Miracle of Holy Fire site mapBegining of the sectionHieromonk Cassian. A Scientific Examination of the Orthodox Church Calendar, eds. Archbishop Chrysostomos and Hieromonk Gregory (Etna, CA: Center for Traditionalist Orthodox Studies, 1998), Ch. 9. Liturgical Havoc Wreaked By the "New Julian" Calendar


The rite of the Holy FireFigure 23. The rite of the Holy Fire dates back as far as the fourth century, when Saint Helen the Equal-to-the-Apostles (327), the mother of Saint Constantine the Great, built the Church of the Holy Resurrection in Jerusalem. This Divine Service, the pattern for the annual celebration of the Resurrection of Christ throughout the Orthodox Church, involves a supernatural manifestation which occurs only on the Orthodox Feast of Pascha. Emperor John VI Kanta- kouzenos (ca. 1295-1383) described it in his time as follows: "In Jerusalem each year during Paschaltide, a miracle occurs in the Tomb of Christ. ...At the hour that the Christians are gathered there reciting hymns to the Resurrection of Christ, a light from Heaven comes down and lights three lamps found in the Tomb of Christ" ( J.-P. Migne, Patrologia Graeca, Vol. CLIV, col. 517).

The greatest ongoing miracle connected with the Church Calendar is the annual appearance of the Holy Fire in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. This supernatural phenomenon only occurs on the Eve of Orthodox Pascha as calculated according to the Church Calendar. When the Holy Fire descends, it lights only the lamp of the Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem, which he places unlit on the Holy Sepulchre; the Patriarch then distributes the Holy Fire to all present (Figure 23 ). Before the ceremony of the Holy Fire itself, thorough public searches of the Sepulchre and of the Patriarch are conducted by police authorities, to guard against any possible fraud. The descent of the Holy Fire is a distinctly Divine event inextricably bound up with the Church Calendar. 146 People of all faiths from the world over-Jews, Copts, Armenians, Jacobites, Latins, Moslems, Protestants, etc.-flock every year to the Holy City to witness for themselves this living connection between the earthly and the Heavenly realms, which only takes place according to true ecclesiastical chronology, viz., the Orthodox Church Calendar. Testifying to the uncanny connection between the miracle of the Holy Fire and the Church Calendar, Archimandrite Sergius (Iazadjiev) relates the following:

In August of 1971, Nikolai [now Hieromonk Theophan] and I were coming back from rest and medical treatment at Narechen. Passing through the town of Plovdiv, we called in at the Metochion of Zographou to venerate the tomb of the Holy King Boris [ 906]. Schema-monk Seraphim of Zographou was in attendance at the tomb. He told us that recently (1969-70), under pressure from the Geneva-based World Council of Churches, the Jerusalem Patriarchate had introduced the 'New Julian' Calendar (as had the Bulgarian, Macedonian, and other Patriarchates, since there was overwhelming pressure at the time to introduce the New Calendar). That same year, on Great Saturday, when from time immemorial the Holy Fire descends on the Lord's Sepulchre, this year the Fire did not appear. Shocked, Patriarch Benedict of Jerusalem commanded that the Old Calendar, which had been in use until then, be restored immediately in the jurisdiction of his Patriarchate. The next year, the Holy Fire once again descended on the Lord's Sepulchre on Great Saturday; the same occurs even until the present.

This is an irrefutable confirmation of the True Faith. And today, when Orthodox celebrate Pascha at that very time that the meaning of the First and eternal Eighth Day is being revealed, when they commemorate the Passion, Descent into Hell, and Resurrection of Christ, heeding the words of the Lord, "This do in remembrance of Me," 147 and celebrate Pascha on the Sunday after the first full moon of the vernal equinox, then the Lord grants the manifestation of the Grace-giving Fire at the Sepulchre of the Lord. 148 Thus, the Lord shows in deed the necessity for a faithful observation of His Divine truths in the liturgical life of His Church. Orthodoxy has sealed the Feast of Feasts, the Pascha of the Lord, in Her Divine Services with the words "today," "now," and "this day": "A sacred Pascha hath been shown forth to us today"; 149 "Now are all things filled with light, Heaven and earth, and the nethermost regions of the earth";150 "This chosen and holy day..., wherein we bless Christ unto the ages"; 151 "This is the Day which the Lord hath made...."152 It is manifest that the Holy Scriptures, the Holy Canons, and the Divine Services with one accord show that this day cannot be celebrated on any other date than that appointed by the Orthodox Church.

Another important miracle verifying the sacrosanct character of Orthodox Pascha is described in a letter from Bishop Paschasinus of Lilybaeum (Marsala), Sicily,153 to Saint Leo the Great ( 461). Regarding a discrepancy between the Roman and Alexandrian calculations of Pascha, Bishop Paschasinus writes:

After much scrutiny and debate, we found that what the Patriarch of the Church of Alexandria had written to Your Beatitude was correct. Since the Roman computation for the year in question [444], the sixty-third year of its cycle..., was March 26, we were inclined to doubt that this date for Pascha was correct, but in fact that it was on April 23. Confused and uncertain, we consulted the Jewish calculation, now ignored by the Romans-which is why they sometimes fall into error....
For the time being, let us not be afraid of the lateness of the date of Pascha, lest by trying to avoid it, we fall into error, as happened during the reign of your predecessor, Zosimas [ 418].... At that time, by hastening the celebration of Pascha from its date of April 22 to March 25..., a very grievous error was committed; so grave that the true date was proved by a miracle enacted by the Grace of the Holy Spirit....
This miracle is as follows: In the high mountains, in the midst of thick forests, there was a very impoverished region by the name of 'Meltinas.' By strained efforts, a small Church had been constructed there. In the Baptistery, during the Holy Night of Pascha, at the time appointed for Baptisms, despite the fact that there were no pipes or aqueducts, let alone any water in the vicinity, the Baptismal Font would fill by itself. After the few present were sanctified [Baptized], the water would dissipate in the same way that it had appeared.
In the time of the Blessed Pope Zosimas, however, when the Westerners were in error with regard to the calculation of the Paschal date, during the night of Pascha, having finished the lections, the Presbyter waited, as usual, for the time of the Baptism: waiting, indeed, until morning. Since the water did not appear, though, those waiting to be Baptized went home unsanctified [un-Baptized].
Continuing, let me say that during the Eve of Pascha on the tenth calends of May [i.e., on the Alexandrian date of April 22], the Font filled with water at the appropriate time. Through this obvious miracle, it was proved that the Westerners were in error with respect to the date of Pascha.154

A further significant manifestation of the Divine origin of the Festal Calendar, particularly for us Old Calendarists, is the Heavenly Sign which appeared over suburban Athens in 1925, the year after the State Church of Greece adopted the New Calendar. On the Eve of the Feast of the Elevation of the Holy Cross, September 14 (Old Style), a large throng of over two thousand had gathered for the All-Night Vigil in the small Church of Saint John the Theologian. A squad of policemen had been sent to control the crowd, since it was technically forbidden to celebrate Feasts according to the Old Calendar any more. Just before midnight, a luminous and majestic Cross appeared in the sky above the House of God. So bright that the stars paled before its light, this Cross was seen by the onlookers to be distinctively shaped like a traditional Byzantine Cross, with two Crossbars. The apparition lasted for half an hour, when the Cross of light gradually rose vertically upward, in imitation of the Elevation of the Cross performed by the Priest during the celebration of this Feast, until it disappeared. This celestial wonder confirmed in the souls of the kneeling worshippers-including the policemen-the correctness of the Church Calendar.155 There are numerous other miraculous events, similar to these, throughout the history of the Orthodox Church. 156

In the lives of the Righteous, we encounter many further comparable "coincidences." Saints frequently appear to certain of the Faithful on their Feast Days as reckoned according to the Church Calendar. For example, the Holy Virgin-Martyr Fevronia of Nisibis ( 310) once appeared standing in her usual place among the Sisters of her convent during an All-Night Vigil celebrating her Feast Day, June 25 (Old Style); the Five Companions of Sebaste, the Holy Martyrs Evstratios, Auxentios, Evgenios, Mardarios, and Orestes ( 296), once blessed a monastery built in their honor with an abundance of provisions during a time of severe deprivation on the Patronal Feast of the monastery, December 13 (Old Style); and, indeed, many more examples of this phenomenon could be mentioned.157 A similar phenomenon is the miraculous repose of a Saint on a particular Feast Day. For example, Saint Theophan the Recluse ( 1894 ) reposed on his Name Day, the Feast of Theophany, January 6 (Old Style)-undoubtedly a sign of Divine recognition for his God-pleasing life; the Blessed Archbishop Seraphim of Bokoutsarsky, who devoted all of his pastoral energies to fighting the ills of modernism and innovationism within Orthodoxy, foretold his own repose, during his last days, and was granted the mercy of falling asleep, appropriately enough, on the Feast of the Triumph of Orthodoxy (i.e., the Sunday of Orthodoxy); and, of course, numerous additional cases could be cited.158 Such manifest connections between the Church Calendar and significant spiritual events may be called coincidental by some; but, again, for Orthodox Christians, there are no coincidences.159

^ 146[For an in-depth examination of this phenomenon, see Bishop Auxentios of Photiki, The Paschal Fire in Jerusalem: A Study of the Rite of the Holy Fire in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre (Berkeley, CA: St. John Chrysostom Press, 1993). A strikingly similar supernatural phenomenon also occurs annually on August 6 (Old Style), the Feast of the Transfiguration, at the Greek Monastery located on Mount Tabor; see an eyewitness account in T. and F. Markovtsy, "A Miracle on Mount Tabor," Orthodox Life, Vol. xliii, No. 5 (September-October 1993 ), pp. 17-18.Eds.]

^ 147 St. Luke 22:19.

^ 148 Archimandrite Nahum, The Grace–Giving Fire at the Sepulchre of the Lord (Moscow: 1991), p. 39.

^ 149 Paschal Stichera, Sticheron 1.

^ 150 Paschal Canon, Ode 3, Troparion 1.

^ 151 Paschal Canon, Ode 8, Irmos.

^ 152 Paschal Stichera, Verse 4.

^ 153 He later attended the Fourth cumenical Synod at Chalcedon (451).

^ 154 J.-P. Migne, Patrologia Latina, Vol. lviii, cols. 606-609. [This particular miracle and the miracle of Saint Elias' Day mentioned earlier are both events cited by Saint Nicodemos of the Holy Mountain ( 1809), in his exposition of the Seventh Apostolic Canon, as evidence of the sacred character of the Church Calendar. Saint Nicodemos further cites another unusual example: "...[I]n the region of Heli[o]polis, Egypt, where the great pyramids are, God performs the following strange paradox every year, to wit: on the evening of our (not the Latins') Holy Thursday, the earth vomits old human relics and bones, which cover the ground of an extensive plain and which remain standing until the following Thursday of the Assumption (misnamed 'Ascension' by the Latins), and then they go into hiding, and no longer show themselves at all, until Holy Thursday comes again. This is no myth or fable, but is true and certain, having been verified by older and recent historians.... In fact, these human bones presage the future resurrection of the dead, just as the Prophet Ezekiel [ fl. 6th cen. b.c.] too saw them" (The Rudder, trans. D. Cum mings [Chicago: The Orthodox Christian Educational Society, 1957], pp. 10-11).—Eds.]

^ 155 [For a full account of this miracle, with eyewitness accounts, see the "Appendix" in Papa–Nicholas Planas: The Simple Shepherd of the Simple Sheep (Boston, MA: Holy Transfiguration Monastery, 1981), pp. 113-119.—Eds.]

^ 156 [Here is another one: "On Pascha, 1996, a dried and dead wreath of thorns, placed on a Cross with an Icon of the Crucified Christ that adorns the Chapel of the Hermitage of Sts. Cyprian and Justina, a small monastic community in Pyrgos, Greece, under the jurisdiction of.[Metropolitan Cyprian of Oropos and Fili], began to sprout green leaves. This moving image of the life which we Orthodox Christians find even in death is a fitting testimony to the mystery of Christ's Pascha and His life-bestowing Death and Resurrection. Archimandrite Father Gregory, Superior of the Brotherhood in Pyrgos, reports that the wreath, unwatered and otherwise completely dry and dead, continues to this day to produce green leaves and evidence of life" (Orthodox Tradition, Vol. xiv, Nos. 2 & 3 [1997], p. 44).-Eds.]

^ 157 [One we should not neglect to mention is the appearance of Saint Elisseos the Prophet ( fl . 9th cen. b.c.) to the recently Glorified Saint Nicholas of Athens (1932). After the calendar reform of 1924, when those who maintained the Old Calendar were first being persecuted, Saint Nicholas wanted to serve the Feast of the Holy Prophet Elisseos in the Church dedicated to his name in Athens (it has since been demolished), but decided against it after considering the possible confrontations which might ensue; he arranged, therefore, to serve at the Church of Saint Spyridon in Mantouka instead. However, the next day, June 14 (Old Style), found Saint Nicholas in the Church of Saint Elisseos, serving the Divine Liturgy in honor of the Holy Prophet. In great perplexity, his spiritual children asked him why he had changed his mind, to which Saint Nicholas replied with his characteristic simplicity, "...[T]his morning I saw the Prophet and he told me to come here to serve and not to fear anything, because he will watch over me" (Papa-Nicholas Planas, op. cit., p. 54 ).-Eds.]

^ 158 [Further examples include two contemporary Saints who both reposed on the Feast of the Annunciation according to the Old Calendar. The first is Saint Savvas the New ( 1948), who followed the Old Calendar during his many years on Mount Athos and in Jerusalem. However, he reposed in the Convent of All Saints on Kalymnos, a convent which out of obedience to the local Bishop had adopted the New Calendar. Nonetheless, when Saint Savvas reposed on April 7 (New Style), one of the nuns was granted a vision of his soul ascending to Heaven, in which she heard him chanting, "Announce, O earth, great joy"-a hymn for the Annunciation, a Feast which the Old Calendarists at that very time were celebrating (see Constantine Cavarnos, St. Savvas the New [Belmont, MA: Institute for Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies, 1985], p. 78). The second is Saint Justin of Chelije ( 1979), who followed the Old Calendar throughout his life. Born on March 25, 1894 (Old Style), he was Baptized with the name "Blagoje" in honor of Blagovest, i.e., the Annunciation. Eighty-five years later, he reposed on March 25, 1979 (Old Style), the very same Feast Day (see Father Daniel Rogich, Serbian Patericon, Vol. i [Platina, ca: St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood, 1994], pp. 247-248, 260). In addition, Saint Bede of Wearmouth-Jarrow ( 735), recounts a case in his History of the English Church and People which verifies the correctness of the movable cycle of the Church: Upon becoming Abbot of Iona, Saint Egbert ( 729) took great pains to convince his monks that they should abandon their longstanding Celtic version of Quarto-decimanism and instead adopt the universal Nicene Paschalion. Finally acquiescing to their spiritual Father's advice, the Brotherhood celebrated Pascha for the first time according to the Orthodox Paschalion on April 24, 729 (Old Style). Saint Egbert himself served the Paschal Liturgy-and reposed immediately thereafter. His monks recognized this as obvious sign that their decision was truly God-pleasing (see [Venerable] Bede, A History of the English Church and People, trans. Leo Sherley-Price (Baltimore, MD: Penguin Books, 1955), pp. 321-322).-Eds.]

^ 159 [The life of the Holy Tsar-Martyr Lazarus of Serbia ( 1389) combines the phenomenon of a Saint appearing on his Feast Day with the phenomenon of a Saint reposing on the day of his Patronal Feast. The fateful Battle of Kosovo, when Saint Lazarus would meet his Martyric end, took place on Vidovdan, i.e., the Feast of the Holy Martyr Vitus of Lucania (ca. 303), June 15 (Old Style). This is also the date of the commemoration of the Holy Prophet Amos of Tekoa ( fl . 8th cen. b.c.), who was Saint Lazarus' Patron Saint. Out of his great piety, Saint Lazarus had dutifully celebrated the Service of the Cutting of the [Webmaster (as I have no Cyrillic font capability): Slava Kolach]-a unique and special commemoration observed by Serbian Orthodox in which bread and wine are blessed in honor of one's Patron Saint-the night before the battle. In return for his faithfulness, God sent two Heavenly messengers to comfort and to strengthen Saint Lazarus in anticipation of his upcoming ordeal: one was clad in white, while the other was clad in crimson. The Saint clad in white was an Angel who introduced Saint Lazarus to the other Saint: "...[T]his man in the garb of a martyr of the Church is my brother, the holy prophet Amos. He is your patron Saint, your Krsna slava, which you began to celebrate last night with bread and wine, but which today you celebrate with blood and death..." (Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich, "The Tsar's Testament," in The Mystery and Meaning of the Battle of Kosovo, trans. the Right Rev. Todor Mika and the Rev. Stevan Scott [Grayslake, il: The Free Serbian Orthodox Diocese of America and Canada, 1989), p. 55).-Eds.]

Cited: Hieromonk Cassian. A Scientific Examination of the Orthodox Church Calendar, eds. Archbishop Chrysostomos and Hieromonk Gregory (Etna, CA: Center for Traditionalist Orthodox Studies, 1998), Ch. 9. Liturgical Havoc Wreaked By the "New Julian" Calendar/ Some eof pages between 103-120.

Miracle of Holy Fire site mapBegining of the sectionHieromonk Cassian. A Scientific Examination of the Orthodox Church Calendar, eds. Archbishop Chrysostomos and Hieromonk Gregory (Etna, CA: Center for Traditionalist Orthodox Studies, 1998), Ch. 9. Liturgical Havoc Wreaked By the "New Julian" Calendar