This year the Holy Light will arrive in Greece from the Church of the Resurrection in Jerusalem under very austere measures due to the COVID-19 pandemic, reports Greek Reporter.
This Pascha in Greece will be like no other Pascha in history, with the churches closed and people quarantined in their homes. The holiest and biggest Greek Orthodox feast will take place at home with close family and friends.
The ceremonial transport of the Holy Light from the Church of the Resurrection (or Church of the Holy Sepulchre) in Old Jerusalem to Athens by airplane will be no exception.
Despite severe security measures against the coronavirus and the universal ban on Jewish Easter holidays in Jerusalem, including the closing of the doors of the Church of the Resurrection, the Israeli authorities finally permitted the Holy Light (or Holy Fire) to be transported to Greece and other Orthodox countries in Eastern Europe.
After days of consultations between the Athens-Tel Aviv-Jerusalem triangle, the plan to transfer the Holy Light to Greece with all the emergency health precautions taken has been approved.
It should be noted that the last time the Church of the Resurrection had its doors sealed was in 1349 when the Black Plague killed 100-200 million people in Europe and Asia.
This Pascha, only 10-15 high priests will conduct the holy liturgy and receive the Holy Fire from the tomb of Jesus Christ inside the Church of the Resurrection. It is agreed that immediately after the liturgy, the Holy Light will be passed to the faithful, a ceremony that has been carried out since 867.
The Holy Light will be transported in a lantern with a special police escort to Ben Gurion airport, in Tel Aviv.
The only stop on the human chain of air transport of the Holy Light to the Orthodox world is the Jaffa Gate, where representatives of the Jerusalem Patriarchate will deliver the Holy Light to the Consul General of Greece in Israel, Christos Sofianopoulos. It will then be given to the Greek delegation, which will depart from Athens on Saturday morning for Tel Aviv.
At the Jaffa Gate, one of the eight oldest gates in the old city of Jerusalem, representatives of the rest of the Orthodox Church – Russia, Ukraine, Serbia, Bulgaria, Georgia, Romania – will receive the Holy Light to transport it in time to their homelands.
At the same time, the Greek Air Force aircraft will be waiting on the runway, as its crew is prohibited from landing on Israeli soil due to the quarantine.
The Greek Consul General will hand over the Holy Light to the Exarch of the Holy Sepulcher, Archimandrite Damianos, who will board the Greek plane.
Once the Holy Light lands on Greek soil, the reception ceremony will be very austere due to the pandemic. The minimum military staff and band will be present to give the Holy Light the head of state honors. Specifically, only 18 army and band members will give donors, compared to 80 last year.
Also, there will be no red carpet on the runway this year, a very limited number of state officials. Only the competent deputy foreign minister, the Exarch of the Holy Sepulchre and the Representative of the Church of Greece, and the Metropolitan of Mesogeia Nikolaos will be present to give the message of the arrival of the Holy Light.