St. Tekla Hemanout

Christianity in Ethiopia

“And the Angel of the Lord spoke unto Philip, saying, ‘Arise, and go toward the south unto the way that goeth down from Jerusalem unto Gaza, which is desert’. He arose and went. And, behold, a man of Ethiopia, an eunuch of great authority under Candace queen of the Ethiopians, who had the charge of all her treasure, and had come to Jerusalem for to worship, Was returning, and sitting in his chariot read Isaiah the prophet”. (Act 8:26) Philip baptized that eunuch after he accepted the Christian faith. The eunuch transferred this faith to his country, but some of the Jewish traditions remained.

 

By the beginning of the 4th century, St. Athanasius the Apostolic ordained “Fromentius” as a Bishop over Ethiopia and was called Abouna Salama. Since then the Ethiopian church is affiliated to Saint Mark’s church in Alexandria.

 

A Christian Family

In the 13th century, a Christian family lived in Ethiopia; the husband who was a priest called “Sagaz Ab” (gift of Father), and his wife, Sarah, who was very rich and loved the poor. Their patron saint was the Archangel Michael, and they used to celebrate his commemoration on the 12th of every Coptic month by having a liturgy, followed by a banquet for the poor. Sarah was barren and she always prayed to God for a child. Sarah used to spend her time in church and she did her best with the poor and they called her “Agahazia” (chosen by God). One day, she thought of giving their money to the poor and liberating their slaves, and Sagaz Ab agreed, and hence they did.

 

Archangel Michael, the Patron Saint

After many peaceful years, a pagan called “Motmely” ruled the land of “Damoot” and “Shawa”. He closed many churches and tried to revive the worship of idols. One day “Talanece” was attached, where Sagaz Ab and Sarah lived. When the soldiers entered the country, Sarah was frightened and the people ran away from place to another.

Sagaz Ab took a route to hide and was followed by a soldier who wanted to kill him, until they reached a nearby lake, so Sagaz Ab threw himself in the lake to hide from the soldier asking the Archangel Michael to help him. At once he felt the water over him as if it’s a tent sheltering him, and the Archangel appeared to strengthen him. When “Sagaz Ab” did not show up for a long time, the soldier thought he was drowned and went back. The Archangel told him that he was saved because of the child to be born from him. He told him of great secrets about the child; and carried him back to the town on 12th of Baramhat.

 

When the priest went back, he found everyone in all the houses mourning. His wife Sarah was kidnapped by the soldiers to offer her to their king as a gift. “Sagaz Ab” was in great misery and sadness. He went into the church and kneeled before the Holy Alter and cried and sobbed a lot while he prayed to God to save his wife. When the king saw her, he ordered the richest clothes and precious jewels for her, and to keep her until their wedding in the city of the gods.

 

Sarah and the Archangel

On the 22nd of Baramhat, “Sagaz Ab” was prayig a liturgy, remembering his wife and the entire congregation prayed for her. He saw among the congregation a woman in precious clothes praying in great fear and awe to God.

After finishing the liturgy, he talked to all the new faces that came to the church and among them this woman. She told him that she had heard of a man called “Sagaz Ab” whose wife was kidnapped and hence she came to be his wife! Then the priest crossed himself and told her that priests do not remarry, and that God would protect his wife and would return her safely to him. Sarah smiled happily for her husband's faith and she uncovered her face. Her husband was surprised and asked her how she had come. She told him that she prayed for her safety, and Michael, the Archangel told her that she would return for the sake of her unborn son. When the wedding ceremony finished, there was lightening and thunder. The angel saved her and brought her to the church. The two kneeled before God and thanked Him for his protection.