Last night was Holy Saturday for the Eastern Churches — when according to believers, a flame is miraculously kindled from inside the tomb in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.
The Greek Patriarch reaches in and lights his candle. Then he passes the flame to his neighbor who lights his neighbor’s candle until candle after candle after candle the shadows inside the darkened church are washed away by stunning golden light.
The flame is then passed beyond the church to the throngs of Christians waiting outside.
It is wondrous to behold.
It is even transported all the way to Greece each year on a special Aegean Airlines flight on Saturday evening, in time for Easter midnight mass.
Believers say the fire will never hurt you.
(I’ve never touched it so I wouldn’t know.)
Now, my friend Shadi the Arab cop who is married to Shlomit, who is Jewish, loves the Holy Fire ceremony even though he isn’t Greek Orthodox. Shadi is Catholic.
(He celebrated Easter last week, and they don’t have a Holy Fire ceremony.)
But his cousins are Greek Orthodox.
And in fact, one of them is a priest.
Last year, when Shlomit was pregnant and on bed rest, Shadi’s cousin the priest carried a little flame from the Church all the way to their living room.
“He knows I’m Jewish, right?” Shlomit asked Shadi after he left.
“Yes, and Jesus loves you anyway,” Shadi quipped. “Look babe, it’s a candle. You light them on Shabbat every week. So what? We need all the good energy we can get.”
The candle shone brightly against the window — one little flame against the night.
This year, the day before the Holy Fire ceremony, Shlomit cleaned the house. Between work and the baby, she hardly has time to shower let alone clean.
“Wow, is it Pesach again?” Shadi asked.
“No, but it’s the Holy Fire tomorrow and maybe your cousin will bring us the flame again.”
That evening, there was a soft knock on the door.
Shadi’s cousin the priest came in carrying a candle in one of those long glass candle holders — like the kind they sell in LA with the drawing of the Virgin of Guadalupe on it.
Shadi tried to light it with a tea light. It didn’t ignite.
He rummaged in the drawer looking for a long Match.
“Try using a Hanukkah candle,” Shlomit suggested.
Shadi’s cousin passed the flame to Shadi.
After the cousin left and Shlomit was washing the dishes, she heard a yelp.
“Ouch!!! It burns!” He shouted.
“Of course it burns!” She shouted back.
“It isn’t supposed to burn! I put my hand in because they said it wouldn’t burn because it’s the holy fire and I wanted to see!”
“Dude, it’s still fire.”
“Do you think it burns because I’m Catholic and I married a Jew?”
“No, I think it burns because it’s fire.”
“You’re probably right. But it is still a miracle.”
“It got you to clean the house.”