The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church as its own rules and regulations regarding religious celebrations. Nine religious celebrations of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ are observed every year. Christmas and Epiphany are the most important.
Ganna is a Greek word meaning "birth". In other words it is called "mystery of incarnation". Mystery of incarnation means the birth of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ from Blessed Virgin Mary, from her flesh and spirit to save the whole of mankind.
The mystery of His birth as a man in flesh is only taken as a wonder but it should not be examined. According to the Divine hope which the Almighty GOD gave to the world the advent and birth of Christ was very important because, as is written in the Book of Clement, GOD said ''After five thousand five hundred
years I will be born from your grandchild and save you from your sins.' There were also the hopeful words our forefathers, "When will you send your son? In my generation? or at another time?" Christ was born so that such hope may be fulfilled.
The Divine love, grace and forgiveness of GOD were revealed by the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ. Adam, who was ousted from the blessing of His GOD, got his former rank glory and honour. Reconciliation and forgiveness was established between heaven and earth. Mankind wanted reconciliation and forgiveness. He examined himself and got what he wanted. The era before the birth of our Lord is known as the era of misery and punishment. The era after the birth of Christ has been named "The era of forgiveness and mercy." "The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness on them has light shined."(Isaiah 9:1-2) "Glory to GOD in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased (Luke 2:14) The birth of Christ, in general, has liberated mankind form the devil and reconciled him with his environment and all creatures. The birth of Christ has enabled human beings to be the children of GOD.
Christ's birth must not be celebrated only once in a year. It is a concrete truth that His birth exists every hour, every day and within our life in general. The grace and honour which we got from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ is fertile and sustainable, and it always lives in our mind as the pillar of forgiveness (John 4:14)
The world has been waiting for many years to celebrate the birth of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Our Lord Jesus Christ was Born in Bethelehem, in accordance with the prophecy, on Tahasas 29 (Ethiopian Calendar) during the reign of Augusts Ceasar.
The world was renewed, darkeness became light and the birth of the Messiaha has ever since been an eternal symbol of admiration, a never-changing event of good news by which mankind was liberated from sin, in flesh and spirit.
THE HISTORICAL BACKGROUND
As the saying goes, "prophecy precedes action". Nothing can happen without a thought given to it. There must be twilight before sunrise and cloud before rain. As is written in Isaiah 7:14, "Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, a young woman shall conceive and bear a son and shall call his name Immanuel". The prophecy goes before the birth of Christ 700 years ago- "For to us a child is born, to us a Son is given, everlasting father, prince of peace" (Isaiah 9:6)
Christmas is a great day that has brought to men peace, love and liberty. We Ethiopians celebrate it in peace, chanting the Orthodox Tewahedo song in the manner of angels, of heaven and mankind who sang jubilantly at the time of His birth in Bethelehem.
"When the wise men saw the star they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy, and going into the house they sew the child with Mary his mother and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold, frankincense and myrrh" (Mathew 2:10-12)
We therefore follow this system, because we are followers of the original and authentic faith. We adore our Church which believes that "when the time had fully come, God sent forth his son, born of woman born under the law." (Gal. 4:4).
The Church is a sacred place where GOD abides. GOD says that his name will be glorified from east to west, even among pagans. "For from the rising of the sun to its setting, my name is great among the nations and in every place incense is offered to my name, and a pure offering for my name is great among the nations" (Malachi 1:11-12). We accept this prophecy and believe that we must help the poor, feed the hungry, quench the thirst of our fellowmen, and give clothes to the naked. We should also console those who cry in grief, look after and help orphans, visit and console the sick. Thus we must carry on such tasks in deep Christian faith. (Mathew 25: 31-46)
2. WHY DO WE CELEBRATE EPIPHANY?
The reason why Epiphany is celebrated is that mankind was liberated from his sin because of baptism. No one can be called Christian if he is not baptized. The days that come after the celebration are known as Epiphany (Epiphania) is many languages. St. Yared's song which goes "the Son of GOD was baptized at Yordanos in peace and happiness in the hands of St. John."
Epiphany is the ladder or the bridge of life by which we are born in spirit for the second time and by which we swim in faith the flood and storms of sin caused by the jealousy of our age-old enemy the devil. "Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for edifying. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and slander be put away. Be kind to one another." (Eph. 4:29-32). The grace of God gives us peace, blessing wealth, health etc... And we cannot achieve these by ourselves but the mystery and Almighty wisdom of GOD . Here Epiphany comes first.
The power and the grace that we get from Epiphany enables us to be victorious on the devil and death. We Christians believe that here are two births- one is birth in flesh from parents and the other is birth in baptism from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. "Man cannot get the kingdom of GOD unless he is born from water and spirit. You should be born for the second time" (John 3:1-8)
PROVERBS AND PROPHECIES IN THE OLD TESTAMENT
It has long been phrophesized that man accepts that he will be liberated from sin and believes that he is the child of the Trinity through Epiphany. We would like to mention a few of the proverbs and prophecies:-
1. I want you to know, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud and all passed through the sea. And all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and the sea. (1st Corinth. 10 : 1-2)
2. Noah built a ship to rescue his family. Only eight of them survived. Scholars interpret the believers were Noha's family, and the sea was a symbol of Epiphany and the ship a symbol of the church. "He went and preached to the spirits in prisons, who formerly did not obey when God's patience went in the days of Noah" (1st Peter 3: 20-21)
3. Our great father was baptized in the river Yordanos. Job's misery and curse was the example of Epiphany.
4. Niman, the king of Syria was baptized and cured from leprosy by the order of the prophet Elsa. (2nd Kings 5:1-16) And this was a symbol of the greatness of Epiphany.
5. "I will spill clear water on you and cure you from your paganism and sin"
6. The river Yordanos flew back to where it come from. The apostles jumped like a cow in ecstasy. Others were also happy (Hizk 36:25 Psalms 113:3)
THE BASIC BACKGROUND OF EPIPHANY
Jesus Christ, on his thirtieth birthday, started healing destitute on the day of epiphany. It was John Wolde Zekarias who baptized Him. His Father said at that time, "this is my Son whom I love". On this day Tabots (Where the Ten Commandments are inscribed) come out of churches and spend the night near rivers. Prayers are conducted and the Kidasie of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo church also continues. Then the water is blessed and sprinkled on the congregation. At this Juncture, we would like to point out that some church believers have mistakenly written that our church baptizes the believers every years. But the reason why we do this is to witness the glory celebrated every year on Tir 11 (Ethiopian Calendar.) If the celebration is on Wednesday no feast takes place at that time because it is a day of fasting. Instead, Tuesday will be fasting day. If the celebration is on Friday, Thursday will be a fasting day. This is called "Ghehad."
May Epiphany, by the power of GOD, be a dya of peace, love, grace and abundance.
May GOD be praised for his holy blessing
Archpriest Birhanu G/Ammanuel
Dpartment Head of the E.O.T.C. Evangelical
and Missionary Activities and
General Manager of Tenasae Publishing House
Understands Thou What Thou Readers?
This question which is basic, is an apostolic question which was posted to the Ethiopian spiritual traveller 1994 years ago. This is stated by the evangelist luke in Acts 8:30.
Now is not the time for us to say like the response given then "How can I, except some man guide me?" It is therefore apt that we the followers of the Ethiopian Orthodox faith know and perceive clearly about our faith and the birth of Christ before and after creation.
It is necessary to realize that one of the very basis through which the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church expounds her faith and teachers the faithful is the Mystery of Incarnation.
The Mystery of Incarnation means the mystery of the descending of GOD the Son who is one of the Trinity from heaven and taking up flesh and rational soul from the Holy Virgin Mary, thus GOD becoming man and man becoming GOD. This is attested by "the word became flesh and dwelt among us.
" (Jn. 1:14)When we discuss about the mystery of Incarnation what we should perceive in depth is that it is a religious obligation to know for oneself
and let others know that among the Trinity one person GOD the Son became man and carried out many works or miracles.
The fathers of the church explain this by saying "the first birth was known by the second birth" referring to the birth of the Son from God the father before creation which was known and cooperated by His birth without a father after creation from the Holy virgin Mary (Sunetyos 4:13)
As it is always wise to visualize things from the origin, the Lord God after creating Adam and Eve in his image and likeness knowing that they should keep the law, commanded them not to eat of the tree of good and evil found in the Garden of Eden. He warned them that if they transgress the law, break his command and eat of the tree that they shall surely die, and thus laid down for them a system of obedience to law and observance of cdommand. (Gen. 2:17). However, the devil, the enemy of man, tempted them by saying that "if you eat of the tree, you shall not surely die but shall be as gods" and made them eat of it. (Gen. 3:4).
Owing to this, they broke the law of God, were cursed, and the earth was also cursed for their sake; and it brought forth thorns and thistles. (Gen. 3:16-19). And after this, judgement was passed upon Adam and Eve, and their sons that they should suffer death of body and soul, descent into the grave and hell (Gen. 5:5)
Adam, due to the sin he has committed and for transgressing the law of his creator he as overwhelmed with remorse and wept. Having realized that although God created him to be the king of the earth he aspired to be the king of the heavens and ate of the fruit of the tree which he was forbidden thus committing sin against God and lost his favour, he made penitence; on account of which the Lord who is not slack concerning his promise and is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance and that sinners return from death to life, (2 pet. 3:9, 1 Tim 2:4) promised Adam by saying "after five thousand five hundred years I will be born from your progeny, be crucified upon the cross, die and save you". This is stated in the Book of Clement and the Synaxarium of April 7. The scholars of the church interpret 5 days as 5 thousand years and half day as 5 hundred years. Their interpretation is based on the sayings of the prophet of God St. David and the Apostle Peter "for a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past." (Ps. 90:4, 2 Pet. 3-8)
Based on the promise made above, many prophets have talked about the incarnation, or the birth of Christ as "God, who at Sunday times and in diverse manners spoke in times past unto the fathers by the prophets." (Heb. 1:1)
The prophets and their sayings
1. The Prophecy of Henock:-
he said "a white cow has emerged" and the scholar Abba Hiryakos further elaborating on this said "Oh! Cow that doesn't prick with its horn" regarding the Lord as cow, which doesn't prick with its horn meaning out of his infinite patience he doesn't destroy with his power.
2. The Prophecy of Abraham:-
Since he was given the promise "and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed," (Gen. 12: 3) and he was praying for the coming of Christ, the Incarnation, and expressed his wish by saying "will you send your son during my life time or at another time." (Gen. 12:3, 22-18)
3. The Prophecy of Moses:-
he has seen his prophecy that God will raise from your brethren a teacher (prophet) like me in the form of the flame of fire and the bush (Ex. 3:4)
4. The Prophecy of David:-
he said that God is known in Judea and his name is great in Israel, stated that our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ will be born in Bethelhem and prophesized "We heard of it at Ephratah: we found it in the fields of the wood." (Ps. 75:1 132:6)
5. The Prophecy of Jeremiah:-
he has prophesized that Jesus, the Son of God, will come and choose the twelve apostles, and his feet will touch upon the garden of olives where I saw him become man. (Jer. 11:51-52)
6. The Prophecy of Ezra:-
"the lion rose from the desert and he is the Son" (Ezra. Sutuel 11:37)
Further expounding on the above prophecies, the prophet Isaiah, one of the Major Prophets, seven hundred and fifty years before the birth of Christ, wrote in clear and vivid terms "Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel." (Isa. 7:14)
The prophet Micah, describing the country or place where he will be born, prophesized "Bethelehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel. "and the prophecy has been fulfilled in time (Mica. 5: 1-3)
7. The Tidings of Gabriel:-
At it is said, when the moment is right the mountain shall crumble. When five thousand five hundred years was completed on the exact year, month, day and time, in the year of St. John, month of March, Sunday at 9 a.m. the Angel Gabriel was sent yb God to the Holy Virgin Mary and said "you shall conceive... greetings, you are highly favoured, the Lord is with you." He said "the Lord shall partake rational soul and body from you and be one person and one nature; and you shall conceive and give birth to a son in virginity, don't be frightened. She replied "how can this happen since I don't know a man?" He replied "the holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the most High will overshadow you" to which she replied "I am the handmaiden of God, let it be as thou have spoken. Accordingly, the word of God, the son of God Jesus Christ was born of the Holy Virgin through the power of the Holy Spirit and became from two natures one nature; thus, God became man and man became God.
Mystery of Tewahedo (Unity)
Mystery of Unity or Tewahedo means "in the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God, and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us." (John 1:1-14)
St. Cyril while explaining about the mystery of Incarnation and Unity says "as it is written the Word became flesh and through the mystery of Unity which cannot be fathomed became one without mixture and separation. (religion of the fathers 73:16-30). Seen in greater perspective, unity or Tewahedo means the union of two or more things and becoming one. In this sense, mystery of unity means the unity God the son in the womb of the Holy Virgin by taking the nature and flesh of man. of man. In general, the word of God, the son who was born of God the father before creation without a mother, after creation dwelt for nine months and five days in the womb of the holy Virgin. And when he was born the word was united with the flesh, and the flesh with the word and made the power of the heavens and earth his own and the shepherds sang and praised" Glory to God in the highest. (Luke. 2:13).
The scholars of the church St. Cyril, St Basil, St. Ephrem... have written at length in their book, religion of the fathers about the unity of the flesh by saying it is like the unity of the flesh and soul. Just like the human soul without losing it abstract, rational and talking nature has united with the flesh, the word without losing the universal, broad, abstract, living and Godly nature united with human nature. Just as human nature without losing its corporeal limited, narrow nature is united with the soul, the flesh without losing its corporeal, limited and narrow nature is united with the soul, the flesh without losing its corporeal limited and narrow nature is united with the word. When the Lord God created man out of wind, fire, water and earth by uniting it with the soul, man is said to do any act by becoming one person and one nature and did the oct of this flesh and soul and not the flesh alone did it.
Likewise we say that Christ after unity, in his humanity performed divine works, and in his divinity he performed human works as one person one nature and it cannot be said by separating or dividing that Divinity did the work of Divinity and humanity did human works. This is Orthodox Teaching. After unity there is no becoming two.
Nature:- to understand nature it can be seen in two aspects as nature of God and nature of man. Basically, nature depicts essential attributes. When we say nature of God, we mean that God can't be seen touched, become sick or die. He is eternal, can't be created, not limited by time and space, is above human thought, all powerful. When we say human nature, we mean that man is a creature, shall pass away and change and is limited by time and space.
One Nature (Miaphysis):- One nature means just as briefly described above, that divinity and humanity, the nature of divinity and nature of humanity became united without mixture, change, separation and mingling; and became one without one destroying the other. When we say one nature, we don't mean one single nature. But when we say one nature in unity we believe in one united nature of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Note:- It is necessary to realize that one united nature and one nature have different meanings. One united nature means that Divinity and Humanity have become one through unity, one united nature.
One nature or one single nature means that one has destroyed the other or believing that only one exists. Since this contradicts unity it is not acceptable. In Greek it is called monophysite. It means one single nature.
The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church strongly objects to the word monophysite. She denounces this teaching. She completely rejects the teachings of Eutchyes which combines Divinity and Humanity and makes one destroy the other. What our church believes and teaches is one nature in unity. Because of this, she is called Orthodox Tewahedo Church.
One will and One Deed Will means that there is one will of God and man united as one. One deed means after the mystery of unity is completed in Christ, what Christ deed and does is one.
Because after unity it cannot be said that this is what Divinity has done and this what His humanity has done but what has been done by God and man Christ (John. 9:1-7)
Example:- He who performed miracles, was crucified, gave sight to the blind, cured the limping and changed the water into wine was Christ God and man, and he that was humanly hungry, thirsty, exhausted, sick, thrashed crucified and died is himself.
To say that it was his humanity that was sick, thrashed and cruscified; his humanity his humanity was thrashed, his humanity was crucified, his humanity died ... is Nestorian teaching. Orthodox teaching says God was trashed in his humanity, was sick in his humanity, was crucified in his humanity and died in his humanity; when God was trashed and crucified in his humanity, since Divinity is fully united with humanity is didn't separate from his humanity, To say that when God was thrashed and crucified His divinity or nature was not there or separated is a big hearsay.
Since Divinity does not die or be crucified to believe or teach that Divinity died or was crucified is the teaching of the heretics and not that of Orthodox teaching. The correct teaching and faith is God because of his humanity, was baptized, suffered and crucified because of his humanity, died and was burried because of his humanity but living in His Divinity. To believe and teach this is the correct faith and teaching.
Jesus means the Saviour of the world and Immanuel means God is with us. When explained at length, Immanuel means God was united with a rational soul and body in the Holy Virgin many and apart from sin became completely human dwelt among us, lived among us and will live for ever. It is therefore necessary that we understand and explain correctly what we believe in and know.
Glory be to the Holy Trinity
Archpriest Berhanu Gebre Emmanuel
Head of the Evangelical and Missionary Activities
Department and General Manager of Tensae