημόπουλος, Άγιοι Τόποι
w  Μεταλληνός, p.128, 361
x  Μ. Καλόπουλος, Θαύμα ή απάτη το «Άγιον» φως τής Ιερουσαλήμ;, p.189
Keep reading…

This article was first published in the What is Truth (Τι εστίν αλήθεια) blog in Greek and published again in three parts in the Collective Atheism Blog (part 1, part 2, part 3)

Why “Atheia” ?

2010 Οκτώβριος 10
Δεν επιτρέπεται σχολιασμός στο Why “Atheia” ?
by Editor Group

«Atheia» is a Greek word which could be rendered into English as «godlessness».

When we decided to launch a collective blog with an atheistic content, we sought a title. We concluded that most contributors did not define themselves as atheists, but free-thinkers, skeptics or secularists and viewed atheia as a result of their logical approach of the cosmos, a part of a more general philosophy or ideology. Indeed, the term «atheia» wouldn’t even exist, if its opposite, belief in god, didn’t exist. So why bother with something that doesn’t exist? Why bother publicly declaring that we do not believe in the existence of god?

So, why talk of atheia?

Why not, logic, for instance? Most, if not all of us, use logic as an everyday tool to interpret the phenomena we observe and check the validity of every argument.

Why not skepticism? Our basic characteristics are doubting, studying, checking, not accepting axioms at face value nor do we believe that there is anything that should not be doubted.

Why not materialism? It considers the natural world definitive, primary, the very foundation of existence and conscience, thought and spirit are considered secondary.

We could even mention nihilism, which rejects absolute knowledge, truth and ethics, in contrast to religion, which lays claim on all three.

On a practical level, we all strive for secularism; dividing the spiritual life (whether it goes by the name «religion» or any other name) from politics, education, economy and all areas of secular activity.

And there is no doubt we’re all free-thinkers. We let our minds operated free of all presuppositions, prejudices and superstitions, free from prefabricated beliefs and doctrines. For he who thinks freely, thinks well.

For those of us contributing to this blog, all the previous points are valid. But neither was the cause that sparked the creation of this collective website. Our common denominator, the issue we all care about and want to discuss and express in any way we think of is atheia.

In a world where everyone would be able to think freely and choose her religious views without interference, there would be no reason to talk of atheia. But in a world where religion is more than a simple institution, where religion is above doubt and criticism, where the presence and influence of religion can be traced in society and politics, where religion has special financial advantages, where religious doctrine is taught in public schools and manifest in our every step, from the crucifix behind the podium to the bible on the witness stand, in a world like this an atheist is compelled to share his ideals.

It needs to be more widely know that there is an alternative. That religion is not something necessary nor should we take it for granted in our lives. That someone can live just fine without it. That not only does the atheist miss something, but gains greater freedom both spiritually and in his everyday life.

For many atheia is a word of negative connotations. It is linked to immorality, as if morality is a religious monopoly, or hatred, as if rejecting a belief automatically makes one hate those who accept it.

For us atheia is only positive. It releases the spirit from the constraints of undoubting faith, it rids the mind of metaphysical though and turns the exploration of the world into an objective matter, it brings us face to face with the responsibility of our actions, it gives us the ability to build a society based on man and nature.

We chose to talk of atheia and not atheism. «Atheism» is defined in dictionaries and encyclopaedias, whether we like it or not, as the denial of god (which assumes that god exists and we deny it). Furthermore, the ending of the word «atheism» suggests an ideology, while «atheia» is not an ideology. It is not a system of beliefs, it is not an finely woven net of ideas.

The greek word «atheia» defines the lack of belief in god and in the supernatural.

No more, no less.

After many suggestions as to what the name of our collective website should be, after many discussions online and offline, after considering logic, skepticism, secularism and free-thought and agreeing that while all of these concepts express us, but none is our focal point, we finally settled on the name you see: ATHEIA.

April 6th, 2009
introductory post to the Greek blog

Keep reading…

This text was originally posted in English on the Aorati Melani (Invisible Ink) blog and you can direct your comments there.

Welcome to

2010 Οκτώβριος 9
Δεν επιτρέπεται σχολιασμός στο Welcome to
by Editor Group

Now that our collective website has been online for a year and a half and has achieved a decent amount of success and attention in the hellenic atheist community, we decided that the time has come to move beyond the confines and limitations our native language imposes and join the efforts of the greater atheist community.

We have decided to enrich our greek-language website with translated articles by non-Greek bloggers for the benefit of our readership that do not know English and in an effort to facilitate the exchange of ideas. At the same time we will be translating some of our articles back to English (articles that either approach atheism from a distinctly hellenic point of view or expose problems and situations Greek atheists have to deal within our little corner of Europe). We hope that this way we can reach not only foreign readers in general, but more specifically brothers and sisters of the Hellenic Diaspora who cannot speak Greek and other ex-Orthodox from our Balkan neighbourhood and Russia.

But no matter your background, you are more than welcome to browse our contents and leave us your comments (here where available) or on our forum. There is nothing we value more than a healthy exchange of toughts and ideas.

Once again, WELCOME to

October 20th, 2010
The Moderating Team