A visitor of sorts will arrive Thursday at St. Andrew Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral in Bloomingdale and officials hope it will remind all Christians of the meaning behind the Christmas holiday.
The cathedral will receive a flame from the Bethlehem Peace Light during a 7:30 p.m. prayer service, where the flame will be transferred to a lantern in the church.
The flame has traveled all the way from the Grotto of the Nativity in Bethlehem, the place where Christians believe Jesus was born. Believers of all denominations are invited to bring a lantern and take a flame home to their family.
"Everyone says we've lost the meaning of Christmas to Santa and gifts," said cathedral board member John Jaresko. "But I think if you have that flame lit at your table and think 'This came all the way from where Jesus was born,' it's significant and makes you reflect a bit."
The initiative to bring the flame to Bloomingdale was born from when Plast USA, a Ukranian Scouting group, offered to organize the effort. The flame has been traveling throughout Europe for about 25 years, but it came to the U.S. for the first time in 2001 when Canadian Scouts brought it to ground zero in New York City.
According to peacelight.org, a child from Austria fetches the light from the grotto in Bethlehem each year, and the light is carried in two blast-proof miners lamps on an Austrian Airlines jet from Tel Aviv, Israel, to Vienna, Austria.
From there it is distributed at a dedication service to delegations from across Europe who take it back to their own countries with a message of peace.
Austrian Airlines then flies the miners lamps containing the Peace Light from Bethlehem to New York City. From there, the Peace Light is being transferred to more than 60 cities throughout the United States this year, including Bloomingdale.
Locally, the flame also was transferred early this month to Immaculate Conception Ukrainian Byzantine Catholic Church in Palatine.
Jaresko said the cathedral has invited Bloomingdale churches of all denominations to transfer the flame to their own churches and individual residents are invited, too. The flame will burn in St. Andrew through Jan. 7, the orthodox Christmas.
"The message for us and the message to spread is this: Whether you're of different denominations, we are all Christians," Jaresko said. "We don't communicate much and often we all do our own things, but this is a way to come together aside from dogmatic differences and say 'This is why we're all Christian.'"