The Veneration of Relics of Saint Tekle Haymanot

May 20, 2016
By Kassa Nigus 
Based on the teachings of Holy Scriptures, the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Church honors the holy bodies of saints and martyrs and commemorates the days on which their relics are relocated. Saints intercede not only in the realms of the flesh as the scriptures testify for they are alive in soul. (Ex.32:2-15; Enoch 12:33-40, Luke 20:37-40). The word of God is living, and it works on the living.

There are several scriptural passages that support the veneration of relics even in the Old Testament times. For example, the Patriarch Joseph left a testament to the sons of Israel to preserve his bones in Egypt and, during their exodus, to carry them to the Promised Land (Genesis 50:25). Then, Israelites took Joseph’s bones when they departed Egypt (Ex. 13:19). The bones of Elisha came in contact with a dead person who then was raised to life (2 Kings 13:21). With his mantle the Prophet Elijah struck the water, separating the waters of the Jordan and along the dry bed of the river crossed the Jordan with his disciple Elisha ( 2 Kings 2:8). The prophet Elisha did the very same thing, himself, with the same mantle, after Elias was taken away into heaven (2 Kings 2:14).  During New Testament times, the Christians of Ephesus, attained healing of the sick through the cloths of St. Paul (Acts 19:12). (From Orthodox Tradition, Vol. VII, No. 1, p. 9)
Moreover, in his boundless love for man, our Lord Jesus Christ allows His servants to work perform not only through their bodies and clothing, but even with the shadow of their bodies, which is evident in an occurrence with St Peter the apostle: his shadow healed an ill man and expelled unclean spirits (Acts 5:15-16). From the very beginning, in apostolic times, Christians devoutly preserved the honored relics of the saints and the holy Apostles, so that these could be preserved for us till now.  
In the same religious tradition, the relic of Abune Tekle Haymanot is venerated in the Ethiopian Church every year on May 12. Abune Tekle Haymanot is a well-known saint both amongst Ethiopians, Coptic Christians and beyond. He is the founder of the famous Debre Libanos Monastery in his native province of Shewa.  The story of the commemoration of his relic is recorded in his hagiography as follows; Over half a century after his death, the relic of Abune Tekle Haymanot was relocated from Debre Asebot to his Monastery, Debre Libanos, the famous monastery in Ethiopia.
Fifty seven years later after his death, Abune Tekle Haymanot was revealed to his 4th successor, Echege (Abba) Hizkyas in a dream and said to him, my beloved Hizkyas, now, as My Lord Jesus Christ promised me the date of the relocation of my body has reached and God has chosen you to accomplish this mission. So, you have to congregate all my children; all those who believed in my fatherhood shall be gathered and make a spiritual feast. My relic will be moved on May 12 which is the date of the feast of Easter and Saint Michael. 
On this day, I, Saint Michael and Echege (Abba) Filipos (the 3rd successor of Abune Tekle Haymanot) will become there to bless the people gathered for the sake of my love. Then, you shall move around my relic three times before the Ark of God. He then disappeared after telling this to Echege  Hizkyas. 
Accordingly, Abba Hizkyas gathered the dispersed disciples of Abune Tekle haymanot in every direction. The following disciples of the saint were present during the relocation of his relic: Abune Anorewos of Fetegar, Abune Yosef of Ernat, Abune Anorewos of Moret, Abune Merkorewos of Merhabete, Abune Tadewos of Tsilalish, Abune Samuel of Wegeg, Abune Gebre Kristos of Wenji, Abune Medhanine Egzi’e of Denbi, Abune Adhane of Damot, Abune Eyosyas of Kili’atu and Abune Kewistos of Mehagil. 
After they gathered, all of them along with Abba Hizkiyas went to the cave where the relic was buried. They dug the tomb and found the relics surrounded by the cross in the left and right. Then, they cut his shroud into pieces to share among them for blessings as it made lots of miracles and instead covered the relic with new clothes and put it in a small coffin. Then, the saint’s twelve disciples entered into the church and moved around the relic three times before the Ark of God.
At a moment, Abune Tekle Haymanot came with Saint Michael and Abba Filipos gloriously and appeared over the Ark till the relics rested. He, then, blessed the people gathered there and ascended to heaven. The twelve disciples and the people at large celebrated the feast gloriously. 

Oh my Lord, as the twelve disciples of Abune Tekle Haymanot gathered at Debre Libanos Monastery to venerate his  relic, You also gathered us to inherit Your coming kingdom in heaven. 
• Gadle Tekle Haymanot 19 89 E.C., Chapter 65, pp. 216.
• Ethiopic Synaxarium on May 12. 
• From Orthodox Tradition, Vol. VII, No. 1, p. 9. Translated from the Serbian by theReverendGregoryTelepneff.Retrievedfrom( 

The Feast of the Departure of St Yared

May 18, 2016
By Tsegaye Girma 
Ginbot 11 (May 19) marks the departure of St. Yared, the great Ethiopian composer who was lived in the 6th century. The Ethiopian Orthodox Church attributes its rich, age-old chant tradition to the Saint and commemorates his disappearance each year on this day.

St. Yared was born in 505 E.C. in Axum to Abyud and Tawklia. After the death of his father, at the age of seven, his mother sent him to her priest brother named Gidewon to teach the lad and to look after him. As a child, St. Yared never seemed to succeed in his studies as he had difficulty understanding what his uncle taught him. At one point, he had even fled from Gidewon, an incident which led him to the turning point in his life. 

While taking shelter under the shade of a tree, Yared saw a caterpillar (some claim an ant) trying to climb the tree. Despite its repeated failures, the insect finally managed to creep up the tree and ate its fruit. Yared drew an inspiration from the determination of the tiny creature and went back to his uncle to start learning afresh. His efforts then bore fruit and he managed to learn by heart whatever he was taught including both Old and New Testament with unbelievable brilliance, and grew in excellence as he grew older and older. 

St. Yared also gained melodic insight through divine revelation and composed melodious sacred melody which had never been heard before in this world. He created a system of chants in three modes (scores) called Ge’ez, Izil, and Ararary. There is no any sound system out of the category of the three modes of these hymns St Yared invented divinely. St. Yared also wrote five volumes of chants for church services and celebrations. These volumes include The Book of Digua and Tsome Digua (chants for church holidays and Sundays services), The Book of Me’eraf (chants for major holidays, daily prayers and the season of fasting), The Book of Zimmare (chants to be performed after Mass) and The Book of Mewasit (chants for the dead). ST. Yared also created ten melodic notations for his spiritual melodies many centuries before the world-renowned composers Mozart and Beethoven. 

There are two views among scholars of the church about the final days of St Yared’s life in this world. Some say he passed away while others contend that he disappeared like St Henok and Elijah the Prophet.  

Despite that, every year on Ginbot 11 (May 19), the Ethiopian Orthodox Church marks the disappearance of the Saint who adorned its service with sacred melody.  

        May the blessing of St. Yared be with us all! 

Through the Solemn Lent to the Joyous Easter: Belief and Practice in Christian Ethiopia

April 27, 2016 

By Dr.  Mersha Alehegne

Ethiopia, as the stronghold of the Apostolic Christian faith, can be regarded as an open air Christian museum. It is the only country where Christianity deposits its two thousand years of tradition and history where biblical teaching gets the truest application. A lot of religious pasts come alive in Ethiopia in the form of strange and beautiful movements and ruins, built living centuries ago, or in the form of the unalterable biblical traditions. 

This, in fact, is the unique and most valuable legacy of the ancient Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Church, an indigenous and integral Church of Africa, who has the credit to shape the overall identity of the country for years.

Nonetheless this land of Christianity "is truly a land of discovery brilliant and beautiful, secretive, mysterious and extra ordinary" for the fact that it too, "is a land of astonishing natural beauty offering an almost unbelievable variety of landscapes . . . deserts . . . astonishing lake lands . . . savannas teems with game".

Literally speaking, the life of Christian people of Ethiopia are revolving around two things: fast and feast. For her children, to stay strong in their Christian life, the church recognized and chastised the necessity of the mastery spirit over the body. For this, she prescribed lots of spiritual deeds and practices. The one to come in the first list here is fasting which amounts to about 250 days a year. ” Their fasts are more numerous perhaps than those of any other Christian people, more than two – thirds of the year being assigned to abstinence. ” (Parkyns:276).

Although faithful of the church fast two-third of the year, they, in some degree relax themselves by the number of annual and monthly feasts they celebrate incessantly. These feasts can be categorized as the Feasts of Lord, Feasts of Virgin Mary, Feasts of Saints, and Feasts of the Angels. This short article aims at introducing, very briefly, a fast (Lent) and a feast (Easter) which are considered by the church as the most significant (than others) in the history of Christ’s revelation to man.

Lent (;b!Y ÛM; Abiy som): is one of the fasts which is observed following the example of Jesus Christ who fasted for forty days and nights in a desert after His baptism. The fast is known by several names: R` ÛM(wärha śom) meaning the month of fasting: ›RÆ ÛM(Arba śom), meaning the forty days’ fast and ; ;b!YÛM(Abiy som),), meaning the big fast.

 During  these  fasting  season,  the  Ethiopian  Orthodox  Tewahido  church  devotees  attend  Church services almost every day. Each day, services are held from morning to 2:45 P.M. every early in the morning when the priests sing from books of devotion such as Sbhatä Nägh meaning "morning praise." There, they read and sing from such books of devotion as the Wddase Maryam (The praise of Mary), Mälka Maryam,  Mälka Iyyäsus (The praise of our Lord Jesus Christ) for the absolution of their sins, the longevity of their spiritual fathers, and the divine protection of their country and its people.

In most cases, only one full meal is taken a day at three o’clock in the afternoon in obedience to fasting rule of the Church. However, on Saturdays and Sunday people are allowed to eat in the morning. Meat, butter and milk are forbidden. Drums and cymbals are not allowed to be used, since the fast represents a season of mourning.

Apart from the abstinence from different kinds of food, any popular entertainment in the form of music is forbidden. Bäna, one of the traditional musical instruments, is common in these fasting days. The Gänätä Tsige kidus Giyorgis church at Addis Ababa has a permanent evening program devoted to sing by this instrument. Despite the general and imperative fasting not of Lent, exemptions are allowed to newly married couples, sick persons and women who have given birth.

A day before, the Passion Week starts, Hosana, the Palm Sunday is observed with the proper ceremonies with palms, processions and special services. In some places like st. Mary Churches of Axum Tsion and Entoto, this feast is observed in a more dramatic way as it has happened in Jerusalem when Jesus entered into the city from Bethlehem and Bethany.

The week of the passion (n ?¥¥T; Sämunä Hmamat): this is the last week of Lent which covers the days from Monday (after Palm Sunday) to Saturday. During this week, the spirit of devotion rises to a climax; the abstentions become more firm and worship, charity and other religious activities take on a more solemn feature.

The church established this week by which all the faithful re-lived and received graces from the fundamental mysteries of redemption. During this week, the faithful are expected to bow down as much as they can. As a rule, all faithful begin prostration on Monday. This is to commemorate Jesus‘ frequent bowing down in the dawn of Thursday before the prosecutors seized Him. (Mt. 26 : 39).

In this week, faithful are also expected to pray much to commemorate Jesus extensive prayers at Gethsemane before He was captured. Gbrä Hmamat, a book which is composed of different passages taken from the scriptures and other religious books dealing with the passion and death of our Lord, is also read as a special feature of the devotion of this week. The priests usually read all passages related to Jesus’ life in flesh and all the passions He received to emancipate man from the colony of Satan. The style of reading from the Bible and the Gbrä Hmamat is a musical expression of sorrow.

Since this week is a time on which faithful of the church commemorate the suffering and damnation of the 5500 years, absolution to persons who die during this week is prohibited. Those who died this week may simply be buried and then given absolution when Passion Week is over. However, according to the canon of the church, absolution is also given in advance on the previous Sunday, the Palm Sunday in case any one dies in week of passion. Furthermore, no baptisms or celebrations of saints’ days are carried out during this week.

For the same reason, priests do not give blessings to the faithful; and faithful cannot kiss the Holy Cross during the week of Passion. Greetings among the fellowship are also suspended for the week to remember that Judas betrayed the Lord after he kissed Him. The priests start blessing their children by the cross at the dawn of Friday when, according to the teaching of the Church, Jesus liberated Adam who has been under the yoke of Devil in Hell.

Maundy Thursday (xÄM S; Adam Hamus): Maundy  Thursday marks the borderline between the first half of the Week of Passion and its final climax which lasts up to cock crow on Saturday. Hence, Holy Communion is delivered on this day since it was on this day. (Mt. 26: 26-28). On this day, before the Liturgy service, the priest brings water in a basin and washes the feet of the faithful saying the prayer of thanksgiving. This is to commemorate what Jesus has done to His Apostles (John 13:1-20).

Back home, the faithful unusually, eat split beans and wheat cooked together known as gulban. There are different explanations why they eat this special food: It is to remember that Israelites eaten unleavened bread during their Exodus from Egyptian bondage. Since the children of Israel left Egypt hastily, they did not have time for the bread to rise, so it was made on that very first Passover without leaven. In the Bible, leaven is almost always symbolic of sin. Some said, gulban is eaten in order to mourn for Jesus.  This is in keeping the Ethiopian custom of preparing a type of food made of split beans called nfro when people die.

Good Friday (SQlT; Sklät):  The next day is Good Friday on which thousands of believers are expected to attend the solemn church service in their respective parishes. This day is decidedly a day of prostration for everybody. There is a sense of sorrow and desolation. All the symbols, images and instruments used in the passion of the savior are publicly exhibited covered in black curtain in the church. For example, priests who lead the ritual wear black vestments. All sacred objects including the altar is also covered with a black cloth. This is to remember the dark centuries during which Adam was alienated from his Creator. The priests perfume the church not with incense but with myrrh. According to the Church’s teaching, the myrrh symbolizes the death of Jesus. This is justified from the saying of St. Ephraim, the Syrian: xM{x# :Èn km xM§K W:t$ wRq XSm Ng#| WXt$ $ wkRb@ zYTwhB lät$ ; bring incense for He is God, gold for He is King and myrrh for the death He receives´

Men and women go to church to prostrate themselves, remaining there from early morning until 5-6 p.m.  the hour  of  the  death  of  Jesus  Christ.  Good Friday therefore, is a special day  for confession.

Good  Friday  is  the  day  when  faithful  sorely  remember  the  passion  Jesus  received  to  redeem humankind. This is so not only for the elderly ones but to the children also. Before elders go to their parishes to participate in the office, young boys and girls go round, and knocking at the door of each house demand food calling out:

¸š¸ë ¸š¸ë

XGz!xB/@R xBZè YSÈCh# kkBt$½

yLJ brkt$NM ÃB²§Ch#¿

ytwlÇTM b-@Â Ydg#§Ch#

¸š¸ë ¸š¸ë


¼s@èC h#l#¼ Ñl# bÇq&T XíÒCNN XNd q$NÅ xÃl@ nN

¸š¸ë ¸š¸ë

ysb# kBèC XGz!xB/@R YSÈCh# LíCNM ?iÂCh# S-#N ¬Ch#NÝÝ

Mishamisho mishamisho…

 May God give you cattle in your yard, and children to your bosom;

and may those you have already grow up in health and strength

 Mishamisho mishamisho…

 We come for your crucifixion (Oh Christ) Fill (our hands) with flour (ye women)

We are many as fleas Mishamisho mishamisho… May He (God) give ye fat cattle Children in your womb

Give us gifts.

 Since the rationale behind the Misha Misho food is to mourn for the crucified Jesus, faithful give the children different kinds of food  like freshly `baked bread, powder, pepper, salt, onions, beer, mead, bear, cookery, etc. After they have gone their rounds, they take the collected food, and, retiring to some corner of their village, eat and amuse themselves. Then, to symbolize the mourn to Jesus, they make a sham corpse of a bundle of clothes, and placing it on a couch, carry it in procession through the village; part of the boys dressed up as priests, and the remainders as mourners. As they go along, imitating in every point a real funeral, they wail and cry out Wai, wai, wai… .” And when they are tired of walking about they go and make a grave near some of the most frequented thoroughfares in the place and bury it which clearly remind how Joseph took the body of Jesus and bury it. The whole of this performance of the children is imitated from the Bible. This dramatic interpretation of Bible shows that how the Ethiopian faithful live life to the full in practice as Christ since their childhood. 

 Although children pass their day of Good Friday enjoying with the collected food and symbolically for Jesus, more rigid form of fasting continues to most of the elders until time of cockcrow on Saturday night. During these three days, priests and elders neither eat bread nor drink water, but remain in the churches singing and praying incessantly both day and night. This form of solemn fasting is known as "Akfelot." The faithful do this in accordance with the tradition which holds that the Apostles did not eat and drink until they knew of the resurrection of the Lord. Those Christians who have the strength to abstain from every kind of food for two days can fast on both Friday and Saturday. However, those are not that much strong fast on Saturday only.

 Holy Saturday (ÄM ;#R; kdame S‘ur ) : The  seventh  day  of  the  Passion  Week (Saturday)  is known as kdame S‘ur meaning unobserved. It is called so because unlike other Saturdays of the year, it becomes a fasting day. It is also called Green Saturday for on this day the sedge is given to the people as the symbol of good news. At earliest dawn Saturday morning, about 5:30, priests and deacons put on their best garments, including kapa’ (cape) and ‘lämid, carry their colorful sun umbrellas as if in procession, and pass through the streets with parade cross, bell, and armful of yellow green palm strips called qetema. They stop before every house, ringing the bell and singing out the following:

                    KRSèS tmrmr Ä!ÃBlÖS ¬\r bmSql#M s§MN xdrg፡፡

Jesus Christ has been challenged

The Devil is chained,

He made reconciliation by His crucifixion.

The sleepy owner answering the call is given the reed to wind flat around his fore head, and he will wear it all day. And in appreciation of the good news, the head of the house gives the priest some money, and receives a blessing in return.

The sedge is used as a sign of good news based on the story of Noah and his dove that sent to   see if the flood had subsided. The dove returned with an olive leaf and knowing that the water had abated. Accordingly, since the leaf of the olive tree served as a sign of good news during Noah’s time, the Church also presents sedge to the laity to herald the good news that the waters of destructive sin and the punishment of soul are removed from mankind through the death of Christ.

 On the night before Easter, many go to church and pass the night making prayers. The night wears on accompanied by prayers and Hymns, and sometimes after midnight, everybody in the kne mahlet is given a lighted candle which he carries during the three joyous circuits around the mäkdäs. Cock- crow marks the end of devotions at church when the resurrection is loudly declared amidst shouting and ringing of bells. Then people rush, out of the smoky, incense filled church, home with mouths watering at the prospect of sumptuous meals. For people who have been fasting the akflot, special items of food known as calka, a drink composed of linseed and honey mixed with water, milk and curdled milk are served at the main get of the church. The purpose is to sake the tired people the dangers of eating strong food immediately after such a long period of total abstinence.

 Easter (Ís!µ; Fasika): Easter occupies a special place of importance in the Christian world. Easter marks, for Christians the world over, the Resurrection of Christ, for it was on this day that "Christ the Lord is risen". Symbolically, Easter connotes the return of life, light and spring after darkness and death.

 The Easter Festival is a great Christian feast of the liturgical year of Ethiopia that it is celebrated with special solemnity. The church is filled with the fragrance of incense and myriads of lights. The clergy are arrayed in their choicest vestments. All the people hold lighted tapers in their hands. Presents are exchanged,  drums  are  beaten,  hands  are  clapped  and  the  singing  is  heard  everywhere:  "our Resurrection has come, Hosanna." Men are heard saying" O Lord Christ have mercy upon us." They pray for a blessing "O God make it to be a festival of our good fortune and our wellbeing! Call us the people for next year also". Therefore, the whole day is one of spiritual and physical fasting, a commemoration of the holiest occasion of all history a truly blessed time when Christ rose from the dead.

 In the morning, families who could afford one slay sheep and in many cases they may join to buy an ox co-operatively, slaughter it, and then share the meat. With regained strength, fired by good food and beer, the young men begin games of javelin throwing. Ball games, Qenchebt continues the entire following week.

 There are different forms of greetings, which are commonly used on Easter day and on the days following it. The following verses are what people exchange in dialogue form:

 "KRSèS tN|x XѬN½ b;b!Y `YL w|LÈN½ ;\é l\YÈN½ xGxø lxÄM½ s§M½ XMYXz@s½ ÷n½FS/ ws§MÝÝ"

 Christ is risen from the dead!

 By the Highest power and authority! He chained Satan’!

Freed Adam!



 Joy and Peace Prevail forever!

 Once Lent is over, people are allowed to eat non-fasting diets ever on Wednesdays and Fridays until Ergät, the Feast of His Assumption. The fifty five days are said to be  b›l /Mœ, meaning the feast of Pentecost. These days are ushered with a great number of marriages. No doubt, this is a period of a good deal of pleasant relaxation.


Hosaena: Eighth Sunday of Lent

April 23,2016
By Kassa Nigus
Hosa’ena: is one of the moveable feasts of the Lord that falls on Sunday prior to Easter. The feast commemorates the entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem (Matthew 21:1-9), when palm branches were placed in His path, before His arrest on Thursday and His crucifixion on Good Friday. It thus marks the beginning of Passion Week, the final week of Lent.

This Sunday was also named Palm Sunday by the name of the branches of palm trees the crowds used to welcome their Lord Jesus by greeting Him with palm branches  and spreading in His road as He gloriously enters Jerusalem. According to (Mathew 21:1-16), the story of Hosa’ena (Palm Sunday) was narrated as follows:  

The entry of Jesus into Jerusalem
Jesus had spent many times traveling through the towns and villages around Jerusalem. He preached about the kingdom of God and healed the sick wherever He went. As they came near Jerusalem, Jesus told two of His disciples to go into a nearby village and bring a donkey that would be waiting there. Jesus rode into Jerusalem on the donkey. Crowds of people spread their coats on the ground in front of Him. The holy city of Jerusalem was crowded with pilgrims who had come for the annual Passover celebration. 

Some waved branches of palm trees, a sign of victory. The people shouted, Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord – the King of Israel! (Psalm 118: 26)

The Ethiopian churches decorated with palms and the Arch deacon  distribute palm branches to the fellowship in memory of the greetings Jesus received from the pilgrims as He rode into Jerusalem. It is customary in Ethiopian churches for the worshippers to receive fresh palm leaves on Palm Sunday. The walls of the temple ornamented with emblems of the palm.Believers often prepare palm fronds by knotting them into crosses used as rings and tied on their heads in preparation for the procession on Sunday.

Why Jesus carried on the donkey?
To fulfill the prophesy of Zachariah, “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: He [is] just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon a donkey, and upon a colt the foal of a donkey.”(Zachariah 9:9 KJV)

The symbolism of the donkey may refer to the ancient tradition that it is an animal of peace, versus the horse, which is the animal of war. A king came riding upon a horse when he was bent on war and rode upon a donkey when he wanted to point out he was coming in peace. Jesus’ entry to Jerusalem would thus symbolize his entry as the Prince of Peace, not as a war-waging king.

In many cultures, donkeys are among the lowliest and have almost no value in our eyes. He comes in peace and humility and rides in on a donkey. According to church’s tradition, , in ancient times, palm branches symbolized goodness and victory, for example, Abraham praised his Lord holding palm branches when he gave birth his first Child Isaac, and his descendants, Isaac and Jacob had done the same. During their departure, Israelites also praised their Lord using palm branches.  

Today palm branches are now signs of martyrdom and of victory over death, proclaiming liberation through peace and non-violent resistance.

Source:  The Ethiopian Gospel Commentary 1983E.C (pp.233-236)

Nicodemus: Seventh Sunday of Lent

April 18, 2016

By Kassa Nigus 

The seventh Sunday of the great lent is known in the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Church as Niqodimos (ኒቆዲሞስ). The day is named after a member of the Jewish ruling council who took special interest in the teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ as recorded in the third chapter of St. John the evangelist. Throughout the week of the seventh Sunday, the Church narrates story of Nicodemus and the lesson of rebirth he learned from our Lord Jesus Christ. The story is recorded in John 3:1-8 as follows:

Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, "Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him.” He was impressed with the signs that Jesus performed in Jerusalem.

Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old?" Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Holy Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God”. This meant that God is above and therefore to enter His Kingdom we must all be born from above.
What does being ‘born of water’ mean?

We understand in the phrase ‘born of water’ a reference to baptism, either that of John the Baptist, or Christian baptism. The phrase describes our Christian baptism which unites us with the Holy Spirit. Through this wonderful sacrament, we become children of God. Nicodemus desired to become a child of God and was baptized. He believed in the Words of Jesus, was born from above and became one of God’s children.

Why did Nicodemus come to Jesus at night?
Based on our Church’s interpretation, Nicodemus chose to come to Christ during the night time for fear of being seen by the Jews; he was a scholar and member of the Jewish ruling council. The other reason was probably to get enough time to converse with the Lord and ask Him whatever questions he might have had.
Nicodemus bearing fruit

After our Lord Jesus Christ died on the Cross, Nicodemus got a chance to collect and bury the body of His Lord. He and Joseph had lived as secret disciples of the Lord and thus buried His body together. 
Before that fateful time, Judas sold the Lord for thirty pieces of silver; the chief apostle Peter denied Him and swore that he never knew Him; the other disciples too forsake Him; the chief priests accused Him of blasphemy and the council condemned Him to death.
The only people who took risk of the ridicule of the Romans and persecution from the Jewish religious council for following the Lord till the end were Nicodemus and Joseph – the hidden disciples. The two men came to collect and bury the body of Jesus at their own expense. Here we witness the word Nicodemus received from Jesus in private bearing public fruit.

What can we learn from Nicodemus?
Nicodemus held a high position of trust in the Jewish nation. He was highly educated and possessed talents of no ordinary character, and he was an honored member of the national council. Though rich, learned, and honored, he had been strangely attracted by the humble Nazarene, our Lord Jesus. He did not talk with Christ about state affairs, though he was a ruler, but about the concerns of his own soul and its salvation.

If we are to grow, like Nicodemus, we need to admit and seek Jesus for the grace to make the change. Education, culture and science may change us but only the grace of God can transform us. The word of Jesus has the power to transform and release us from every hold of egotism, pessimism, criticism and worldly mindsets.

So let us not boast in our authority, wealth, knowledge, …. that God gave us. Let’s rather learn from the life of this giant saint and seek the rebirth that ushers us into eternal life.
Sources:  Holy Bible, King James Version.
                 Tesfaye Mitiku, 2006 E.C. ሰብዐቱ አጽዋማት (The Seven Fasts) 

Gebr Her: the parable of the talents

April 11, 2016
By Tsegaye Girma 
Our Lord Jesus Christ often used parables to illustrate and simplify his teachings so that His audience understood His message simply. The people whom He taught easily related to His sermons because the stories He used to illustrate and compare His ideas are drawn from their everyday lives. The parable of the three talents is one of the stories Our Lord Jesus Christ used to teach His followers about the need to use talents and gifts faithfully.

The Ge’ez phrase ገብር ኄር (Gebr Her) is used to refer to the sixth Sunday of the great lent when the parable of the three talents mentioned in Mathew 25 is read and recited in the Church. ‘Gebr Her’ literally means ‘Good Servant’ and highlights the good deeds of the servants who have been rewarded for their faithfulness and hard work. (Mt 25:14-30) Readings and chants of St Yared related to the story are recited throughout the week.  

This parable has been seen as an exhortation to Jesus’ disciples to use their God-given gifts in the service of God, and to take risks for the sake of the Kingdom of God. These gifts have been seen to include personal abilities ("talents" in the everyday sense), as well as personal wealth. Failure to use one’s gifts, the parable suggests, will result in judgment.

Based on Mathew 25:14-30, the parable that deals with wisdom in an eschatological context is recounted briefly as follows;
A rich man delegates the management of his wealth to his servants. He gives five talents (a large unit of money) to the first servant, two talents to the second, and one talent to the third.After being gone a long time, the master returns to settle up with his slaves. At that moment, two of the servants earn 100 percent returns by trading with the funds so that they seem eager to show their master what they have accomplished in his absence. The first presents his master with ten talents. He doubled the money His master entrusted to him. The second servant presents his master with four talents. He, too, doubled the money his master left in his care.

Both of these faithful slaves are rewarded well for their faithful service because:
First, they receive their master’s commendation, “Well done, good and faithful slave”. Second, because they have proven themselves to be faithful with the few things entrusted to them, they are now given even greater responsibilities by their master. Third, they are invited to “enter into the joy of your master.” But the third servant is severely rebuked and punished for burying the money instead of investing it.   

The meaning of the parable extends far beyond financial investments. God has given each person a wide variety of gifts, and He expects us to employ those gifts in His service. It is not acceptable merely to put those gifts on a closet shelf and ignore them. Like the three servants, we do not have gifts of the same degree. The return God expects of us is corresponding with the gifts we have been given.

The servant who received one talent was not condemned for failing to reach the five-talent goal; he was condemned because he did nothing with what he was given. The gifts we receive from God include skills, abilities, family connections, social positions, education, experiences, and more. The point of the parable is that we are to use whatever we have been given for God’s purposes. The severe consequences to the unproductive servant, far beyond anything triggered by mere business mediocrity, tell us that we are to invest our lives, not waste them.

What has the Lord given us to invest? We shall discover and utilize our gifts to be profitable and enjoy heavenly life.

Source: Holy Bible: King James Version.

Debre Zeit (Mount of Olives)

April 4/2016
By M/hr Kassa Nigus
Debre Zeit (ደብረ ዘይት): the Ge’ez phrase for Mount of Olives is one of the nine minor feast days of the Lord observed halfway in the fifth week of the great lent. The Ethiopian Orthodox Church celebrates the feast with special consideration based upon the second coming of Christ, which was announced by our Lord on the Mount of Olives. Biblical verses and the hymn of St.Yared pertinent to our Lord’s second coming are read and sung on this day.
The signs of the end times spoken by our Lord will culminate in final judgment and resurrection of the living and dead, believers and unbelievers, righteous and sinners. It is in the knowledge of this truth of the second coming of Christ that all people must repent, believe and baptize in preparation for the arrival of God’ Kingdom.
The church advises us to be spiritually prepared for judgment at any moment and to put our trust in God that He will make everything right in the end. The final phase of the process of redemption began with the first coming of Jesus and will culminate in the events surrounding His Second Coming. There will be a final judgment of all people, living and dead. There will be a final defeat and destruction of all evil — Satan, sin, suffering and death. The kingdom of God will come to its fulfillment at last.
                              Signs of the end
Jesus, Himself, said no one would be able to predict exactly the end of the time but He informs that many events will occur before the Second Coming and which will be signs that the end is near. There will be wars, famines, earthquakes, false prophets, persecutions and an increase in wickedness, rebellion against God, worship of demons, idolatry, murders, sorceries, sexual immorality, and thefts. (Matthew 24:3-14; Rev. 9: 20). The Gospel of the kingdom must be preached to all nations for a witness to all the nations, and then the end shall come.  (Matthew 24:14-28).
                         Resurrection and final Judgment
Everyone who has ever lived will be brought back to life in some form to face the final judgment along with those still living. When the end time comes, all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth and   can be in front of two different Judgment Seats (righteous in the right hand of Jesus and sinners in the left) — those who have done good will be granted eternal life; and those who have done evil, will be condemned to eternal punishment. (Matthew 5:29-30, 25:31-46, Mark 9:43-48 ; John 5:25-29)
 While we are still living, or until Jesus comes again, we have every opportunity to repent. We can change our ways from evil to good. But in the end we will all be judged. No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. You do not know when that time will come. The event, when it happens, will be swift and unexpected. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect Him. (Mark 13:32-33; Matthew 24:43-44)
                                            Be alert! Be Prepared!

Memorial Day of the Prophet Daniel

April 1, 2016 
The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Church Liturgical Calendar is full of feasts of Lord, St Mary, angles, saints, apostles and martyrs. Based on its Liturgical Calendar, it usually commemorates each saint monthly and annually in accord with their special devotions. The worship of Saints is definitely forbidden by the Church; however, asking for their intercessions is central in any of its services. 

On Megabit 23/ April 1, the Church commemorates the death of the Prophet Daniel. The Book of Ethiopic Synaxarium (on Magabit 23/ April 1), narrates the life story of Daniel and mentions the three holy youths (Anania, Azarias and Misael), the capture of Jerusalem and the deportation of the Jews from Jerusalem to Babylon, including Daniel and his companions, which are the fulfillment of many warnings from the prophets of Israel’s coming disaster because of the nation’s sins against God as it recorded in (Is 24:1-6, Jer 7:24— 8:3; 44:20-23;  1 Ki 11:5; 12:28; 16:31; 18:19; 2 Ki 21:3-5; 2 Ch 28:2-3). Because of their sin, the people of Israel were carried off captive to Babylon, a center of idolatry and one of the wicked cities in the ancient world.   

In all his life span, Daniel has been subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, and stopped the mouths of lions through his strong faith. 

Source: Ethiopic Synaxarium on on Magabit 23/ April 1. 

Abune Gebre Menfes Qidus: the Head of Anchorites

March 14, 2016
By Kassa Nigus
Abune Gebre Menfes Qidus [means the salve of the Holy Spirit] was born on Tahisas 29 in 829 E.C; his date of birth and conception coincided with the day of His God, Jesus Christ. 

His father’s name was Simeon, and his mother’s name was ‘Aklesya who were righteous before God.  They remained childless in moan and prayer for a period of thirty years because they had not got a son. However, later God heard their prayer and gave them this child.

According to his Gadl (Hagiography), the saint was appeared from the city of Nehisa, in Egypt and lived there 300 years in the desert of Egypt. Then, he came to Ethiopia by the order of God and wandered about the wildernesses of Ethiopia.   He, then, departed to the land of Ziquala, that later on became the great monastery of the saint and lived there 265 years as if naked and drinking no water and eating no food, exceeding many prophets of old and unlike a man upon earth, but likened to the angels.

 So his holy life began and was accomplished, now on the third year of his birth, God commanded the angel Gabriel and said unto him, “Go to the house of Simeon, and take the child from the breast of his mother, and bring him into the desert where there are many monks, and lay him down in their courtyard.” And say to the abbot, “Take the child from the courtyard, and bring him into the sanctuary”

Due to this divine order, the abbot raised him according to the Church’s rule, teaching all the scriptures and other religious leanings. Later, he got ordination from the bishop called Abba Abraham and he dwelt in the Egyptian desert called ‘Gebota’ [most probably in Upper Egypt] three hundred years.

Later on, he came to Ethiopia via Axum in 1129 E.C. during the reign of Qidus Harbey (also called Gebre Mariam), and expanded evangelistic activities in north and central Ethiopia. Then, he went to the next reigning king ‘Lalibela’, said to be in 1168 E.C., to discuss church issues. King Lalibela was excited and bowed to the saint many times and requested of him to stay with him.  But the saint did not accept the king’s request, instead he promised the king saying, “I will live in mount Ziquala and I will not depart from your country.”

He is one of the most renowned Saints in Ethiopia along with St. Tekle Haymanot in evangelistic activities and is known as the founder of Medre Kebd and Zequala monastery.

He is known by performing incredible miracles throughout his age and afterwards and is recognized by his exceptional quality, here are some of his miracles;    

On the third day of his birth, the child rose up, and came down from his mother’s breast, and he stood up and bowed three times to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and who also said, “Glory be to the Father, Glory be to the Son, Glory be to the Holy Spirit, Who has brought me out of the darkness into the light.”

The saint did not eat the bread of earth, or drink water, or wear raiment and he never prepared anything for his body, but he lived naked in the desert. However, he was arrayed by his beard and the hair of his head that covered his whole body like a thatch and swept the ground.  He was like the fowls of heaven, for he thought nothing about the food of this world, but he hungered and thirsted for God; his sustenance was offered from heaven.

 One day, the three saints (Abba Samuel of Waldebba, Abba Anbes of the land of Hazalo and Abba Benyam of the upper land of Egypt) came to the land of Kabd, carried on their lions, to ask and see Abune Gebre Menfes Qidus ’s celebrity. When they reached there they couldn’t get him and they stayed there for seven days in search of him.  Then a certain lion came to the three saints and devoured their lions. Then, the saints felt bitterly sad, and their sorrow was revealed unto our father, Abune Gebre Menfes Qidus.  Then, after he came to them with the great power accompanied by his lions and leopards, the saint rebuked the lions, and he rose up the dead lions from the belly of the lions and sent them away to their former owners.

During his combat, Satan came to him in the form of a black raven, pecked at his eyes, and dug out his eyeballs. Consequently, the saint remained blind for ninety-eight years, till the angles (Michael and Gabriel) healed his eyes through their breathing. He lived 100 years in solitude in Lake Ziquala, praying for Ethiopia and the world as well.

He lived in the desert escorted by 60 lions and 60 tigers that served him. The saint lived  300 years in Egypt and 262 in Ethiopia with a total life span of 562 years on earth and  died  on Megabit 5, 1931 E.C. Due to his  spiritual struggle, he was  entitled with these names: “the star of the desert” and “the head of anchorites”.

The Ethiopian church commemorates the feast of the saint on the 5th date of every Ethiopian month, of which Megabit 5 is the day of the death of the saint), and Tikmit 5 is the great annual feast of the saint. The reason for his commemoration on the 5th date of every Ethiopian month is:

The entry of the saint from Egypt to Ethiopia; the day on which he went out from the lake where he received the covenant from God; the day on which he raised the dead lions; the first mass of his church built in his name was also celebrated on this day.  His departure is commemorated on Megabit 5.  Consequently his Gadl states that, he died in Ziquala and rested in Medre Kebd.

             May the prayer of Abune Gebre Menfes Qidus be up on us!

ገ ለ ገብረ መንፈስ ቅዱስ ::(The Hagiography of Abune Gebre Menfes Kidus) 1992 E.C.
  Synaxarium:The book of saints of the Ethiopian Church
 የዝቋላ ደብረ ከዋክብት አቡነ ገብረ መንፈስ ቅዱስ ገዳም ዐመታዊ መጽሔት ጥቅምት: 2007::  (Annual Journal of Ziquala Debre Kewakibt Abune Gebre Menfes Kidus, October, 2007).

The Covenant of St. Mary (Kidane Mihret)

February 23, 2015
By Kassa Nigus
Saints enjoy greater grace before God for forsaking the world and receiving hardship for the love of God. They have received spiritual powers to perform miracles while in this world such as making the dead rise, healing different ailments and driving out demons.

Likewise, one who implores by invoking their names, commemorates them and believes in their role of intercession shall be rewarded as has been confirmed by God.Our Lord says in the Gospel of Mathew 10:41-42 “that if any one receives a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward; and he receives a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward. And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple; verily I say unto you, he shall in nowise lose his reward.”

Saints intercede not only in the realms of the flesh as the scriptures testify for they are alive in soul. (Ex.32:2-15; Enoch 12:33-40, Luke 20:37-40). The word of God is living, and it works on the living. His covenant never changes and He Himself has said that saints are also living.

The church believes in the covenant and honor bestowed on holy Apostles, martyrs and the righteous. Covenant has been given to them that those who forsook all and followed him by carrying his cross and received hardship for the name and glory of Christ shall sit upon the twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel when the son of man sits on his glorious throne. (Matt. 19:28)

If the Lord said this about the apostles, then how much more effective would be the prayers of the Mother of God for the salvation of her children? We have seen St. Mary receiving the motherhood of the Incarnate Son of God. This motherhood is not merely an honorable title but a responsibility of unceasing work. Being a superior member of the body of our Lord Jesus Christ, she responds to the need of the other members seeking the salvation of everyone.

The story of the wedding of Cana of Galilee shows how great the intercession of Virgin Mary is. When St. Mary saw that the wine at the wedding had run out, she informed her Son, “they have no wine” (Jn 2:3). Of course the Lord was aware of that and surely he does not need to be reminded with the need of his children. But He who is full of love is pleased to see the mutual feeling of love in His mother and His children.

Her request was only made once, which shows clearly her confidence in Her Son’s reply, for she did not repeat her request but with every assurance she said to the people, “Whatever He says to you, do it.”  (Jn 2:5)  Through her conversation with the people of the wedding, we can visualize her role in intercession. For she presents our needs to her Son and then directs our hearts to diligently carry out His comandments and to do whatever He tells us.

Accordingly, the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Church commemorates  the covenant of St. Mary by the name Kidane Mehret.

Kidane Mihret (ኪዳነ ምሕረት) is a Ge’ez phrase which literally means ‘covenant of mercy’. The phrase is used to refer to God’s promise to St. Mary that he would forgive the sins of those who seek her intercession – a fact that underscores the enormous grace of Our Lady before the Almighty.  Kidane Mihret also refers to Yekatit 16 (February 23), the day on which St. Mary received the promise.It is also observed on the 16th day of each month though not as colorfully as on February 23. The day marks one of the 33 feasts of St.Mary.

According to the Ethiopic Synaxarium (pp.365), God has promised St. Mary that he will bless those who celebrate her commemoration, call upon her name, or give alms to the poor even if it were only a cup of cold water. He also promised to bless those who build churches in her name, give cloth to the poor; those who visit the sick, feed the hungry, comfort the grieving, or write the history of her strife.

May her prayer and intercession be with us!!!


• The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Church Faith, Order of Worship and Ecumenical Relations (1996: 60-62).    
• The book of the saints of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Church (Synaxarium).