Abba Samuel: The Father who Set Monastic Order for 1500-Year Old Waldebba

December 22, 2016
image001-733691.jpgOn Tahisas 12/ November 22, the Ethiopian church commemorates the passing away of Abba Samuel of Waldebba. The brief memory of this great saint recorded in Ethiopic is Synaxarium as follows.

In the Name of the Father, the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God, amen.
On this day died Abba Samuel of Waldebba.  He was born of Stephen, and Amata Mariam around 1295  At his early age, his parent took him to the country of Aksum and taught him the Holy Scriptures. When his father and mother died, he went to Dabra Bankol to Abba Madhanina Egzi’e, and he put on the garb of the monastic life, and fought the fight with fasting and prayer.  He ate nothing except withered and decayed herbs, and his drink was water, and he became the servant of the monks, in the grinding of corn, and the drawing of water.

When his family came to visit him repeatedly, he departed to another place and devoted himself to rigorous monastic life. Thence he departed to the desert, and he ate no food whatsoever for forty days and forty nights.  There, the lions, and the leopards, and all kinds of terrifying wild beasts came and bowed down before him, and licked the dust at his feet.

One day as he was going along the road, he arrived at a valley which was full of water. At this time he had with him a book and some fire. After making a prayer, he entered and crossed the water by the power of God although the water engulfed him and dragged him down and found the fire not extinguished, and the book uninjured.

Satan used to try him with phantoms of every kind of wild beast, but he was not frightened because his mind was bound up with confidence in his God.  As Abba Samuel was praying our Lord Jesus Christ came to him, and sealed his whole body and each limb thereof with His spittle, and he became filled with power.  From that day he bound his feet with fetters, and wore sackcloth.  And he thrust all his limbs into water, and he recited the Psalms of David five times each day, and he scourged his back frequently with strips. The lions used to peer into his cave like sheep, and of some he used to stroke their bodies, and of others he used to dress their wounds; and he pluck out the thorns from their paws.

During his lifetime, many disciples attached themselves to him, and of these the first was Abba Zarufael. One day Abba Samuel met Abba Gabra Maskal, of Dabra Laggaso and they passed the day in describing the great works of God.  At the time for supper, when they were making their prayers, a table came down to them from heaven, and they ate and gave thanks to God.  

Then one day he met a certain monk from the desert, and when they began to talk about the Mysteries which God had made for them, Abuna Samuel said, “Behold, for twelve years I have been standing in the heights and censing the throne of God with the Four and Twenty Priests of Heaven.”   When he went in to consecrating the Offerings, there came down to him bread and a chalice from heaven; and when he was reading the Praises of our Lady Maryam, he was lifted up off the ground to the height of a cubit, and our Holy Lady, the Virgin Maryam, came and gave him a precious stone which shot out light from it, and some pure incense.  

When the time of his departure drew nigh Michael the Archangel came unto him, and he caught him up on his wings and showed him all the delights of the heavenly Jerusalem.  And he brought him before the throne of God, and then Abba Samuel received from him the promise concerning the man who should invoke his name or celebrate his commemoration. When he returned to his bed he told his disciples everything, which he had seen, and then he died in peace.
Salutation to Abba Samuel!

Waldebba monastery is one of the oldest and famous Ethiopian monasteries where the monks abstain entirely from eating food for ascetic life except “Rolled Quarf” which is made up of immature banana mixed with the root of a certain tree. According to the tradition of the monastery, Waldebba monastery is believed to have been established around five centuries earlier. Later on Abba Samuel of Waldebba expanded and formed a monastic order and drew up a set of rules in the 14th century.

May the intersession of Abba Samuel be with us and glory be to God!
Source: Synaxarium (December 21): The Book of the Saints of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, Translation of Sir E. A. Wallis Budge with some revision.