Holy Fire Light Saturday 2017

“O Sacred Head, Now Wounded” words by Bryn and Sally Haworth Vs. 1

O sacred Head, now wounded, with grief and shame weighed down, now scornfully surrounded with thorns, thine only crown:  how pale thou art with anguish, with sore abuse and scorn!  How does that visage languish which once was bright as morn!

Psalm 31:9-16

Be merciful to me, Lord, for I am in distress; my eyes grow weak with sorrow, my soul and body with grief.  My life is consumed by anguish and my years by groaning; my strength fails because of my affliction, and my bones grow weak.  Because of all my enemies, I am the utter contempt of my neighbors and an object of dread to my closest friends— those who see me on the street flee from me.  I am forgotten as though I were dead; I have become like broken pottery.   For I hear many whispering, “Terror on every side!” They conspire against me  and plot to take my life.  But I trust in you, Lord; I say, “You are my God.”  My times are in your hands; deliver me from the hands of my enemies, from those who pursue me.  Let your face shine on your servant; save me in your unfailing love.

Holy fire saturdayIt is Saturday afternoon. Crowds are waiting, eyes are anticipating, hearts are eager to receive the light or “the Holy Fire” as it has been traditionally called. We are in a place none other than the Holy Sepulcher Church in Jerusalem. You can barely find space for one’s feet to step in. In fact, people seem to be on top of one another, priests, clergy men, believers, locals, pilgrims, tourists and anyone else you can think of. This is no small event: the light is soon going to emerge from the tomb of Jesus.

Traditionally, this is what is thought to happen every year; a miracle takes place, Holy fire comes forth from the tomb in remembrance of the resurrection of Jesus. Many people hold strong opinions about this happening; they firmly believe in their heart of hearts that a miracle occurs every year and the light and fire come out of nowhere as divine proof and reminder that the Lord is risen. Others are more skeptical and allege it is just due to a mischievous human hand!

Now, nothing is impossible for God.  God who said, “Let there be light,” where there was only darkness at the very beginning, is the same God who “gives life to the dead and calls into being things that were not,” (Romans 4: 17) can still speak anything into existence, even a fire out of the tomb.  However, this debate is not the point. The point is, whether we have truly experienced this Light in our lives.

What happens to this Holy Fire after it escapes from the tomb and the Holy Sepulcher church?  Well, the light is then carried to Bethlehem and other neighboring towns.  Christians emerge from their homes to “receive the light”; with scouts, parades, colorful balloons, people in fancy dress, and there is singing and dancing everywhere.  It is a festive atmosphere of joy.  Yet, watching these people, I wonder:  “Why are they happy?  Do they realize what this light signifies?”  Do we, as Palestinian Christians in this region, really know what it means to experience and witness the light of the risen Lord in our lives?

Then I think about Saul of Tarsus.  He truly experienced the transforming Light of Christ on the way to Damascus.  The result was a completely changed life, vision and mission.  Paul turned from a persecutor of the Nazarenes, to a Jesus- hero: an apostle to the nations.  Anyone who has seen, experienced, and watched the Light should not settle for less!

This Saturday that proceeds Easter Sunday, is known as “Sabt Innour– the Saturday of Light.”  In a place where darkness seems determined to penetrate, the Light of Christ is the only thing that can shatter any darkness: “The people walking in darkness have seen a Great Light, on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.” (Isaiah 9:2)  Jesus said we are “the Light of the world!”

MACEDONIA-RELIGION-ORTHODOX-EASTERHow are we are reflecting the Light of Christ in our lives?  Are there still dark areas where we have not allowed the Light to shine?  It is easy to experience the euphoria of an event and forget the essence of what we ought to be. Instead, let us examine ourselves, not only through this period of Easter but every day, so that we may be true carriers of the Light God wants to shine into each person’s life.

I grew up listening to and singing, “Shine Jesus shine, fill this land with the Father’s glory, Blaze Spirit blaze, set our hearts on fire.”

Let us pray, Lord, we ask you for your light to fill our hearts beginning in Jerusalem to Bethlehem and around the world today!  We lift up the land that first witnessed the light and pray it will truly “blaze” for your Glory. With the psalmist we add our voice, Lord, “let your face shine on your servants, save us in your unfailing love.”  Amen.

Devotion written by Grace al-Zoughbi Arteen teacher at Bethlehem Bible College.

Photo credit: both pictures are google stock photographs.












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