Father David Randolph of Christ the Saviour Antiochian Orthodox Church in Anderson looks at the Holy Fire candle in the church. Father Randolph said the flame was originally from Israel and transported to New York, then to Anderson.(Photo: Ken Ruinard/Independent Mail)
Across America, hundreds of Christian Orthodox churches have candles that are burning with a flame that originated in the spot venerated as the tomb of Jesus a flame that is being carried in cars in a religious relay by people like South Florida-based rapper Jamey Bennett. It s the first time the flame, known as the Holy Fire, has spread in churches across America after a millennium of that tradition in Eurasia. Bennett, one half of a hip-hop duo called Royal Ruckus, is among those who is ferrying the flame in his car as he drives around on tour in the Southeast and Midwest. He has candles sitting in sand-filled buckets as well as in his cup-holder.
I may be the only rapper, at least in America, who is on tour with a flame from Jesus tomb, Bennett said in a phone call from Nashville, where candles bearing the flames rested for the night on a friend s dining room table.
The fire has made its way to Anderson and Greenville Orthodox churches and to churches in every state. This year is believed to be the first time the fire has made it to America, and even if it has been secreted here before, it has never spread to multiple churches like it has this year, said Father Lawrence Farley, an author who writes a blog for the Orthodox Church in America and leads a church in British Columbia, Canada. His church received the flame Saturday.
Jamey Bennett with the Holy Fire he is carrying on tour with his group, Royal Ruckus. (Photo: Contributed)
The fire originates in what the faithful believe is an annual miracle that is well known to Orthodox Christians but not to many outside the church, said Bill Stathakis, an Anderson man who went to Jerusalem this year in April to witness the birth of the flame.
Father David Randolph of Christ the Saviour Antiochian Orthodox Church in Anderson stands by a window near the Holy Fire candle inside the church. Father Randolph said the flame was originally from Israel and transported to New York, then to Anderson. (Photo: Ken Ruinard/Independent Mail)
Each year the Patriarch of Jerusalem goes into the Tomb of Jesus with candles, after having been searched for anything that could light a candle and stripped down to almost nothing. He says prayers before the candles, which believers say spontaneously ignite. He emerges and shares the light with others.
Bill Stathakis, of Anderson, carries in April a bundle of candles lit from a candle that had shortly before emerged from the Tomb of Jesus in Jerusalem. (Photo: Contributed)
Stathakis said he was in awe of receiving the flame when a security guard began yelling at him, Go, go, go. He thought he had done something wrong but was actually being told to go bring the flame to an old section of Jerusalem where others were waiting to take it.
The flame he carried lasted for less than a half hour before it came close to burning his hand. He had no idea he d be able to see this year s Holy Fire again at his home churches of St. George Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Greenville and Christ the Saviour Antiochian Orthodox Church in Anderson. The flame this year made the leap to America aboard a private plane that took off from Moscow, with embers in a mining lantern, and landed in New York where it went to two churches that spread the fire to others, according to the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia. The fire has spread from those two throughout the country.
The fire came to South Carolina from Charlotte, said Hannah Hunt, who drove from there to Greenville, Atlanta and Tallahassee, Florida. She drove it in a sports car, with her husband and son, who was graduating from Florida State University.
We had the AC vents pointed up and had beeswax, which is pure, but still puts out carbon monoxide, Hunt said. So we had to open the windows every hour. And gas station stops were interesting. Bennett picked up the fire in Greenville from Anderson s Pelegia Miller who got it from Hunt, and he has been to Ohio and Nashville and other cities. He plans to bring it at last to his home church in South Florida.
The Holy Fire, carried from candles by Pelegia Miller from North Carolina to Christ the Saviour Antiochian Orthodox Church in Anderson, was part of a Holy Fire sharing journey from Israel and to New York, then to Anderson. (Photo: Courtesy of Pelegia Miller)
He keeps candles in his cup holders and has singed his arm hair a few times when he puts in it park. There s also a small lantern in Bennett s front seat floorboard, nestled in a 5-gallon bucket filled with dirt and more candles in another bucket in the back seat. Turn on the air conditioning just a bit too high and the lantern, as well as the cup holder ones, could get snuffed.
It wouldn t be a crisis of faith to lose the flame. As a practical matter, there are so many others that it would be easily replaced. And as a spiritual matter the faith isn t contained in a glass candle holder or a flickering flame, said Father David Randolph, of the Anderson Orthodox church. He said the flame, and Jesus tomb, bear special meaning to him but it is all in service of a bigger faith. Randolph has been inside the tomb at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, about six years ago on a trip with two dozen Protestant preachers.
He spent five minutes, alone in the darkness, meditating on Jesus death and life.
I had the realization that he was in this tomb for me, Randolph said. Miller, one of the members of his church, heard about the Holy Fire in a Facebook group that connects churches and people who wish to get, and to transport the fire.
The Holy Fire had never traveled across the United States before, Miller said. It was too incredible to miss. The fire carries layers of meaning, said Father Marcus Burch of St. John of the Ladder Orthodox Church in Greenville.
He said the Holy Fire inside his church is on an alter for worshipers to see and to bring to their own homes if they choose. There are elements of the ancient world in today s candles, reaching back into a time when Jesus words about light were more directly linked to fire than today s time, when light can be easily separated from fire.
Christ is the light of the world, fire is such a rich symbol on so many levels, Burch said. In older times, the gospel was passed from person to person, spoken from one to the next, he said.
The Holy Fire candle at Christ the Saviour Antiochian Orthodox Church in Anderson inside the church. Father Randolph said the flame was originally from Israel and transported to New York, then to Anderson. (Photo: Ken Ruinard/Independent Mail)
The spread of the Holy Fire this year is a similar reminder that people are still spreading the word of God, touching one candle to another and sending the flame in a new direction, Burch said. Hunt, who spread the fire to Greenville and Atlanta before Florida, said it was a leap of faith.
We went to a lot of trouble to take it to people we didn t know, she said. In our faith we talk about the love of God as a river of fire. And each person received it just as the love of God is always there to be received. She said it was an amazing feeling that came with a spur-of-the-moment decision to take the fire with her on her trip to Florida.
Farley, the pastor in Canada, said there are certainly skeptics of the miracle of the Holy Fire. He said there may be ways to spontaneously light a candle, as shown in videos that attempt to debunk the Holy Fire, but those videos cannot replicate other parts of the fire including the people who dip their beards in the fire without lighting their faces on fire. For 15 minutes or so after the fire emerges from the tomb, Farley said, people can be seen on video touching the flame and touching it to their beards with no damage.
But in time, the flame becomes just as warm as one ignited from a lighter, he said. Randolph, from Anderson, said it is a miracle.
It s like faith itself, and love, he said. I can tell you what love looks like but until you experience it, you may not know. Bennett, still on the tour he has since renamed the Holy Fire Tour, said the flame gives him an unexplainable feeling of warmth, a warmth that is distinct from the heat of a candle.
He hasn t used the candles in his performances and while his partner has created a beat with religious chants, he hasn t found the right moment or words to pay tribute to the fire.
It needs to be genuine, Bennett said. He s taking advantage of being on the road for his tour as a chance to spread the flame to churches and the faithful as he passes, and if the right respectful lyrics come to him, he ll turn it into a project, but he s in no rush.
The Holy Fire, carried from candles in a bucket by Pelegia Miller from North Carolina to Christ the Saviour Antiochian Orthodox Church in Anderson, was part of a Holy Fire sharing journey from Israel and to New York, then to Anderson. (Photo: Courtesy of Pelegia Miller)
Bennett sees himself as a rapper who is Orthodox rather than an Orthodox rapper. And as an Orthodox man, being able to handle the fire is a miracle.
It s hard to say if the depth of meaning to me is personal or if it s the miracle of the flames, he said. Even if you didn t believe in the miracle, and I do believe in the miracle, it is something special to have a flame carried from the tomb of Christ all across America. I literally have a fire from the tomb with me. He said carrying that fire from the tomb is both absurd and incredible.
The message of Christ in the gospel has been called foolish, but for those who believe, it is quite special and miraculous, Bennett said. It tells us Jesus is risen and that is a reality.
Follow Mike Ellis on Twitter @MikeEllis_AIM
Read or Share this story: http://www.independentmail.com/story/news/2017/05/21/rapper-hundreds-others-carrying-holy-fire-jesus-tomb-across-america/330591001/
Can Trump Be Impeached For Obstruction Of Justice? Congressman Calls For Removal Process On House Floor
Democratic Representative Al Green of Texas called for President Donald Trump s impeachment on the floor of Congress Wednesday at about 10:15 a.m. EST in a scathing speech referencing Martin Luther King Jr. Green made official his charge that the president engaged in obstruction of justice and fired FBI Director James Comey to curb the investigations into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election.
“Once you way in, American people, there will be a difference in the attitudes about this,” Green said in his speech. “I am a voice in the wilderness, but I assure you that history will vindicate me. I assure you that righteousness will prevail. I assure you that no lie can live forever, and truth crushed to earth shall rise again.”
In an interview with MSNBC Tuesday, Green said, “You don’t fire the person who is investigating you and then say, ‘I did it, and I thought about the investigation at the time that I did it,’ and then go on to tweet what may be an intimidating commentary. All of these things added together would cause one to conclude…this is subject to impeachment in the House.
“I would assure people that if this impeachment takes place, I believe that the president will be found guilty if we get it to the Senate,” Green added. Democratic politicians have been making the case for impeachment in the media ever since Trump’s interview last week with NBC News’s Lester Holt, when he said the decision to fire the FBI director was his alone and that he was considering “the Russia thing” when he handed down the dismissal directive via a letter delivered by the president’s longtime security guard.
Protesters demonstrate against President Donald Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey outside the White House on May 10. Reuters
But Green’s call for impeachment comes at a time when the president is historically unpopular, as his approval rating has sunk below 40 percent, according to most polls as of Tuesday.
“Regardless of recommendation, I was going to fire Comey,” Trump said in an interview MSNBC aired last Friday. “When I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said, You know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story. It’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election they should have won.”
That quote in and of itself, Green said Tuesday, is enough to consider Trump impeachable. Still, the process is a long and daunting one. The House must reach a majority vote in favor of impeaching Trump, as with any president, before a two-thirds majority vote in the Senate can remove him from the Oval Office.
“The public will have the last word,” Green said.
[The stream is slated to start at 11:05 a.m., ET. Please refresh the page if you do not see a player above at that time.]
It comes amid a chaotic stretch for the White House as Trump faces more backlash for his conduct related to ex-FBI Director James Comey. The president may not address his recent troubles in the remarks.
Reports Tuesday indicated that a memo Comey wrote in February shows that the president asked him to shut down the FBI investigation into former national security advisor Michael Flynn. The story was first reported by the New York Times and then corroborated independently by NBC News, the Wall Street Journal and others. House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz, R.-Utah, demanded that the FBI turn over records related to Trump’s conversations with Comey, saying the reports “raise questions as to whether the president attempted to influence or impede the FBI’s investigation.”
- ^ Donald Trump (www.cnbc.com)
- ^ James Comey (www.cnbc.com)
- ^ https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/16/us/politics/james-comey-trump-flynn-russia-investigation.html?_r=0 (www.nytimes.com)
- ^ http://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/comey-wrote-memo-saying-trump-urged-him-drop-flynn-investigation-n760471 (www.nbcnews.com)
- ^ http://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/oversight-chairman-jason-chaffetz-demands-all-fbi-documents-trump-comey-n760556 (www.nbcnews.com)
- ^ http://www.cnbc.com/2017/05/17/trump-russia-and-the-fbi-a-quick-summary-of-all-the-latest.html (www.cnbc.com)