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!

The Feast of the Departure of Saint Yared

May 18, 2015

By Tsegaye Girma

Ginbot 11 (May 19) marks the departure of St. Yared, the great Ethiopian composer who 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.

Saint 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. Saint 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 Saint 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 melodious sacred music.

May the blessing of Saint Yared be with us all!