Orthodox Outlet for Dogmatic Enquiries Orthodoxy

Discussions and views on the Holy Light

Taken from the (Greek) blog of Expaganus


We have set out below the "essence" of discussions which have taken place these last few days between bloggers on the topic of the Holy Light, triggered by the video of the miracle which we had posted.  Having judged them to be quite 'informative', we decided to re-publish them, in the manner that the blogger 'Expaganus' has posted them.

Our readers will be able to see for themselves why the arguments of the non-faithful are absurd when it comes to the matter of the Holy Light, as well as proof of their irrationalism when they struggle to find excuses in the hope of convincing the naive and the ill-intentioned that the miracle is not true.

The Holy Light of the Holy Sepulcher and the arguments of its deniers

As the Day of the Resurrection approaches, the attention of many is turned to the phenomenon of the Holy Light at the Holy Sepulcher. This is a phenomenon for the sake of which the OODE website (Orthodox Outlet for Dogmatic Enquiries) has prepared a very comprehensive video, which you can see here:


I also presented this video, here http://expaganus.wordpress.com/2009/04/16/agiofwspanagiostafos/, as a result of which, I received comments that the inexplicable phenomena of the Holy Sepulcher are attributed to "phosphorus powder".  This is the all-too-familiar theory maintained by the self-titled "researcher", Mr. Michael Kalopoulos, which he frequently airs on assorted television programs. Those comments referred to a video of one such program, which can be found here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S66f87b05oM

After having taken into consideration the comments and the relative video - as I ought to - I decided to set down my own thoughts and conclusions (which I in fact posted here:  http://expaganus.wordpress.com/2009/04/16/agiofwspanagiostafos/#comment-622). These are my exact comments, slightly adapted in order to be comprehended by every reader:

«Á. Regarding the candles:

1)      The candles of the people present are not procured by the Holy Sepulcher exclusively . There are many who bring their own candles, even from their homeland.  You can rest assured that if it was compulsory to obtain your candle from the Holy Sepulcher, then the doubters of the miracle would have used that information as evidence that the candles are “tampered with”.  However, nothing of the sort occurs.  Just as there are many who get their candles from the Holy Sepulcher as a “blessing”, there are equally many (especially the distrustful) who prefer to bring their own candles. Therefore, the argument that someone can monitor -and tamper with- ALL of the candles that are ignited at the Holy Sepulcher is completely overruled.

2)      Nobody has ever seen anyone at the Holy Sepulcher “dipping the candles into liquid phosphorus (or whatever else), 15-20 minutes prior to the ritual”.  If something like that did happen, it would have caused an uproar!  There is not even the slightest evidence of dampness to be seen, given that the large and small candles that one obtains from the Holy Sepulcher do not have a damp wick. Surely if someone was given such a candle, with a damp wick, he would have objected, by saying “why are you giving me a candle with a wet wick? The wet wick will not ignite!”  But nothing like that has ever been heard either. Therefore, the argument that the candles at the Holy Sepulcher have been soaked in a specific liquid, as Mr. Kalopoulos suggested, is also overruled. 

3)      The length of time that people have to wait outside with their candles for the Holy Light to appear is far more than the “15-20 minutes”, because most of them have “camped” there many hours earlier (not to mention that some may have even spent the previous night there, waiting in line).  And yet, there has NEVER been a case where candles have ignited BEFORE the Patriarch has begun to read the prayer. Isn’t that odd?  What remarkable, coordinated precision could that be, that can actually make candles light up spontaneously after so many hours?  Not even a time bomb’s, my friend!  Therefore, the argument that the candles (that ignite without the Patriarch’s candle) have been set alight through the use of a chemical they have been dipped in, is also overruled.  

4)      As for the non-incendiary characteristic of the Holy Light during the first 20 minutes:  I didn’t notice anyone (in the program that showed the relative video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S66f87b05oM) daring to keep his hand for the same length of time above the flame that Mr. Kalopoulos had produced chemically.  Not even Kalopoulos himself! Everyone confined themselves to brief sweeps of their hand over the flame, for only a few seconds – something that (pardon the joke) even my cat could do. It had absolutely nothing in common with what we saw the faithful in the video doing, or with the testimony of the lady in the video http://oode.wordpress.com/2009/04/14/miracleofholylight who said she had shoved the lit candle INSIDE her daughter’s long, frizzy hair and it was not burnt to a frazzle.  It might interest you to know that I myself (being long-haired) have had tufts of it burnt by a candle on two occasions in church, simply because a flame had brushed close to it, for mere tenths of a second.  If they had passed a lit candle entirely through my hair, I dare not imagine what the outcome would have been!  And that applies to anyone who comes in contact with an ordinary flame – or with the Holy Light itself for that matter, after  the first several minutes have passed.

As for the “argument” that a flame comprised of 33 candles does not scorch, supposedly because it is a “pulsatory” flame (or something to that effect), well, I can think up a better joke than that… But I am not an absolutist… I challenge anyone who believes this new-found theory to hasten and prove it:  They can video-tape themselves passing a 33-candle flame, which will of course have spontaneously ignited thanks to liquid phosphorus, over their face, their hair, their mustache/beard (if they have one), but not necessarily for 20 minutes – five minutes only will do. Then they can send me the video so that I can examine it and post it online, as proof that the “pulsatory flame” theory is valid, and also as proof that the non-scorching of the Holy Light is indeed a simple natural phenomenon that anyone can reproduce.


Â. Regarding Mr.Kalopoulos[*]:

1)      This gentleman, who presents himself as a “researcher” and in fact of the “skeptics of Greece”, (this is a description that I can’t confirm exists, or if it is merely a sonorous title that he fabricated on his own, in order to give himself and perhaps a couple of friends of his some added prestige), has an unprecedented characteristic: He “researches” from a distance!  In my experience, I do not know of any researcher who researches the subject of his research seriously and responsibly, without ever having observed its manifestations at close range.  Would you take a researcher seriously, who is researching the tides of the Euripos strait, from…America, having seen only certain of its aspects in a movie?  Why then should I take this gentleman seriously, who opines – or, rather, dogmatizes – about what the Holy Light is, without ever having gone to actually see it close up? (If anything, to bring back a measly little candle from the Holy Sepulcher, to prove to us that it was indeed soaked in the chemical that he claims is the culprit…)

2)      The gentleman in question – Mr. Kalopoulos – in regard to the research on the Holy Light is not only lacking in the experience of an eyewitness, but also in the scientific background that would have enabled him to study the phenomenon more extensively. (The poor fellow had studied to be a mechanical engineer.) Obviously, that is the reason he sits and writes books from a distance, whereas scientists who want to study “unusual phenomena” will go and examine them at close quarters and will also follow a specific methodology. AND YET, this same person claims to be a supporter of the “valuable judgments of the experts in every scientific area” and of “on-the-spot research, at the locations of ‘miracles’”, without himself upholding either of these tenets, or at least trying to act accordingly. As the old Greek saying goes, “Teacher, you taught, but didn’t uphold what you taught”.  How can one take such a person seriously ?

3)      The gentleman in question – Mr. Kalopoulos – is also not impartial. He has written books that supposedly “debunk” the Holy Bible. In those books, he makes various leaps of logic and wily assertions, in blatant defiance of international bibliography.  At the same time, he participates in the collective work titled “The Revival of the Ancient Hellenic Religion” (“Archetype Publications”, Thessaloniki 2002), together with the ‘specialists’ in the field, Radamanthes Anastasakis (also a Mason, if I’m not mistaken), M. Berettas, P.Marinis, G.Tsagrinos and other neo-pagans (see: http://www.epanellinismos.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=blogcategory&id=13&Itemid=30).  Now what business does a supposed “skeptic” and “impartial” person have with the… revival of the ancient Hellenic religion and its fanatic followers?  It is more than obvious that this person has been enlisted for the purpose of attacking the faith in Christ – God knows for what personal reasons – and thus does not hesitate to make alliances with people who lean in favour of a certain religion and who unashamedly hurl the most unscientific arguments that could ever exist (an example that comes to mind is the expression “a birdless place”); people with whom, according to HIS criteria, he should not be collaborating.  If therefore, according to his own statement, the faithful should not be examined as witnesses with regard to miracles because they would be prejudiced in favour of them, then shouldn’t he be exempt as a non-faithful, because he is likewise prejudiced, against them?  And this is always according to his own assertions, given that I personally believe there are both faithful and non-faithful individuals who can be impartial; it’s just that he doesn’t belong to either of those categories.  Hence, his supposed “proofs” against the miracle of the Holy Light belong to his general agenda of underestimating - and disparaging if possible - the Christian faith in every sector, therefore, in order to achieve the desired result, he will not hesitate to turn a blind eye to everything that spoils his broth.   For the above reasons, it is easy for one to understand why he and his “research” are entirely untrustworthy – in other words, they are nothing short of a joke…


C. Regarding the “flashes of lightning”

So, we are told that “phosphorus powder can cause flashes of lightning”.  Well, not even Kalopoulos has made such an assertion!  Where did you hear – where exactly did you see it written, that “phosphorus powder can cause flashes of lightning”? I beg you to show me.  I would also like you to provide some evidence as to WHO are the ones that sprinkle phosphorus powder within the Holy Sepulcher and over the heads of bystanders, when that kind of activity could put them at risk of being burnt alive…  I am assuming that for you to write something this serious – which no-one else has ever said – you must have seen it with your own eyes, or perhaps even recorded it in a video or at least a photograph. If that is the case, then please, delay no more in presenting that evidence!  Mr. Kalopoulos could easily present it for you, given his access to the Media (after all, he does appear on TV without fail, every Christmas and Easter, with his “discoveries”)…

The “flashes” that appear in the Holy Sepulcher have very specific characteristics:  quite often they begin their course from a low point and climb upwards, while they sometimes have a spherical shape, like a ball of light, and they meander through the crowd without burning anyone, making their candles ignite spontaneously.  Phenomena like these are reminiscent of what Physics calls “ball lightning” and are still being examined by Science, and as far as I know, they cannot be reproduced artificially with… powders, especially when others who have tried to reproduce the phenomenon with other methods were in fact electrocuted (see:  http://www.physics4u.gr/faq/lightningball.html ). Generally speaking, there is no chance that ball lightning will not harm anyone who is in its proximity; furthermore, it is accompanied by a sensation of emanated heat and “a characteristically bad odour… like the odour of ozone, or of sulphur burning, or of nitric acid” - side effects that have never been reported by those present at the Holy Sepulcher.

There are some who maintain that the flashes are produced by the flash bulbs of cameras. Although certain bright flashes can be attributed to cameras, the fact remains that this cannot explain the spheres of light that pass through the crowd and veer upwards or collide against pillars and then ignite candles, or the white light that perceptibly collects in a certain spot, leaving other areas in total darkness (as opposed to the camera flashes, which normally illuminate the entire space proportionately).

Therefore, neither the “explanations” of ball lightning, cameras flashing, nor the… phosphorus powder can be deemed satisfactory, when it comes to identifying the flashes and balls of light within the Holy Sepulcher.  This is an entirely different thing altogether.

Now let’s take a look at certain events within the Old Testament, given it is a special time of the year…

For many of the miracles that Moses performed before the Pharaoh so that he would allow the Israelites to leave Egypt, the palace magicians were able to repeat similar ones. (For example, in Exodus 7:19-21, the waters were turned to blood; in Exodus 8:5-6, Egypt was overrun with frogs, etc…)  The fact that somebody was able to somehow produce similar results does not mean that Moses’ miracles were not genuine; that is, that they did not originate from the true God. It merely means that those “somebodies” were able to produce results similar to some of Moses’ miracles – but not with all of them.

I then received thoughts and conclusions by other bloggers. For example, one blogger who visited the site wrote the following: (http://expaganus.wordpress.com/2009/04/16/agiofwspanagiostafos/#comment-623):

«Mr.Kalopoulos' trick answers regarding self-combustion must have surely come from the testimonies of eyewitnesses?  In order for someone to debunk an event, it is necessary to reproduce, not only the self-ignition of the candles, but also the flashes of light in the room, the luminous clouds, the balls of fire.  Mr.Kalopoulos is wrong in focusing on the Patriarch's...cigarette lighter. He has far more work to do, in order to reproduce all of the phenomena. But then, perhaps it is because he already knows this, that he confines his comments to the only thing that he can almost demonstrate to us...

The reason I said "almost" is because there are scores of unanswered questions.  One exasperated pilgrim could scarcely control himself, listening to Mr.Kalopoulos concocting such a 'perforated' theory, so he decided to write a book with some of his thoughts.  Out of respect for the trouble he took, I am quoting a few of the many things he has written in that book:

Dimitrios Kokkoris, ‘Holy Light’, Athens 2008, pages 18-20:

“They claim that certain initiated individuals skillfully smear the wick of the candles with phosphorous material, which at some point self-ignites. It is true, that when phosphorus is exposed to the atmosphere and comes in contact with oxygen, it will ignite.

However, certain questions and speculations inevitably come to mind, such as:

1) How much time is required for phosphorus to self-ignite after coming in contact with oxygen?  It is a known fact that a very short time is required - perhaps a few minutes only - but certainly not entire hours.  But for argument's sake, let's agree to a time limit of 1-2 hours.

Christians usually purchase the bundle of 33 candles many hours before - and sometimes even days before - from the vendors in the market of Jerusalem. They remain inside the Temple of the Resurrection, or even outside it, and quite often from the evening of Good Friday, and they wait there for the Holy Light to appear at noon on Holy Saturday. This means that the candles that were impregnated with phosphorus would have to self-ignite LONG BEFORE the time of appearance of the Holy Light.

2) How is it, that self-ignition takes place ONLY inside the holy site, and ONLY during the ritual, and not before or after it?  What kind of synchronized phenomenon is that?

If this were a premeditated act, we should have had untimely or premature or delayed ignitions, both inside AND outside the courtyard of the Temple, where multitudes of faithful Christians, both Orthodox and heterodox, Armenians, Copts, Syrians and other religions as well as tourists and Israeli policemen, are crowded together.

3) Candles are supplied in open-air places, either by shops that have their merchandise exposed to the four winds; also by shop owners who are NOT 'conspirator' Christians, but quite often Muslim Arabs of Jerusalem. All of these individuals would have to be in agreement and 'in cahoots' with those who are responsible for the hoax.

So, how come until now, not one single vendor has lodged any complaint for this fabrication and scam?

Besides, how are the candles impregnated with phosphorous, when and by whom?  If the candle supplier is the culprit, then he needs to have made arrangements well in advance, in order to have the candles duly prepared so that he can fool the purchasing vendors and not raise their suspicions. If he has impregnated the candles long before putting them on the market, and they are exposed for so long on the vendor's bench, then how come they don't self-ignite in the meantime?

4) Is it possible that the little old ladies who have come from Greece, Cyprus, Russia, Rumania, have soaked their own candle wicks in phosphorus?  And besides being witnesses of the phenomenon, do they con and are also conned at the same time?  And how is it, that these thousands of aged pilgrims have zealously kept their guilty secret under lock and key and have not revealed it as yet - not even out of naivete?


These were just a few of the questions that a visitor and eyewitness had; most of which we have not seen Mr.Kalopoulos ever explaining, or even attempting to respond to, convincingly.»

Another blogger (http://expaganus.wordpress.com/2009/04/16/agiofwspanagiostafos/#comment-624) wonders:

«For someone who is supposedly educated, the arguments debunking the Holy Light are ridiculous!  Whoever heard of "phosphorus creating flashes"?  Are they aware that phosphorus produces poisonous fumes?  How is it, that after so many years and so many flashes, all those people at the Holy Sepulcher have not been poisoned (and in such a confined space at that!), if flashes are indeed produced by phosphorus?

While another blogger (http://expaganus.wordpress.com/2009/04/16/agiofwspanagiostafos/#comment-627) observed very caustically:

«I like Serious Scientists.. Kalopoulos for example...  Please download and read a critique in his book "The Big Lie", which (critique) indicates just how IRRELEVANT this person is, from every aspect : http://www.apologitis.com/gr/keimena/APANTHSH_STO_BIBLIO_TO_MEGALO_CEMA_M_KALOPOYLOY.zip

Talk about expertise!!»

When was phosphorus discovered?

«For those who suggest that phosphorus is used during the appearance of the Holy Light, please take a look at some historical information that refers to early testimonies:

It was around the 9th century that the light in question began to be presented by pilgrims as being a miracle, a gift sent by God, "from the sky above, to the Holy Tomb".  Yet another testimony - one of the first that ascribes a supernatural character to the appearance of the Holy Light - is that of the Frenchman Bernardus Monachus, a Roman Catholic missionary and monk, who went on a pilgrimage to Egypt and Palestine between 865 and 870 A.D. and who attributes the imparting of the light to the Patriarch by an angel. In his record of the pilgrimage, he mentions the following…”But it is worth mentioning what takes place on the Holy Saturday, which is the Paschal Night-vigil.  In the morning, the service begins in that church (of the Lord's Tomb). Afterwards, when the rite is completed, they begin to chant "Kyrie Eleison" until an angel comes and sets alight the lamps that hang above the aforementioned sepulcher. The Patriarch then transfers this light to the bishops and the rest of the people, and each person obtains the light where he stands..." 

Original Latin text here: http://www.documentacatholicaomnia.eu/02m/0871-0871,_Bernardus_Monachus_Francus,_Itinerarium_Factum_In_Loca_Sancta,_MLT.pdf

"...Hoc tamen dicendum quod Sabbato sancto, quod est vigilia Paschae, mane officium incipitur in ecclesia: et post peractum officium, Kyrie eleison cantur, donec veniente angelo lumen in lampadibus accendatur, quae pendent super praedictum sepulchrum: de quo dat patriarcha episcopis et reliqio populo, ut illuminet sisi in suis locis..."

Now, having read about the Holy Light, you can read on about the discovery of phosphorus.... It was discovered in 1669 by the alchemist Hennig Brand who, in his search for the philosopher's stone, succeeded in extracting from putrefied urine a substance that had the strange quality of emanating light in the dark. It was on account of this peculiar quality that he named the substance phosphorus (phos-phorus, Greek = light-bearer).

This primary method of production he strived to keep as a locked and sealed secret, until the time that Brand himself could no longer keep it to himself and revealed it in confidence  to a German alchemist, Krafft, who in turn displayed this "peculiar" substance to the Court of the King of England Charles II in 1677.  At the same time, however, a Swede, Johann Kunckel, independently produced the same substance in 1676, while the great English physicist and chemist Robert Boyle studied this new luminescent substance, which he named "noctiluca" (night light). Thus, the name most commonly accepted ever since for this element was the English name, phosphorus, or Boyle's phosphorus, as opposed to Bolognia phosphorus which was barium sulphate with other additives, but which emanated light only after being exposed to sunlight.

One century later in 1770 J.G. Gahn discovered that the main element in bones is calcium phosphate, and because of this, C.W. Scheele managed in 1777 to manufacture phosphorus out of bone ashes. In the same year, Lavoisier verifies the true nature of phosphorus as a chemical, upon which, he studied its characteristics. For more information on phosphorus, you can visit this site: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phosphorus#History_and_discovery

The above information was borrowed from the electronic encyclopedia Wikipedia.

Now, can you please tell us what chemical the previous Patriarchs had used for lighting their candles, prior to 1669?   Matches and cigarette lighters had not yet been discovered at the time, and of course neither had phosphorus.

All we need to hear now, is that phosphorus was discovered.... in the 9th century by priests, who kept it a secret all this time...." »


It is my belief, dear readers, that more than ample.... light has been shed on the matter of the Holy Light.  Nevertheless, the challenge that I mentioned earlier still stands: 

Whoever believes that the "pulsatory quality of a 33-candle flame does not burn because it is pulsatory" (or something to that effect) should hasten to prove it:  They should video-tape themselves passing a 33-candle flame, which will of course have spontaneously ignited thanks to an impregnation by liquid phosphorus, over their face, their hair, their mustache/beard (if they have one), but not necessarily for 20 minutes – five minutes only will do. Then they can send me the video so that I can examine it and post it online, as proof that the “pulsatory flame” theory is valid, and also as proof that the non-scorching of the Holy Light is indeed a simple natural phenomenon that anyone can reproduce.

If there is anyone out there who can succeed in reproducing ALL of the manifestations of the Holy Light with the help of phosphorus (no-burning, blue and white flashes, balls of fire etc.) and more so, without stinking up the place and poisoning the bystanders with its fumes, then that person's video will be more than welcome. As a minimum duration of such a video, let's say 10 minutes (only half of the 20).

My address is expaganus@freemail.gr.

That's all for now; Best wishes for a blessed Resurrection, dear readers!


* Special note by OODE: Our own sources indicate that Mr.Kalopoulos is a former Jehovah's Witness, who, upon leaving the Watchtower society, not only preserved his hatred towards the Christian Church, but even went to extremes; he came to hate everything Christian, to the extent that he began to work with the neo-pagan faithful of...Jupiter, even though he sought to be recognized as a "rationalist". As for his books, which are outright attacks on the Christian faith - which he is oblivious to - they are riddled with improvisations, irrationalities, smatterings of knowledge, misinterpretations and inaccuracies - classic characteristics of Watchtower followers.


Translation by A. N.

Article published in English on: 21-4-2009.

Last update: 21-4-2009.