April 15, 2017

A Second Century Paschal Miracle in Jerusalem

In the second century, there was a Bishop of Jerusalem whose name was Narcissus, that is celebrated in the Orthodox Church on August 7th. Saint Narcissus is noted for working many miracles in his lifetime, some of which were recorded for us in the early fourth century by Eusebius of Caesarea in his Ecclesiastical History (Bk. 6, Ch. 9). There he records a miracle that took place in the year 162, during the Paschal Vigil of Holy Saturday. Eusebius writes:

They say that the oil once failed while the deacons were watching through the night at the great paschal vigil. Thereupon the whole multitude being dismayed, Narcissus directed those who attended to the lights, to draw water and bring it to him.

This being immediately done he prayed over the water, and with firm faith in the Lord, commanded them to pour it into the lamps. And when they had done so, contrary to all expectation by a wonderful and divine power, the nature of the water was changed into that of oil. A small portion of it has been preserved even to our day by many of the brethren there as a memento of the wonder.

Orthodox Christian tradition holds that this miracle, which predates the construction of the Holy Sepulchre in the fourth century, is related to the annual Miracle of the Holy Light (Holy Fire), though the two do differ, as the former was a one-time occurrence while the Miracle of the Holy Fire occurs every year. However, they have in common the premise that God has produced fire for lamps during the celebration of the Resurrection in Jerusalem where there, logically speaking, should have been none.