ETHIOPIA ORTHODOX

Orthodox Ethiopia celebration

 

 

HISTORY OF THE ETHIOPIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH

While the exact date of when the Orthodox Christianity, shared by many oriental churches, was introduced in Ethiopia, evidenced history shows that it was as early as the fourth century. A monk fleeing persecution in Egypt came to Ethiopia on exile. After having found his way to the region of Tigray, he sought refuge high on the cliffs where he, and 10 other followers, hewn a monastery named after him: Abune Yemata. It is believed that it was from this unique monastery that the current form of Ethiopian Orthodox church starte to propagate.

Orthodox Chrisitianity grew in terms of followers, scope and even influence. The church was as powerfull as any governement that ruled Ethiopia. The tie with its Egyptian counterpart was strong. Popes for the Ethiopian Orthodox church used to be appointed from Alexandria up until the 19th century. After centuries of dominance the church was ultimately stripped from its significant power during the communist regime in the 1960s when the Communist party DERG took the throne after toppling Emperor Hailesellassie.

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MAJOR TENETS OF THE ETHIOPIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH

- The ultimate goal of any christian should be God's heavenly kingdom; focussing on doing good on earth alone does not guarantee salvation.

- Baptism is compulsary. If one is not baptized he/she will never inherit the kingdom of God. As dictated in the bible, new borns have to be baptized on 40 days( boys) or 80 days( girls) after birth. Baptism is so important that in the case where a new born child may not make it to 40 days due to illness, he has to be baptized immediately. Newly converted adults can only claim to be christians after being baptized.

- Holy communion is given high importance. Without holly communion one cannot enherit the kingdom of God. While every child will have to take the symbolic blood and flesh of God, it is equally indispensable to do so as adult. The approach to the holy communion in the church however is strict: one needs to go through a full confession, fast the number of days as dictated by his priest( spiritual father) and only then can he present himself to holy communion. If the person is married both couples have to undergo this process together. After holy communion couples can not divorce and if one of them dies the other cannot remarry.

 

UNIQUE TO THE ETHIOPIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH

- The bible used by the Ethiopian orthodox church contains 81 books, with more books than the 66 adopted by other churches.

- There are several other religious books, written by Ethiopian Saints that the Orthodox church uses as reference.

- The church still maintains the old judaic rituals; every church has a replica of the arc of the convenant. Without it the building alone is not considered a church.

- Every orthodox christian is expected to have a priest as his spiritual father. The follower makes his/her confessions to his/her spiritual father face to face; the latter prescribes fasting to his spiritual child, period depending on the gravity of sins. It is restricted to change spiritual fathers unless he is deceased or moves to a distant area.

- Every Orthodox Christian has to fast. There are 2 kinds of fasting. The first is communal that every orthodox christian is expected to fast, such as deprivation of food and water for half day and not consumming animal products on Wednsdays and Fridays. The second is called personal fasting which the follower is expected to perform at his/her own discretion. Personal fasting can be prescribed by the spiritual father or can be self initiated.

- The Ethiopian Orthodox church gives a high place for Saint Mary. 3 days ( the 1st, 16 th and 21st of every month) are dedicated to commemorate the Mother of Christ. This has been instilled so deeply among followers that they refer the 21st as "today is Saint Mary". There are even pious followers who do not work on Saint Mary's days.( On a similar note every day of the month is dedicated to commemorate Saints and Angels.) It is a strong belief among followers that Saint Mary is a mediator who brings salvation, forgivness and blessing from her Son. Her 16 days exile is honored by Orthodox Christians as millions accross the country fast Filseta in unique ways.

- The Ethiopian Orthodox church condons ascetic life. There are thousands accross the country who dedicated their lives exclusively to their religion, sometimes vowing to a life time of silence, isolation not only from secular life but also from other humans.

One unique characteristic of the Ethiopian Orthodox church is its commitment to maintain its values and culture consider the following example.

The late Pope Abune Paulos of the Orthodox church ( 1992-2012) did his docotrate degree in the prestigious university of Princeton in the United States. After he was declared Pope of this ancient church he proposed several reforms to the religion. Among these minor changes was the way that high priests and popes dress. He said that this code was a tradition that need to be changed. "Since Christianity is a religion of hope " he said, " Priests and Popes need to get rid of their black robes and wear white instead." He made an example of himself and started to wear white. As the Pope celebrated his 20th year as leader of the church in a huge ceremony, he still remained the only one dressed in white.

Other reforms he had in mind such as making the Kidase prayers in Churches in Amharic ( more or less the national language) instead of Geez ( An ancient language not spoken by anyone in Ethiopia except priest) This seemed a very logical suggestion as followers will be able to understand the 3 hour long prayers. This suggestion however was refuted and never made it to the implementation stage as it was revoked by the vast majority. These examples are signs of how much Orthodox Christians are committed to preserve every bit of value when it comes to their religion...

 

Related links

 

- ABOUT FASTING

- HUDADE FASTING

- FILSETA FASTING

- LIFE OF ASCETIC MONKS

 

 

 

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