Pilgrims take part in the Christian Orthodox Holy Fire ceremony at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem’s Old City. Photo: Ammar Awad/Reuters
(This article first appeared in the April issue of the Anglican Journal.)
This year, I will have the pleasure of spending Holy Week and Easter Day at Christ’s Church Cathedral in Hamilton, Ont. On Easter Monday, I will travel to Jerusalem with the Advisory Council for the Canadian Companions of Jerusalem.* I suspect we will not be in the Holy City very long before we make our way to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the only church in the world, as John Peterson puts it, “that houses an empty tomb” (A Walk in Jerusalem).
Just days before, on Holy Saturday, thousands of pilgrims will have gathered at that ancient church for the Great Vigil of Easter. In a silence like no other, they will have waited with great anticipation for the first glimpse of the Light of Easter, carried out of the tomb by the Ecumenical Patriarch. And then, in a joy like no other, they will have shared in a boisterous exchange the greeting of Easter: “Alleluia! Christ is risen! The Lord is risen indeed! Alleluia!”
In every image I have ever seen of that Great Vigil, I am struck by the fact that every pilgrim holds not a single taper, but a bundle of 33 candles symbolizing the years of Jesus’ life. When kindled, it resembles a torch. The waving of those torches is a joyful proclamation of the Resurrection of Christ, a bold declaration of the triumph of good over evil, love over hatred, generosity over greed, life over death. Truly, this is the feast of the victory of our God!
In liturgies quite likely less dramatic than that in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, yet equally solemn and joyful, we will light Sacred Candle of the Resurrection, praying that its light will dispel the darkness of the world. This candle is lit for every liturgy in the Great Fifty Days of Easter. In a similar way, we should light a special Easter candle at home, drawing light from it daily to remind us of our life in the Risen Lord.
Pray with me that, in our homes and in our parish communities, we be like those tapers so bundled together as to become torches lifted high in a joyful proclamation of him whose resurrection we celebrate—for in him, we see our own and indeed that of the world!
* The Advisory Council for the Canadian Companions of Jerusalem’s trip to Jerusalem has been postponed and a new date is being set likely for early 2018, according to the Office of the Primate.
Archbishop Fred Hiltz is primate of the Anglican Church of Canada.
Anglican Journal News, April 12, 2017