Since pilgrims can't come to Holy Land for Easter this year due to novel coronavirus pandemic, we would like to take you on a virtual tour through the most important holy sites and events in the Holy Land that are related to Easter celebrations.
1) The Church of the Holy Sepulchre
The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is placed in the Christian Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem and it contains the two holiest sites in the world for Christians: the site where Jesus of Nazareth was crucified, and Jesus's empty tomb, where He has been buried and resurrected.
The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, known in Arabic as Kanisatu Al-Qiyamah, literally meaning the Church of the Resurrection, is a major pilgrimage site, drawing millions and millions of tourists annually from all over the world to the Holy Land.
It was originally built by the mother of Emperor Constantine in 330 A.D. The original Byzantine church was destroyed by the Persians in AD 614. After that, it was rebuilt and destroyed many times until the Crusaders rebuilt the church and much of what is standing today is from that time period. Despite the mutilations throughout the centuries, the Holy Sepulchre remains a fascinating complex of structures and is of key importance for several phases of medieval architectural history.
2) The Last Four Stations:
The last four stations of the fourteen stations of the Via Dolorosa are in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. These final 4 stations represent the final episodes of Jesus' Passion of being nailed to the cross, dying on the cross, being taken down from the cross, and lastly being placed in the tomb.
Stopping at each of the 14 stations station to say selected prayers and reflect is practiced throughout the whole year, but mostly during Lent, and especially on Good Friday, in a spirit of reparation for the sufferings and insults that Jesus endured during his passion.
As you prepare to celebrate the resurrection of our savior, Jesus Christ. Bethlehem Handicrafts uniquely carves the fourteen stations of Christ’s passion on Bethlehem’s olive wood. It starts with the condemnation of Christ by Pilate all the way through carrying his cross, falling for the first time, Jesus meeting his mother, Simon of Cyrene helping Jesus to carry his cross, Veronica wiping the face of Jesus, Jesus falling for the second time, Jesus meeting the three women of Jerusalem, Jesus falling for the third time, getting stripes and lashes, the clothes of Jesus Christ are being taken away, being nailed to the cross, dying on the cross then the body of Jesus is taken down from the cross, being placed in a tomb and finally resurrecting to heaven. This uniquely carved Bethlehem’s olive wood made in the Holy Land is a priceless piece of art to remind you of the passion of Christ and the sacrifice he did just for our sins. “I have come so that they may have life” John 10:10.
3) The Stone of the Anointing
The stone of the Anointing at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in the old city of Jerusalem is also known as 'The Stone of Unction' where Jesus' body was prepared for burial.
4) The Holy Fire:
The Holy Fire is a miracle that occurs annually at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre on Great Saturday/Holy Saturday, which is the day preceding the Orthodox Easter.
While the Orthodox Patriarch is inside the chapel kneeling in front of the stone, a blue light emanates within Jesus Christ's tomb, which eventually turns into a flame of fire. When the Patriarch goes out with two lit candles a loud roar of exuberance and celebration resounds in the Church, where the candles are used to light the candles of the clergy, locals and pilgrims in attendance. Sometimes, the fire spontaneously lights other lamps and candles in the hands of people around the tomb and even around the church. The Holy Fire is at once taken to certain Orthodox countries, such as Greece, by special flights, so that they could partake in this miracle.
You can find many videos online of pilgrims exposing the fire directly to their skin few minutes after its descent, and the the Holy Fire does not burn or slightly harm them.
Thousands of pilgrims as well as local Christians of all denominations usually gather in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem on 7th April to witness this annual miracle, which unfortunately will not be possible to pilgrims to witness this Easter.