The Ethiopian calendar is a little different to ours. It is a solar calendar and currently runs seven or eight years behind our Gregorian calendar because of an alternative calculation of the annunciation of Jesus. In Ehtiopia, today is 16 Nashi 2007 and it the beginning of a six-day festival of the assumption of the Blessed Virgin, Mary. The Assumption of the Virgin Mary is the most highly honoured Feast among all the saints.
“For Ethiopian Orthodox Christians, the blessed Virgin has passed beyond death and judgement and lives already in the age to come. Yet she is not utterly separated from the rest of humanity, for all humanity awaits and hopes to share that same bodily glory which Mary now enjoys. Even in her perfect state she intercedes for humanity until the final judgement”.
According to Ethiopian Orthodox tradition, Mary died on 12 Ter. The most commonly accepted story of her death and burial states that the Apostles, while taking the Virgin’s body to be buried at Gethesemane, were met by angels who lifted it up to heaven where John laid it under the Tree of Life. Later, after the Apostles prayed and fasted, the Lord returned his mothers body to the Apostles for burial on 16 Nashi. Three days later she was raised to heaven.
In the Ethiopian Orthodox tradition, every festal celebration is preceded by fasting and prayer as preparatory acts. In this respect, the Ethiopian practice is part of the larger Judeo-Christian tradition in which fasting has always played an important role as a moral and spiritual discipline. The celebration involves chanting of a variety of Marian Hymns and readings from the Book of Miracles, which is also read every Sunday.
Father John Minh from St Luke’s Peterborough is currently in Sebeya with Abba Solomon, parish priest of Most Holy Trinity Church. In preparation for his visit Fr John wrote a prayer to share with the community in Sebeya:
ኣቦና ኣብ ሰማይ እትነብር፣ ብለዋህ ቃላትካን ኢድካ ሰዲድካ ብምትንካፍን ንኢትዮጵያ ኣድሕና፡፡ ናይ ሰላም ውህብቶኻን ይቕረ ምባልን ቃላትካ ኣብ ልዕለና ኣውሕዞም፡፡ ካብ ውግእን ድኽነትን ኣውፀአና፣ ምስ ኣሓትናን ኣሕዋትናን ዘሎ ፍቕሪ ኣደልድል፡፡ ማእቶት እኹል ምግብን ፅሩይ ዝስተ ማይን ምእንታን ክንሓፍስ ምስ በረከትካ ባርኸና፣ ብዙይ ኣቢልና እውን ዘዕግብ ሕይወት ረኺብና ምእንታን ክንሕጐስን ብኽብሪ ክንጐዓዝን፣ ኣሜን
The prayer is in the local dialect of Tigrigna. In English it means:
Our Father in heaven. Heal Ethiopia with your kind words and touch. Pour your gifts of peace and forgiveness upon us and lift us out of war and poverty. Strengthen our friendship with our sisters and brothers. Bless us with your abundance so that we can harvest enough food and have clean water. May we therefore enjoy a decent life and walk in dignity. Amen.
ኦ ማርያም ወላዲተ ኣምላኽ፣ ለምንልና፡፡ ኦ ኣደ ዋልሲንግሃም ለምንልና፡፡
Mary Mother of God, pray for us. Our Lady of Walsingham, pray for us.