St. John the Baptist: A Sign of Newness!

September 19, 2015
By ZeYared Zarema
The article gives highlight on the significance of John-newness symbolism: contemplation on the era of St. John the Baptist, the “Divinity baptizer”, as an era and a day of newness; new era, new life, new happening, or totally an era of newness!

e) His teaching is a sign of newness:

One of the teachings of this angelic man is accounted in the gospel according to Matthew as follows: “repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt3:1f). This short and precise Johanean teaching is a new teaching to the people of Israelites. They never heard such a powerful teaching that make the heaven in hand, that is why they surrounded him and get the remission of their sins. This teaching brought the people into newness, for penance is the instrument of the very newness and this makes St. John the Baptist a sign of newness for the producer of this article.

The other well known teaching of him in the gospel according to Luke is very rich in calling the attendants into the life of newness so that telling us the personality of the speaker, St. John, as a sign of newness. Let us see how his words are beautiful to express the becoming of new:

Then said he to the multitude that came forth to be baptized of him, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance, and begin not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, That God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: every tree therefore which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. And the people asked him, saying, What shall we do then? He answereth and saith unto them, He that hath two coats, let him impart to him that hath none; and he that hath meat, let him do likewise. Then came also publicans to be baptized, and said unto him, Master, what shall we do? And he said unto them, Exact no more than that which is appointed you. And the soldiers likewise demanded of him, saying, And what shall we do? And he said unto them, Do violence to no man, neither accuse any falsely; and be content with your wages. And as the people were in expectation, and all men mused in their hearts of John, whether he were the Christ, or not; (Luk3:7-15).  

Thus, through these powerful words, St. John, experiencing himself the life of newness, called all for newness. So, these words too made him not less than a sign for newness.

f) His outlook is a sign of newness:

In this point, the writer is going to contemplate little, as he is very little compared to John, about the new vision of the spirit filled man of the wilderness; who disclosed himself at the right time not as a light but to prepare the way and witness for the True and newest Light Who ever lights the darkness and makes all new out of His eternally luminous and new nature.

One of St. John’s insights is his seeing Jesus as a “Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (Jn1:29). This is a new vision different from the vision of the fathers and the prophets, who foretold about the saving Lamb, for he saw the Him in his eyes. What a blessed man he is to see the Lamb and point others to see their savior. This made the writer to see St. john, a man of new insight, as a sign of newness.

For the writer of this article, the second outlook of him goes to his witness that he is not Christ but the baptizer of Him. Did anyone from the prophets before John the Baptist was doubted that he is Christ? The contributor never comes across with such a history before. But St. John, to be taken as a sign of newness, was the first to be asked if he was the messiah whom the people were waiting for though his witness made a turn of the mind of the multitude into the very Christ.

John, about himself, “confessed, and denied not; but confessed, I am not the Christ” and about the true Messiah, he added, “I baptize with water: but there standeth one among you, whom ye know not; He it is, who coming after me is preferred before me, whose shoe’s latchet I am not worthy to unloose” (Jn1:19-27). If, as explained earlier, newness is the nature of incomprehensibility, and if St. John is nearer to the incomprehensible, according to his own words, “I knew him not: but he that sent me to baptize with water,… is He” (Jn1:33), One Who comes after him, nobody doubts him being of the sign of newness.

The third outlook of him is his true happiness as a “friend of the bridegroom”. This John’s happiness is very new. You my readers, when do you ever filled with great sense of joy? When you ever get preferred or when ever others preferred? St. John, the sign of newness, filled happy when Christ, Who came after him, was more preferred and said, “He that hath the bride is the bridegroom: but the friend of the bridegroom, which standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice: this my joy therefore is fulfilled. He must increase, but I must decrease” (Jn3:29).

The last but not the least insight the writer wants to mention is his new challenge against the old tradition of the people that has to be renewed, i.e. having a wife of a brother. He rebuked Herod for his brother’s wife sake saying, “It is not lawful for thee to have her” (Matt14:4). This truthful  approach of the new prophet set him first to prison and then to death.

The Old Testament accounts of the prophets make clear that many of them died for truth, but his is special, for it happened in the new era and for the new truth and proclaiming the eternal Truth. This made the writer, from the point of view of John’s challenge for truth, to confidently acknowledge him of being of the sign of newness. From these and other outlooks of him, St. John is worthy of being called a sign of newness.


To give some concluding words, in the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo church liturgical calendar, the feast of the New Ethiopian Year, the head of the turn of the year (ርእሰ ዐውዯ ዓመት), is called by the name of this great man “Yohannes ዮሐንስ” though the second day of the Ethiopian year is the day on which the church commemorates his martyrdom. The church rejoices in this day with the psalmist singing, “Thou crownest the year with thy goodness” (Ps64:11).

This implies the significance of John’s symbolism of newness! The new era, the era of mercy, has started symbolizing him as a way preparer for the Renewer (2Cor5:17, Eph2:14f). The new teaching, a teaching that grants the kingdom of God, was first proclaimed by him. The New Year, for we all the Ethiopians and the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church members, enters into effect in his name.

Our fathers, in the point of view of the composer of this piece of work, showed us through the holy tradition, by celebrating the year in the name of St. John the Baptist, that he is a sign of newness, and the believers having that in the mind shall sharpen their mind toward newness; to become so spiritual to the eyes of the gospel and lead a very new and holy life the whole year, or the whole 365 and something days, or the whole more than 8766.

When we celebrate a new year we have to think of a newer and holier, prosperous and happier year than the past. The writer again wishes the new Ethiopian year will come with new hope, new spirit, new empowerment, and new attitude that can set all Christians into a new step in over all of their personality, whether carnal or spiritual. Be blessed and renewed in our year 2008 E.C. (It starts in the 12nd of2015 G.C.) following the sign of newness.

Glory be to God in the name of our Savior Jesus Christ, Amen.


•  Holy Bible, King James Version

•  መጽሐፍ ቅደስ፣ የብሉይና የአዱስ ኪዲን መጻሕፍት፣ 1962 ዓ/ም

•  ወንጌል ቅደስ ዘእግዚእነ ወመዴኃኒነ ኢየሱስ ክርስቶስ ንባቡና ትርጓሜው፣ 1997፣ ትንሣኤ ዘጉባኤ ማተሚያ ቤት፣ አዲስ አበባ

•  ውዳሴ ማርያም ቅዱስ ኤፍሬምየ ደረሰውን ባቡና ትርጓሜው፣ 1915፣ በኢትዮጵያ መንግሥት አልጋ ወራሽ ራስ ተፈሪ ማተሚያ፣ አዲስ አበባ

St. John the Baptist: A Sign of Newness!

September 11, 2015
By ZeYared Zarema

Nobody may have any question on who St. John the Baptist is and what he did, and by what and how he is remembered, but, the contributor of this article enlighten on the significance of John-newness symbolism. Wishing all the readers of this article a HAPPY NEW ETHIOPIAN YEAR, let him take you to his contemplation on the era of St. John the Baptist, the “Divinity baptizer”, as an era and a day of newness; new era, new life, new happening, or totally an era of newness!

Newness as a nature of Incomprehensibility

In the mankind’s chronic time, man may know much more new events but almost all of them, except one to the writer’s mind, get old. You readers, don’t you believe that the Old Testament was NEW at the time of Moses? But the writer believes it should though for us, the people of the New Era, now is no more new for we now possess the ever New Testament that never ages! When it was created, the land was, with no doubt, very new, but now it is aged and needs newness; plants were created new though they, even the ever green, always need and wait a time of newness. 

Animals, with no exception to humanity, similarly get old through time miraculously. The moon and the stars too very dramatically change through time between new age and old age. What about the sun, the source of all powers? Let the writer leave a room here for the newness of the sun. Newness, according to his understanding, is her nature. This can be reasoned out that it is not as such comprehensible. Please, let and allow him again say that newness is the expression or the nature of incomprehensibility.

This understanding of the writer is shared with the lamenting Jeremiah, for he addressed in his lamentations that God is always new. “It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness” (Lam3:22-23). This is to make clear the relation between newness and incomprehensibility, the contributor of this article brings to you merging both the account of the eschatological life in the tradition of our church and the teaching of St. Paul the Apostle. 

The life in the eschatone is a new life that never ages and is very incomprehensible, i.e. an incomprehensible and an ever new life (1Cor2:9). The righteous people who are going to inherit the new life, according to Paul, will also comprehend others through the spirit but are incomprehensible to others (1Cor2:15). God, please grant us such a life to Your poor servants, that we will comprehend what is newness in our experience like the righteous, not only in our words as this writer is trying today.
St. John the baptizer: a sign of Newness

Oh John! The writer prays unto the Divinity you were invited to baptize and urge your help to share your experience of your era with him, and let him experience in mind what you have experienced not only with mind, like this poor writer, but in presence too.

What a blessed era was and is the era of the new John!? A new era and an era of newness! An era in which the One Who makes all, through the creation to the eschatone, new and the One never ages entered into the aged man’s history and established a history, which is ever new and a sign of newness. (ውዳሴ ማርያም  ቅዱስ ኤፍሬም የደረሰውን ባቡና ትርጓሜው፣ 1915፣ ገ ጽ 89)

The new John, saw and experience new events, so that we can see him as a sign of newness. He is the man who worshipped God and venerated the ever Virgin while he was in his mother’s womb, the primary home of mankind except to the first two, Adam and Eve. This is still felt new by all the believers of the content and expression of the Holy Scripture. No one can comprehend the event and its performance but anybody feels it through the Lucian record.

In his era God became man. The most new event in the history of humanity, a new event and an expression of newness, is the incarnation. Anybody can admire but cannot comprehend incarnation. He is also the ever man who baptized His creator and ever named “Divinity Baptizer”. The writer is in a position now to go through some important points to clarify how John the Baptist can be seen as a sign of newness?

a) The prophets foretold about his being of a sign of newness
Prophet Isaiah is among the prominent prophets who clearly put the new era in which the virgin gives birth to Immanuel (Isa7:14), and her child is The mighty God and The everlasting father (Isa9:6). Concerning the way preparer too, Luke the evangelist conveyed to us the following account words of Isaiah:

And he came into all the country about Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins; As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low; and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways shall be made smooth; And all flesh shall see the salvation of God. (Luk3:3-6)

Isaiah the prophet, as for the gospel narrator, seem not said the above words, but put them to be proclaimed by another man, and he is John the way preparer. In the narration, the filling of the valley, the lowering of mountains and hills, the straightening of the crooked, and the smoothening of the rough are purposefully for “all the flesh to see the salvation of God”. No very other new can any man find other than the salvation of “all flesh”. The one who proclaims this salvation being a way preparer for the Savior is John and it is true if the writer named him “a sign of newness”.

b) The angle Gabriel put John as a sign of newness
St. Gabriel, when he was sent to the holy Virgin Mary for a very new tiding, told her about the conception of the little John in a womb of unexpected old woman, Elizabeth. The intention of the angel was to convince Mary to give a room for the mightiness of God and to accept his tidings.

Nevertheless, he used the conception of Elizabeth to John as divine benchmark that God can be conceived of a virgin. How essential was in the mind of the angle to use the six month fetus, the womb dweller John, as a sign of newness, ever new event, to be effected in the womb of the ever virgin Mary! If the angel used John as a symbol of newness, the writer is so confident to see the baptizer today a sign of newness.

c) His father, Zacharias saw him as a sign of newness
His old and priest father prophesized about him, on his circumcision day and just after his mouth opened and his tongue loosed, that he is the “way preparer” for the expected messiah: “and thou, child, shalt be called the prophet of the Highest: for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways; To give knowledge of salvation unto his people by the remission of their sins, Through the tender mercy of our God” (Luk1:76). 

The miraculous episode, the opening of the mouth of Zacharias that was closed for about ten months, convinced not only the writer of this article but also the multitude who were gathered for the ceremony of John’s circumcision to see St. John as a sign of newness and say with in their hearts “What manner of child shall this be” (Luk1:66). The multitude could never comprehend him but amazed of him, and thus he symbolizes newness.

d) His life is a sign of newness
He was conceived by the tidings of an angel six months before the incarnation, the assumption God the Word the flesh of Mary. And the same angel, when he visited the virgin, made a call of John’s conception to exemplify the Mightiness of God to be conceived in the womb of the virgin. “And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren. For with God nothing shall be impossible” (Luk1:36f). To be a symbol for God’s incarnation is not less that to be a sign for newness!

He grew up in the wilderness as a new man being a sign of newness. This life of purity and godliness made him visit the nearby places about the river Jordan, where new life of baptism started, proclaiming a new life; life of purity and fruitfulness through penitence that the people of Israel gathered to be baptized for the remission of their sins.

The most fundamental sign of the new era in relation the life of John is his accepting his Lord as baptizing. As the gospel account assures, Jesus came into John to be baptized. “Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him. But John forbad him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me? And Jesus answering said unto him, suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness. Then he suffered him” (Matt3:13-15). But in the tradition of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, the account adds the following Conversation between Christ and John:

[ዮሐንስ] ስመ አብ ብከ ወስመ ወልድ ለሊከ ወስመ መንፈስ ቅደስ ህልው ውስቴትከ ባዕደ አጠምቅ በስምከ ወበስመ
መኑ አጠምቅ ኪያከ አለው፣ [ክርስቶስም መልሶ] ወልዱ ለቡሩክ ከሣቴ ብርሃን ተሣሃለነ:: አንተ ካህኑ ለዓለም በከመ
ሢመቱ ለመልከ ጼዳቅ:: ብለህ አጥምቀኝ” አለው፤ ከዚህ በኋላ ተያይዘው ወደ ባሕር ወርደዋል።

[John said] You possess the name of the Father, and the name of the Son is Yours, and the name of the Holy Spirit exists in You; I baptize a stranger in Your name; but, in whose name shall I baptize You? [And Christ replied] You baptize me saying, Thou the son of the Blessed, the One Who reveals the light, have mercy upon us; Thou are a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek. (ወንጌል ቅደስ ዘእግዚእነ ወመዴኃኒነ ኢየሱስ ክርስቶስ ንባቡና ትርጓሜው፣ 1997፣ ገጽ 70)

This new phenomenon of baptism of the incarnated Divine Word is enough to see John as a sign of newness, for he baptized the Divine incarnated Word and became the witness of the eternal but very newly revealed truth of the Trinity; the Son in the river receiving baptism, the Father in the clouds witnessing about His eternal and beloved Son, and the Holy Spirit over the head of the Son like a white dove.

To be continue… part – 2

• Holy Bible, King James Version
• መጽሐፍ ቅደስ፣ የብሉይና የአዱስ ኪዲን መጻሕፍት፣ 1962 ዓ/ም
• ወንጌል ቅደስ ዘእግዚእነ ወመዴኃኒነ ኢየሱስ ክርስቶስ ንባቡና ትርጓሜው፣ 1997፣ ትንሣኤ ዘጉባኤ ማተሚያ ቤት፣ አዱስ
• ውዳሴ ማርያም ቅዱስ ኤፍሬምየ ደረሰውን ባቡና ትርጓሜው፣ 1915፣ በኢትዮጵያ መንግሥት አልጋ ወራሽ ራስ ተፈሪ ማተሚያ፣ አዲስ

Pagumen: The Thirteenth Month of Ethiopia

September 7,  2015
By Kassa Nigus

The Ethiopian Calendar has 13 months, 12 months of 30 days each and an additional month, at the end of the year, of 5 or 6 days depending on whether the year is a leap year or not. The 13th month of the modern Ethiopian solar calendar1 is one of the many unique ancient heritages Ethiopia has contributed to the entire world.

The Ethiopian calendar gives special consideration to Pagumen for a number of reasons. Let’s see few of them:

A. The Second Advent of Jesus Christ

While the exact date of the Second Advent is a mystery, there are four presiding opinions regarding the matter. One is that Christ will appear on Debre Zeit (Mount of Olives) in the year of St. John, in the month of March at mid night of Sunday. Debre Zeit is also used to name the Sunday that comes halfway through lent. The second opinion is that Christ will come during Pagumen. In this month, the church cites biblical words related to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. The other two opinions have been believed to be occur in the months of Tahisas 4-6 /December13-15 and Sene25/July2.

B. The Festival of the Archangel Raphael
St. Raphael holds the third rank among the seven archangels next to St. Michael and St. Gabriel. Archangels St. Raguel, St. Urael, St. Faneuil and St. Saquel follow him in rank in the stated order.  Homily of Raphael, a holy book which contains the miracles of the Archangel, says that St. Raphael has been given the power to lock and open the gates of heaven. (Homily of Raphael, pp.185)

One of the most important miracles of St. Raphael is commemorated on the third day of Pagumen. The miracle is related to a church dedicated to the archangel and is said to have been constructed on an island outside the city of Alexandria in Egypt. It is said that the church was threatened to be demolished by a whale and started shaking whilst the believers were praying inside the church. It was later saved miraculously by the Archangel Raphael.

The story described in the Book of Tobit, an Old Testament scripture, states that St. Raphael was revealed to a man named Tobia who had a blind father called Tobit. The archangel instructed Tobia to fish in the River of Tigris and the heart and liver of a fish is said to have been served to Tobit, and that cured his eyes.
According to the same story, a woman named Sarah (not the wife of Abraham) was married to seven husbands one after another, but all died on the first night of the marriage.

St. Raphael intervened and told Tobia to marry Sarah. He miraculously exorcised the evil spirit and Tobia was spared the fate of Sarah’s previous husbands. St. Raphael is also believed to have been empowered by God to intervene for fruitful marriage, fertility and to reduce the labor during childbirth. He is also said to have performed a number of miracles on this day (Pagumen 3). That’s why the day is celebrated with special vivacity in the churches dedicated to the Archangel. 

Pagumen 3 is also called Rehiwe Semay2 literally meaning ‘The opening of heaven’. It is believed that on this day the prayers of believers reach before God in a special manner, and hence the term Rehiwe Semay.
The rain that falls on this day is also considered holy; it is believed that it blesses Christians and protects them from illness and bad fortune. On this day, we see children rinsing in the rain to receive blessing. Women add drops of the sacred rainwater to their dough to have their Injera and bread blessed.

C. The Holy Water of Pagumen
Besides Pagumen 3, Ethiopian Orthodox Christians also observe the other days of the month by rinsing themselves in holy water at different churches and monasteries. They do this to get sanctified and liberate themselves of all ailments, evil spirits and acts of witchcraft.

Christians also associate the days of pagumen with the five days during which the biblical Job was rinsed and cured from his wounds. Job is said to have been rinsed in the waters for five days and was cured on the fifth night. Therefore, the last night of pagumen (eve of New Year/ Enkutatash) is very significant to Ethiopian Orthodox Christians. Particularly in rural Ethiopia, ill and healthy people alike go to nearby rivers to bathe in the waters which are believed to be holy during this period.
•    Ethiopic Synaxarium: the month of Pagumen. 
•    ያሬድ ፈንታ ወልደ ዮሐንስ 2004 ዓ.ም. ባሕረ ሐሳብ የቀመርና የሥነ ፈለክ ምስጢር፡፡
•    Bantalem Tadesse, 2010. A Guide to the Intangible Treasure of Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Church: Historic Perspective and Symbolic interpretation of the Festivals.
1 Explain the four cycles of years (Year of Mathew, Mark, Luke and John) in  the    Ethiopian calendar system.
2 Rehiwe semay literally means “the opening of the window of heaven”. On this day prayer is offered for the blessing of water and oil; the blessed water is drunk and the oil applied on the bodies of people for cure and blessing. It is believed that Rehiwe semay takes place seven times a year at intervals of 52 days  starting from Pagumen three. (Yared Fenta 2004 E.C PP.48)

Tabor and Hermon shall Rejoice in Thy Name

August 18, 2015
By Kassa Nigus 
The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Church celebrates the Feast of the Transfiguration of Our Lord Jesus Christ every year on Nehasie 13 (August 19). The feast is observed in remembrance of the revelation of Christ’s Divine glory before the Apostles Peter, James, and John on Mount Tabor.

Biblical Story

The event of the Transfiguration is recorded in three of the four Gospels: Matthew 17:1-9, Mark 9:2-8, and Luke 9:28-36. Jesus took the Apostles Peter, James, and John with Him to Mount Tabor and transfigured Himself before them. His face shone like the sun, and His garments became glistening white. Moses and Elijah appeared with Christ, talking to Him. Peter declared how good it was for them to be there and expressed his desire to build three tents for Christ, Moses and Elijah. 

In the Old Testament, the presence of light and cloud often signified the Divine presence (Ex.24:15-17). The bright radiance and shining of the face is also a characteristic of those closest to God. Such was the case of Moses who spoke to God face to face. (Ex.34:29-35)  

Likewise, on Mt.Tabor the cloud signified the Divine presence. Despite the fact that there are different mountains in Israel, Christ chose Tabor to be the place where He revealed His divine glory. St David had prophesied about the mount saying, “Tabor and Heron shall rejoice in thy name.” (Psalms 89:12)  According to the Church’s teachings, Tabor also represents God’s kingdom.  

 Symbolism of Moses and Elijah in the transfiguration

As the ten foolish and wise virgins (Matt. 25:1), symbolized all the wise and foolish human beings, the Lord gave us His Transfiguration with Moses and Elijah, as a symbol of the transfiguration which the Lord will grant to all human beings in eternity.

Elijah represents the virgins (of either sex), and Moses represents the married. Rather Moses married more than once. He married Zipporah the daughter of the priest of Midian (Ex.2:19-22). He also married an Ethiopian woman (Num. 12:1), who was a symbol of the acceptance of the Gentiles.

 Moses represented those who were dead. And Elijah represented the living who have not yet died. Elijah represents those who have lived a life of ascetics in the wilderness, as he was himself on the mountain of Carmel; and Moses represents those who have lived in the world with their families in a social life. One of them represents the life of monks, and the other represents the ministry and the guidance of crowds.
                   To Him is the Glory forever!

Source: —-1986:177- 178.  These Truths We Hold the Holy Orthodox Church Her Life and Teachings. Compiled and edited by a monk of St. Tikhon’s monastery.
Pope Shenouda III, 1998. The Transfiguration and some meditations upon the feast of the Transfiguration. 

Filseta: The Fast of the Assumption of St. Mary

August 7, 2015
By Kassa Nigus

Filseta is one of the seven canonized fasts of the Ethiopian church, which is observed as a remembrance of the fast the apostles held in passion of witnessing the falling asleep and assumption of Saint Maryam (Mary). It covers the period from the 1st to the 15th of Nehasie (August 7-22). Filseta literally means movement in the Ge’ez language, and is used to refer to St. Mary’s assumption. 

When St. Mary departed from this world, the apostles tended her body and carried it to Gethsemane for burial. Some of the Jews blocked their way to prevent them from burying the body, and decided to snatch and burn it to ashes for fear it may thereafter bring news of another ‘resurrection’ and ‘ascension’.

Knowing the evil intent of the Jews, GOD sent HIS angel and took away the body of HIS Mother in glory to the Heaven. The Angels then took the body to Paradise, accompanied by John the Apostle, and laid it under the Tree of Life. When John returned to the other apostles, they asked him where the Virgin Mary was. He told them that her body was placed under the Tree of Life by an Angel. The Apostles then said to each other, "John saw and we did not; let us pray and fast that we can see also."

They fasted and prayed for fifteen days, after which the Angels of GOD brought the body of the Virgin to the Apostles. They buried the body of the Virgin on Sunday. "On Tuesday, three days later, the Virgin Mary rose from the dead, just as CHRIST had resurrected."
St. Thomas the Apostle was not present at the time of St. Mary’s departure. He was on duty in his apostolic diocese of India. As he went back to Jerusalem carried on a cloud, he met St. Mary while ascending. Thomas then said to her, "I was not chosen to see your SON’s ascension in Glory, nor was I to witness yours. How sinful I am!" But She told him that he was the first to see Her ascending, and gave him the garment (also known as Megnez or Seben in Ge’ez) with which her rested body was covered as a token. That filled him with grace and ecstasy.


When St. Thomas arrived where the disciples were, they told him about St. Mary’s departure and he said to them as if he knew nothing, "You know how I conducted myself at the resurrection of the LORD CHRIST, and I will not believe unless I see her body." They went with him to the tomb, and uncovered the place of the body, but they did not find it. Everyone was perplexed and surprised. After confirming her death and seeing the empty tomb, St. Thomas told them how he saw her assumption, and showed them the garment which she gave him as a proof. Priests of the Ethiopian church usually cover their hand-held crosses with a piece of garment to remember the Seben St Thomas received from St Mary.   

Despite St Thomas’ account of St Mary’s resurrection, the Apostles were eager to witness it first hand, and so one year later they started fasting and praying starting from August 7. On the 22nd of August (i.e., after 15 days of fasting) St Mary came with her beloved SON, JESUS. On that day, JESUS CHRIST performed the Divine Liturgy designating St Peter as assistant priest and Deacon Stephen (coming from heaven) as an arch deacon, and gave them the Holy Qurban (Communion). After the service, HE ordered the apostles to preach and witness the resurrection and assumption of His Mother throughout the world. 

Filseta is the most dutifully observed fast among Ethiopian Orthodox Christians next to the great fast (lent). The faithful including children, who do not actively take part in the other fasts of the church, fast for 15 days joyfully taking Holy Communion. Church Services including the Divine Liturgy are carried out for an uninterrupted 15 days. Churches across the nation are therefore usually filled with the faithful during this period as many of the believers go on a retreat (subae).  

May Her intercession and blessings be with us now and forever. Amen.

Source: Ethiopic Synaxarium, on Nehasie 16 (Agust 22). 


The two prominent Apostles: Sts. Peter and Paul

July 11, 2015

By Kassa Nigus 

Every year, the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido church  celebrates the feast of saints Peter and Paul with various religious rituals on July 12 in the same day which always coincides with the end of the Apostle’ s fast and the monthly feast of St Abune Gebre Menfes Kidus.

  St Peter

St Peter, who was named Simon, was a fisherman of Galilee and was introduced to the Lord Jesus by his brother Andrew, also a fisherman. Jesus gave him the name Cephas (Petrus in Latin), which means ‘Rock,’ because he was to become the rock upon which Christ would build His Church. Then he become one of Jesus Christ’s 12 apostles and spent most of his life preaching the gospel after Jesus’ death.

Peter was a bold follower of the Lord. He was the first to recognize that Jesus was “the Messiah, the Son of the living God,” and eagerly pledged his fidelity until death. In his boldness, he also made many mistakes, however, such as losing faith when walking on water with Christ and betraying the Lord on the night of His passion.

Yet despite his human weaknesses, Peter was chosen to shepherd God’s flock. The Acts of the Apostles illustrates his role as head of the Church after the Resurrection and Ascension of Christ. Peter led the Apostles as the first Pope and ensured that the disciples kept the true faith. St. Peter spent his last years in Rome, leading the Church through persecution and eventually being martyred in there. 

St. Paul
 St. Paul was born in Tarsus five years after the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ. He wrote fourteen epistles which are included in the writings of the New Testament, and through them we learn much about his life and the faith of the early Church. Before receiving the name Paul, he was Saul, a Jewish Pharisee who zealously persecuted Christians in Jerusalem. Scripture records that Saul was present at the martyrdom of St. Stephen.

  Saul’s conversion took place eight years later after the Ascension of Jesus Christ as he was on his way to Damascus to persecute the Christian community there. As he was traveling along the road, he was suddenly surrounded by a great light from heaven. He was blinded and fell off his horse. He then heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” He answered: “Who are you, Lord?” Christ said: “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.” (Acts 9:1-6)

Saul continued to Damascus, where he was baptized by Ananias, one of the 72 disciples and his sight was restored. He took the name Paul and spent the remainder of his life preaching the Gospel tirelessly to the Gentiles of the Mediterranean world. (Acts 9:10-19)

In general, St. Peter and St. Paul are two of the most well known saints who are mostly responsible for spreading the Christ’s message in the days of the early church. As to why they are celebrated on the same day, scriptures have it that they were executed on the same day in 67A.D (some also said on 69 A.D) under the command of the Emperor Nero and buried in Rome. (Although some historical accounts cite as they martyred in different times, Peter being martyred in 64 AD and Paul in 67 AD.)

According to the scriptures, Paul was beheaded while St. Peter was crucified upside down at his own request because he said he was not worthy to be sacrificed in the same manner as Christ. 

Since we are among the first people, who accept Christianity by the apostles themselves, celebrate this day made holy for us by the apostles’ blood. Let us embrace what they believed, their life, their labors, their sufferings, their preaching, and their confession of faith in order to be sharers of their blessings. 


  Ethiopic Synaxarium: the book of the saints of the Ethiopian Church, on the month of Hamle 5 (July 12) 

  • Hiruy Ermias 1995 E.C.Mezgebe Tarik, part-2, pp.119-126.

Annual Feast of Abba Gerima

June 24, 2015
By Kassa Nigus 
Abba Gerima, or Yeshaq (Isaac), is one of the Nine Saints and the church observes an annual feast dedicated to the saint on Senie 17(June 24). The 17th day of every Ethiopian Month is also dedicated to the saint. 

According to His Gadl (hagiography), Abba Garima was the son of Emperor of Rome (Byzantium), Masfeyanos, and his wife, Sefengeya. His mother bore him through the intercession of the Virgin Mary after fifteen years of barrenness.

He was sent to study theology and then he was appointed deacon, but later, on his father’s death, became king against his will. After he had ruled seven years, he was summoned by Abba Pantalewon and, with the help of the Archangel Gabriel, was able to reach Aksum in three hours during the reign of Alameda. There he joined Pantalewon and remained with his community for some years until they parted company, when he went to Madara and founded a monastery. He stayed there for twenty-three years performing miracles, driving out demons, and tending to the sick.

Among his amazing miracles one is written as follows, one day he sowed wheat at dawn, and reaped it in the evening and some of it he offered as an offering; and on the following day he took the remainder up to the threshing floor, and he trod out the sheaves of wheat, and obtained there seventy-seven measures of grain.

Having finished his good course, our Redeemer appeared unto him, and promised him that [He would forgive the sins of] those who call upon his name, and celebrate his commemoration. And straightway he was caught up in a shining cloud and disappeared. Some say Garima died on 17 Sanie (24 June). The Emperor Gabra-Masqal is reputed to have built him a church there, which he endowed liberally.

Source: • Synaxarium: The book of the saints of the Ethiopian Church.

St Michael: the Liberator of Bahiran

June, 2015
By Kassa Nigus

Saint Michael is one of the seven Arch angels who stand before God, and is honored for defeating the Devil and his angles in heaven after they rebelled against God (Rev.12:7-9).  When the faithful falls in Satan’s temptation, they call the name of this angle and are always victorious over him.

The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Church celebrates the Feast of St. Michael on 12th day of each month of which two are great annual feasts of the saint: on Hidar 12 (November 21) and Senie 12 (June 19).The feast on June 19 is dedicated to “the deliverance of Bahiran from the hand of the wicked rich man" through the help of St Michael as stated in the Ethiopic Synaxarium. (Senie 12, pp. 567-569). The concise story goes as follows:

There was a certain man who feared God, and who used to celebrate St Michael’s feast on the12th day of each month, and especially during the months of Hedar and Senie. A rich man in the neighborhood used to despise and ridiculed this God-fearing man for celebrating St Michael’s feasts.

When the God-fearing man approaches to his death, he commanded his wife to keep on the celebration of St Michael’s feasts. The woman was pregnant when her husband passed away.  The woman suffered terrible pain during labor and she delivered through the help of St. Michael. When she brought forth a child, St Michael came down from heaven, blessed the child, and prophesied about the future fate of the child saying, “This child shall inherit all the possessions and land of the rich man.” At that moment God opened the ear of the rich man and was heard what the angel said. Then great sorrow came upon him, and he wanted to kill the child. But God protected the child through the intercession of St Michael.

When the child was ten years old, his mother’s money came to an end, and the rich man found his opportunity against the woman. And he requested a woman to minister her child at the wage of twenty dinars in gold. Then the woman gave her son to the rich man. The man rejoiced with a great joy, and said in his heart, “Behold what I have desired is fulfilled for me.

Then he made a wooden box which fit the size of the boy and crammed him into the box and threw the box in to a river. However, the box floated on the surface of the river by the grace of God until it came to the quay of a certain city. A shepherd nearby saw the box and pulled it out and took it to his home. When the Shepherd unlocked the box, he found a smart boy crammed in the box.  He named him ‘Bahran’ because he found him in the river; the boy became to him as his son.

Years later, the rich man wished to go and sojourn with the shepherd, and when the sun was about to set he said unto the shepherd, “If you provide me with a place to rest in until tomorrow, I will pay you the charge.” The shepherd welcomed the rich man into his house, and he called the boy “Bahran” by his name.  When the rich man heard the name, he asked the shepherd whether Bahiran was his son.  The shepherd replied “Yes, I found this young man when he was a little boy in a box in the river, and I took him and reared him as my son.” Upon hearing that, the rich man was very sorry in his heart, because he knew that the young man was the boy whom he had thrown into the river to kill him.

The following day, with an evil plot in mind, the rich man asked his host to allow him to send Bahiran with a message to his house in his home city claiming that he had forgotten something at home. He promised to pay twenty dinars of gold for the errand. The shepherd was agreed with the rich man to send to his house. Then the rich man wrote a letter to his steward, saying, “When you have read this letter, kill the bearer of it, whose name is ‘Bahran,’ and cast his body into a pit. Let no one know about this until I come in peace”; he wrote on the letter a certain sign which they had agreed upon, and which none but the rich man and his steward knew. He sealed the letter and gave it to Bahran. He also handed him the money needed for the journey, and the young man departed.

As Bahiran was about to reach at the house of the rich man , behold one day the angel of God, Michael, came to him in the guise of a soldier riding a horse; and he said to Bahran, “What do you have with you?” when Bahran told him about the letter, the angel asked to see it. Bahran has shown the letter in distant being frightened and the angel blew on the paper, erasing what was written on it.  Immediately, the thought of the letter was changed this way, “Behold, I the rich man have sent unto you the bearer of this letter whose name is Bahran. As soon as you have read this letter, let him marry my daughter and take over all my possessions. Do not wait until I come back, for I shall tarry on my journey. Let him do what he wishes in my house, for I have given him authority over all my belongings. Here is the sign which is between you and me, O my steward.”

Then the angel sealed the letter, gave it to Bahran and Bahiran keep on his journey devotedly.  When Bahran had reached at the house of the rich man, he gave the letter to his steward. When the steward read the letter and recognized the mark, and knew that it was authentic. They immediately made a great marriage-feast for Bahran and the daughter of the rich man, and they married them in the church, before the sanctuary of God; the couple enjoyed their wedding season for forty days.

Towards the end of the marriage-feast the rich man returned to his city, and when he heard the sound of the music, he asked, saying, “What is this sound which I hear?” People told him the whole story about the letter and that Bahiran and his wife took control of all his possessions. When the rich man heard these words, he cried out at the top of his voice, fell down and died. Bahran inherited all his money as God had commanded. The young man celebrated St Michael’s feast on the 12th day of each month, knowing that it was he who had appeared to him and changed the letter.

Dear brothers and sisters, God changed the letter of death to the letter of life and vice versa for nothing is impossible with God. God has an unconditional authority at bringing good out of bad.  The things you wish might be removed from your life are often the very things that God is using to shape and change you into the character of good believer He wants you to be.  He wants to use that problem for good in your life. There’s something more important than your pain.  It’s what you’re learning from that pain.

 Glory to God!!


• Ethiopic Syanaxarium, (Senie 12, pp.567-569).

• Homily of St. Michael (Ge’ez and Amharic), 1989.

The Descent of the HOLY SPIRIT

May 30, 2015

By Kassa Nigus

The Paraclete or HOLY SPIRIT is the third person of the HOLY TRINITY who among other things provides guidance, consolation, strength, and support to people.

In the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Church, Pentecost is one of the nine Major movable feasts of the LORD. It is a church feast that commemorates the Descent of the HOLY SPIRIT upon the Apostles on the three hour of the day, fifty days after the Resurrection of CHRIST.

Originally, Pentecost was a Jewish historical holy day which is known as Harvest Festival (Be’ale Sewit) before the era of the apostles.

Harvest Festival (Be’ale Sewit): One of the major feasts during the Jewish year; it celebrates thanks giving for harvested crops. Israel commemorated it, fifty days – seven weeks to the day – after the sickle was first put to the grain there was a harvest festival. Fifty days after the grain harvest, processions of pilgrims bore baskets of their first fruits to the temple as a thank offering for the harvest.

After the accomplishment of HIS redemptive work, GOD made the harvest festival to relate to festival of the HOLY SPIRIT. Seven weeks to the day after JESUS died and rose from the dead, HE breath’s the wind and fire of HIS SPIRIT upon HIS Church. This is the fulfillment of the Harvest festival: Fifty days after the sickle had been put to the grain, comparable to fifty days after JESUS was hung on a cross, crucified and buried, fifty days after the promised Seed that had been buried in the ground sprouted to life. After the fulfillment of His salivation; JESUS had made a covenant with HIS disciples to establish a new covenant, to establish a new Church.

Before JESUS was crucified, He told HIS disciples that the HOLY SPIRIT would come after Him: “And I will ask the Father, and HE will give you another Counselor to be with you forever — the SPIRIT of truth. The world cannot receive HIM, because it neither sees HIM nor knows HIM. But you know HIM, for HE lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.”  (John 14:16–18)

During HIS Ascension, JESUS has promised the Apostles saying, “I will send unto you another Paraclete, Who shall come from the FATHER. Wait ye and remain in Jerusalem until ye receive the promise of the FATHER.”

Accordingly, when the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place when the promise was fulfilled as Peter and the early Church were in Jerusalem for Pentecost. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the HOLY SPIRIT and began to speak in other tongues (languages) as the SPIRIT enabled them. (Acts 2:1–4)

According to the New Testament commentators of the Ethiopian Church, the Apostles had spoken perfectly in seventy two languages, whereas the other devout men who were dwelling at Jerusalem, uttered in not less than fifteen languages; some uttered fifty, the other twenty or twenty five or even some had spoken sixty. (Metsahifte Haddisat Selestu 1989, pp.22)  

After the Apostles were baptized with the HOLY SPIRIT, they were enabled or empowered divinely to preach the Gospel of Salvation "in CHRIST" fearlessly. As a result, three thousand souls were added to the Church that day, through sacred Baptism (Acts 1:5, 9:4; 2:41). Thus, the official inauguration of the Church took place on that day, and is considered the day of the birth of the Church.

This feast is followed with the "Apostle’s Fast" which begins on the Monday after; or immediately following Pentecost Sunday.  It has a fixed end date on the fifth of the Ethiopian month of Hamle [July 12]. The fifth of Hamle is the commemoration of the Martyrdom of Saints Peter and Paul.


•  Holy Bible- King James Version

• The Three Books of New Testament Commentary: Acts, Epistles, Revelation (Metsahifte Haddisat Selestu in Ge’ez and Amharic), 1989, pp.22.

•  Synaxarium: The book of the saints of the Ethiopian Church

Feast of the Ascension of our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ

May 21, 2015

By Welde Gebriel
The Feast of the Ascension of our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ is one of the nine great feasts of the Church in the liturgical calendar, and commemorates each year the bodily Ascension of Jesus into Heaven. Ascension Day is always celebrated on a Thursday, the fortieth day after Easter day (Acts 1:3). The story of the Ascension of our Lord is stated in the book of the Acts of the Apostles 1:3-11. It is also mentioned in the Gospels of Mark (16:19) and Luke (24:50-53).

In His last stay on earth, Jesus Christ was appeared, forty days after His Resurrection from the dead and commanded to His disciples not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the "Promise of the Father". He stated, "You shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now" (Acts 1:5).

After Jesus gave these instructions, He led the disciples to the Mount of Olives. Then, He ordered them to be His witnesses "In Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth" (Acts 1:8).  As the disciples watched, Jesus lifted up His hands, blessed them, and then was taken up out of their sight (Luke 24:51; Acts 1:9).

Then they worshiped Him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God. Then two angels appeared to them and asked them why they were gazing into heaven. Then one of the angels said, "This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as you have seen Him going into heaven" (Acts 1:11).

The Ascension of Jesus Christ was vital in a chain of the fulfillment of the prophecy of the Old and New Testament times (Psalms 110:1; Matthew 26:64; John 6:62; John 7:33; John 14:28; John 16:5; John 20:17). A thousand years before the Savior’s birth, David prophesied the ascension of Jesus when he announced the Lord’s enthronement at the Father’s right hand (Psalm 110:1).

The ascension of Christ into heaven endorses contrary to Jewish expectations, the coming of Lord to this world was not to overthrow Rome, and establish an earthly, political administration as stated in different parts of the Bible, (John 6:15; 18:36; Acts 1:6). In contra to the Jewish expectations the ascension of Christ approves the end of His redemptive work and the end of His public ministry of words and works (John 17:4-11; Heb. 1:3; 10:12)

Glory be to our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ!