On the Holy Fire and Tragedy in Odessa

07 May 2021 11:27
Fire in the Odessa House of Trade Unions and the Holy Fire in Dumenko's hands. Photo: UOJ Fire in the Odessa House of Trade Unions and the Holy Fire in Dumenko's hands. Photo: UOJ

The OCU doesn't believe the Holy Fire is miraculous but delivers it to its churches, whereas “patriots” call the Odessa tragedy “the descent of the holy fire”.

The representatives of the OCU do not believe in the grace of the Holy Fire that descends on Holy Saturday in Jerusalem, but for some reason they deliver it to their churches. The supporters of the OCU blasphemously refer to the burning of people alive in Odessa in 2014 as "the descent of the holy fire", but for some reason they continue to call themselves Christians. So who, after all, is worshiped in the OCU?

On the day of the Bright Resurrection of Christ, the youtube channel of Channel 5 published an interview with the head of the OCU, Sergei (Epiphany) Dumenko. The title of this interview speaks for itself: "About sex without love, the war in Donbass, the barbershop and Filaret: Epiphany on a rendezvous with Yanina Sokolova."

Screenshot of the youtube channel "Channel 5"

OCU and Holy Fire

Let us dwell on one indicative statement of the head of the OCU in this interview. It concerns the miracle of the Descent of the Holy Fire on Holy Saturday in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem. S. Dumenko said the following: “Someone believes that it (the descent of the Holy Fire – Ed.) happens in a miraculous way, but to a greater extent it is a memory of that miracle that was performed at a certain point.” It is quite obvious that the head of the OCU does not classify himself as one of these naive "someones". S. Dumenko explains the Descent of the Holy Fire as follows: “It is symbolic how, for example, we consecrate water on Jordan: there is a substance, water, it does not arise simply, a miracle does not happen. I mean the priest does not create water as such, he simply sanctifies and it receives grace-filled power. Likewise, the Holy Fire is simply carried out of the Holy Sepulcher as a sign of the Light that shone during the Resurrection of the Lord." No matter how the journalist tried to force Sergei Dumenko to explain where the Fire comes from in the Edicule, he could not even understand this issue.

The origin of the Holy Fire was explicated on his Facebook page by one of S. Dumenko's subordinates, "priest" Alexander Dedyukhin, 4 years ago. This is exactly the "priest" whom Patriarch Bartholomew awarded with the cross in 2018.

Patriarch Bartholomew and Alexander Dediukhin

In 2017, when both Dumenko and Dediukhin were members of the UOC of the Kyiv Patriarchate, the latter explained the Descent of the Holy Fire by a paid order from the Russian television channel NTV: “In recent years, the 'Holy Fire' (the author's quotes and spelling are not changed – Ed.) ALWAYS descends in between 14:03 PM and 14:16 PM. Since 2002, the fire has ben descending only within the time slot mentioned above. The fact is that 14:03 PM is the Jerusalem time of the first news release of the 15:00 (Moscow time) news release of the NTV channel, while 14:16 PM is the time of the last piece of news at the end of the newsfeed. The fact is that in 2002 the NTV channel became the first television company in the world to buy the rights to broadcast live from the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, and since then the 'holy fire' has always been broadcast live on NTV," Dediukhin wrote. In his opinion, the Holy Fire constantly burns on the Holy Sepulcher, and the Jerusalem Patriarch simply lights candles from this burning lamp.

Dediukhin's IQ or, perhaps, knowledge of church history did not allow him to think that only the surviving testimonies of the Holy Fire are more than a thousand years old, and the Russian TV channel has nothing to do with it.

Another representative of the OCU, "archbishop" Ivan (Eustratiy) Zoria, compared today's forms of veneration of the Holy Fire with the "religion of fire worshipers." “Moreover, there is something blasphemous in attempts to associate the recognition or denial of the action of God's grace in the Church with the Holy Light as if Orthodoxy were a 'religion of fire worshipers',” I. Zoria wrote on his Facebook page on Holy Saturday 2021. True, he made a reservation: "We venerate the Holy Light (Holy Fire – Ed.) as a visible sign of blessing from the Holy Sepulcher."

The logic of I. Zora's speculations can still be understood: representatives of the OCU are not allowed to the Holy Sepulcher on Holy Saturday due to the fact that the Jerusalem Patriarchate does not recognize the OCU. They have to either deceitfully enter there, using diplomatic invitations, or take this Fire outside the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem. Therefore, the OCU is trying in every possible way to belittle its significance, to doubt the truth of the Holy Fire, or even to explain its appearance with a paid order from the above mentioned Russian TV channel.

However, it is impossible to understand the logic of the head of the OCU S. Dumenko and other representatives of this religious organization: how can they humiliate or even blaspheme over the Holy Fire and at the same time distribute it among their churches?! Obviously, they are trying to patch up the incompatible: on the one hand, the schismatics must discredit the miracle of the Holy Fire, since they are in no way involved in this miracle. On the other hand, they must show that they revere the Holy Fire, since it is worshiped by all Local Churches, and most of the Churches bring this fire to their believers. Every year, the Holy Fire is delivered to dozens of countries by special flights, and in many of them it is received with honor not only by church hierarchs, but also by state leaders. In other words, the OCU considers the Holy Fire to be a fiction, but they use it to strengthen their authority.

The OCU considers the Holy Fire to be a fiction, but they use it to strengthen their authority.

Having cited the narrative about the Holy Fire of the representatives of the OCU, full of disbelief and blasphemy, one cannot but say that the miracle of the Holy Fire has been revered in Christianity from time immemorial, and there are many testimonies of its supernatural origin. We will cite here only the very first and one of the most recent surviving testimonies.

"On the Holy Saturday, on the eve of Easter, at the morning church service in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, after singing 'Kyrie, eleison' (Lord, have mercy!), the Angel descends and lights the lamps hanging over the Holy Sepulcher. The patriarch transfers this Fire to the bishop and finally to all the people, so that everyone can light this Fire in their home. The current Patriarch is called Theodosius (863-879); he was called to this place for his piety"(Bernard the Monk, Itinerarium Bernardi, monachi franci, 867).

“Divine Fire descends every year on the eve of Orthodox Easter on Great Saturday. <...> As for doubts, they can only cause a smile. <...> There were many who wanted to debunk the 'myth'. But for hundreds of years, no one has succeeded yet. The land, on which the temple is located, belongs to a Turkish family, the temple's sacrist is a Muslim. The procession on Easter around the chapel over the Holy Sepulcher is accompanied by the Kawas-Turks. The priestly vestments are removed from the patriarch and subject to examination by the representative of the Armenian Church. In addition, the chapel is thoroughly searched by Israeli police and Muslims if there is any source of fire. In addition, the Armenian representative monitors all actions and is always ready to intervene” (Patriarch Theophilos of Jerusalem, 2008).

There were many who wanted to debunk the 'myth'. But for hundreds of years, no one has succeeded yet. 

Patriarch Theophilos of Jerusalem

The miracle of the Descend of the Holy Fire

Patriarch Theophilos says correctly that no one has ever succeeded in proving the falsity of the miracle of the Descent of the Holy Fire on Holy Saturday. But if only the delusions of the OCU supporters consisted only in doubting this miracle! Unfortunately, they are not ashamed to call the tragedy in Odessa on May 2, 2014, during which dozens of people were burned to death as “holy fire”.

About the tragedy in Odessa and blasphemous jokes

Tragedy in Odessa on May 2, 2014

7 years ago supporters of Euromaidan threw bottles with a burning mixture at the House of Trade Unions, their political opponents actually burned down. According to official figures, 42 people died in the fire. The death of people in the fire, even political opponents, is a terrible tragedy worthy of lamentation and grief not only for a Christian, but also for any person who has not renounced his humanity. We mourn our compatriots, residents of many Ukrainian and not only Ukrainian villages and towns, whom the Nazis drove into barns and sheds and burned alive during the Great Patriotic War. We mourn those who died on the Maidan in Kyiv, we also mourn those who died in Odessa.

But in the "patriotic" get-together it is not customary to mourn those who died in Odessa. They flaunt this murder and mock the memory of their victims in every possible way. On May 2, in Odessa, "patriots" invariably pose near the place of burning people with barbecue in their hands. And this year they went even further – barbecue was replaced with blasphemous "jokes".

For example, the MP of Ukraine of the VIII convocation Andriy Denisenko posted on Facebook "congratulations on Easter", in which he stated that "7 years ago a holy fire descended onto Odessa."

Screenshot of Denisenko's publication

In 2011, Andriy Denisenko became a member of the All-Ukrainian Association "Svoboda", from which he ran for the Verkhovna Rada, and in 2014 he headed the regional organization "Right Sector". There is no need to remind that the Right Sector is "spiritually" guided by the OCU and the UGCC and is irreconcilably hostile to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. The forces of the Right Sector carry out a lot of seizures of the churches of the UOC and commit a lot of illegal actions against its believers. Back in 2017, an agreement was concluded between the Right Sector and the UOC-KP, aimed at powerfully supporting the creation of a "single local church", which soon became embodied in the OCU.

Below is a similar post of another nationalist, a member of the "Right Sector" and a supporter of the OCU, Alexei Tsymbaliuk.

A. Tsymbaliuk's screenshot on Facebook

Or rather, hardly just a supporter. Until 2018, Tsymbaliuk was a cleric of the Kyiv Patriarchate, and since all members of this structure after the “unification council” automatically migrated to the OCU, there is every reason to believe that Tsymbaliuk is a “clergyman” of this structure.

Falling into the abyss: the path from a monk of the UOC to a radical and a blasphemer

While ex-MP Andriy Denisenko was a radical patriot for a very long time (with appropriate views), then Alexei Tsymbalyuk, in order to become like Denisenko, went a long inner path. The fact is that this man took monastic vows in the canonical Church.

Here is how the website “Come back alive” savelife.in.ua, to whom Tsymbaliuk gave an interview in 2019, briefly described his life: “Long before the outbreak of the war in Ukraine, he took monastic vows and was ordained a hierodeacon. The fighting in the East of the country prompted the man to join the army and fight the enemy. According to the specifics of his activities, the enemy turned out to be not only collaborators and Russians. This influenced Alexei, and he left the army and took up helping children in the front-line cities and volunteers. And now Alexei Tsymbaliuk with the call sign Aristarkh enjoys making craft grappa and wine drinks."

A. Tsymbaliuk came to the monastery in 2004. First he served in the St. Panteleimon Monastery in Odessa and then in the Odessa Holy Iberian Monastery of the UOC, in 2006 he took monastic vows with the name Aristarchus, then he was ordained a hierodeacon. After Euromaidan, he joined the UOC-KP, then the OCU.

Alexei Tsymbaliuk in 2015

After the outbreak of the conflict in Donbass, he joined the ranks of the "Right Sector" and began to declare that killing separatists is a mercy.


A. Tsymbaliuk in 2017

This man participated in the most brutal actions of national radicals. But he gained the greatest fame in 2019 in connection with the staged murder of the Russian journalist Arkady Babchenko by the SBU. A. Tsymbaliuk was the very “killer” who allegedly accepted the order and committed the murder of A. Babchenko.

At the same time, A. Tsymbaliuk does not hide his sympathy for fascism. Here he is demonstrating a fascist chevron on his sleeve.

A. Tsymbaliuk with a fascist chevron

Doing the Nazi salute…

A. Tsymbaliuk is giving the Hitler salute

What inner path a person who took monastic vows to God must go in order to now eventually make blasphemous publications on the Web, sympathize with the Nazis and support people who approach God and the Church with utmost contempt? What had to happen in his soul for him to move from Christian love to hatred? What had to happen for him to sing hate as a "virtue"? Tsymbaliuk himself speaks about this.

“Since 2014, it has been terribly difficult for me to live a Christian life. And I'm not talking about going to church on Sunday. Not is it about following church fasts and other rules. I am about Love, which is the basis of the life of the followers of Christ, yes, precisely the followers, since the imitation of Christ is Christianity.

So, at first it was very difficult for me not really to love, but at least not to hate the Russians. But in principle, it is not difficult – why hate the most pitiful and unfortunate people? It is easy to love them, the easiest is to love every two hundredth (Cargo 200 – designation of the dead – Ed.). <...> But I still cannot think of how to stop hating my own law enforcement and their chief officer. Yet I don't want to live with hatred. Hate destroys my life, not theirs. Hate cripples my soul, not theirs. We'll have to equate law enforcers and Russians. Then everything will fall into place and there will be peace in my soul ... ” wrote A. Tsymbaliuk.

We see that despite all his ostentatious prowess and bravado, this person suffers internally, because he understands how far away from the Christian life which he once had and which he has now lost. Will "the sign of equality between law enforcers and Russians" return Christian love to him? No, it won't. Because this is not the path to Christ, but to someone else. In the same way, Dediukhin's call to “forgive the aggressor by sending him from 6 to 12 grams of love to some vital organ” has nothing to do with Christianity. Of the same ilk are Epiphany Dumenko's intentions to postpone the seizure of Ukrainian Lavras and the "opening of the religious front" only "because now is not the time."

Yes, the OCU does not directly call the fire that killed Odessa residents in 2014 as holy, but its members fully support the “patriotic” discourse justifying the destruction of “wrong” Ukrainians by the “right” Ukrainians, a discourse that sows anger and hatred in the soul instead of love. Obviously, we know who this spirit belongs to ...

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