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Author Topic: Ethiopian Orthodox Sabbath Observance  (Read 8880 times) Average Rating: 0
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PoorFoolNicholas
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« on: April 17, 2011, 05:29:09 PM »

Hello my Ethiopian/OO brothers! I read somewhere that the Ethiopian Churches observe Sabbath as well as honor Sunday as the day of Resurrection. Is there anything special that you do for the Sabbath? Is it observed as the Jews observe it?

Also on a totally unrelated note: Are there any Ethiopian Orthodox Churches in the States that have services in English?
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« Reply #1 on: April 17, 2011, 06:57:05 PM »

This might be helpful:

http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php/topic,4610.msg60452.html#msg60452

I seem to recall this has been discussed elsewhere also.  If I find anything else, I'll link it.
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« Reply #2 on: April 17, 2011, 07:02:03 PM »

This tread is informative:

http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php/topic,26662.0.html
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« Reply #3 on: April 17, 2011, 08:11:05 PM »

Quote
The observance of the Jewish Sabbath as well as Sunday is an ancient tradition in the Ethiopian Church. Chapter 38 of the Ethiopian Didascalia commands the observance of both the Sabbath and Sunday. Gregory of Nyssa, who stands in great repute among Ethiopians, argued:
"With what eyes do you regard the Lord's Day, you who have desecrated the Sabbath? Do you know that these two days are related, that if you wrong one of them, you will stumble against the other?"
Nonetheless history has witnessed bitter disputes arise over the celebration of the Sabbath in the Ethiopian Church, principally between its two great monastic orders. It was not until the reign of the great King Zara Yakob in the middle of the fifteenth century that the matter was definitely settled. His reforms were embodied in one of the most important works in the Ethiopian literary corpus, the Book of Light. In settling the controversy the king did not introduce or give a new value to the Sabbath, but merely decided in favour of the established northern tradition of the Eustathian monks who, in the original home of the Semitized Aksumites, had consistently preserved Jewish elements with greater tenacity than the somewhat "watered down" southern tradition.
Source: "The Judaic Spirit of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church: A Case Study in Religious Acculturation" by John T. Pawlikowski (https://rapidshare.com/files/457928285/Judaic_Spirit_EOC.pdf)
« Last Edit: April 17, 2011, 08:11:32 PM by Michał » Logged
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« Reply #4 on: April 17, 2011, 11:08:43 PM »

I appreciate all of the info so far. What exactly is done on the Sabbath in a typical Ethiopian household? I saw mention of the reading of Psalms, and the Gospels, but what specifically?

Also, I know that Ethiopian Orthodox do not consume pork, are the other unclean meats also avoided?
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« Reply #5 on: April 19, 2011, 08:57:19 AM »

I appreciate all of the info so far. What exactly is done on the Sabbath in a typical Ethiopian household? I saw mention of the reading of Psalms, and the Gospels, but what specifically?

Also, I know that Ethiopian Orthodox do not consume pork, are the other unclean meats also avoided?
*BUMP*
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« Reply #6 on: April 19, 2011, 10:11:00 AM »

I read somewhere that the Ethiopian Churches observe Sabbath as well as honor Sunday as the day of Resurrection. [. . .] Is it observed as the Jews observe it?

Here is what the Fetha Nagast (a collection of Ethiopian ecclesiastical and secular laws, the former considered still valid in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church) says about it:
Quote
Christians must not stop work on Saturday, as the Jews do, but as Christians they shall work on this day. If among the [Christian] people some are found to behave like Jews, they will be driven away from the face of Christ. [. . .] Servants shall work for five days, but on Sundays and Saturdays they shall go to church to instructed in the service of God, because the Lord rested on Saturday when He finished the creation of the creatures and He rose from death on Sunday. On all Saturdays, except the day of Fesh, and on all Sundays, you [i.e., priests] shall receive the Eucharist between you in the church and rejoice. In the chapter on fasting it is said that no one shall fast on Sundays and Saturdays, except the Saturday on which Our Lord Jesus Christ was buried in the tomb.
Source: http://www.ethiopianorthodox.org/biography/01thelawofkings.pdf (pp. 114-115)

Also, I know that Ethiopian Orthodox do not consume pork, are the other unclean meats also avoided?

In the 91st chapter of the Kebra Nagast (http://goo.gl/st3OO) there are dietary laws which were supposedly given by God to the people of Ethiopia at the time of Queen Makeda. They are based on the Old Testament dietary laws but have seem to have some Ethiopian specifics (many exotic creatures listed). But if the Ethiopian Orthodox still follow these rules, it is not because they consider these animals to be ritually unclean, but because their meat is unhealthy. Here is what the Fetha Nagast says on this issue:
Quote
With regard to food, there is no prohibition in the Christian law, with the exception of what the Apostles forbade in the book of Acts [cf. Acts 15:20] and in their canons . . . These foods are not forbidden as things impure by their nature since they come from God's creatures . . . To us is allowed not to be forbidden anything except that which the law forbids as leading to the ruin of the soul and nature, and to the spoiling of the body. This is divided into two parts: the first is about what is suitable neither for food nor for medicine, not only among animals but also among plants. These are the animals which have poison, like rapacious animals which have nails and fangs, or animals which feed on poisons, and deadly plants which, on being eaten, spoil the intelligence and the entire body. [. . .] The second part deals with one who is doubtful about food and with one who scandalizes his neighbor by eating it. To these two parts the Apostle Paul refers . . . in the letter to the Romans [cf. Romans 14].
Source: http://www.ethiopianorthodox.org/biography/02thelawofkings.pdf (pp. 125-126)
« Last Edit: April 19, 2011, 10:13:07 AM by Michał » Logged
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« Reply #7 on: April 19, 2011, 01:36:21 PM »

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Christians must not stop work on Saturday, as the Jews do, but as Christians they shall work on this day.
Then how is it to be honored? If it is honored in a way different from all other EO/OO Churches, what exactly is done? This seems a little contradictory, because I've seen some Ethiopians say that one can cook a meal on the Sabbath, but try to have all you need for that meal prepared beforehand. So which is it? I'm confused. Some say do as little work as possible on Sabbath, while the Fetha Nagast states that one SHOULD work.
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« Reply #8 on: April 19, 2011, 02:46:36 PM »

This seems a little contradictory, because I've seen some Ethiopians say that one can cook a meal on the Sabbath, but try to have all you need for that meal prepared beforehand. So which is it? I'm confused. Some say do as little work as possible on Sabbath, while the Fetha Nagast states that one SHOULD work.

A couple of things have to be taken into account:
1. Pawlikowski, whom I quoted above, writes about two traditions: nothern, which was in favour of the Sabbath observance, and southern, which was against it; maybe the Fetha Nagast passage represents the southern tradition which was done away with by King Zara Yakob in the 15th century,
2. the Fetha Nagast, as I wrote in the previous message, is still considered valid in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, but -- as I previously failed to notice -- not as the canon law but as one of the "books on Church administration and on counseling"; the actual canon law of the EOC -- superior to the Fetha Nagast -- being contained, inter alia, in the Ethiopian Didascalia which are nothing else but the first seven books of the Apostolic Constitutions (cf.: http://www.ethiopianorthodox.org/english/canonical/books.html).

Below are quotes from the Apostolic Constitutions regarding the Sabbath observance.

Quote
Thou shalt observe the Sabbath, on account of Him who ceased from His work of creation, but ceased not from His work of providence: it is a rest for meditation of the law, not for idleness of the hands.
Source: http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf07.ix.iii.iv.html

Quote
Be not careless of yourselves, neither deprive your Saviour of His own members, neither divide His body nor disperse His members, neither prefer the occasions of this life to the word of God; but assemble yourselves together every day, morning and evening, singing psalms and praying in the Lord’s house: in the morning saying the sixty-second Psalm, and in the evening the hundred and fortieth, but principally on the Sabbath-day. And on the day of our Lord’s resurrection, which is the Lord’s day, meet more diligently, sending praise to God that made the universe by Jesus, and sent Him to us, and condescended to let Him suffer, and raised Him from the dead.
Source: http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf07.ix.iii.vii.html

Quote
. . . every Sabbath-day excepting one [i.e., the Great Saturday], and every Lord’s day, hold your solemn assemblies, and rejoice . . .
Source: http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf07.ix.vi.iii.html

Quote
He who had commanded to keep the Sabbath, by resting thereon for the sake of meditating on the laws, has now commanded us to consider of the law of creation, and of providence every day, and to return thanks to God.
Source: http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf07.ix.vii.iv.html

Quote
But keep the Sabbath, and the Lord’s day festival; because the former is the memorial of the creation, and the latter of the resurrection. [. . . ] O Lord Almighty Thou hast created the world by Christ, and hast appointed the Sabbath in memory thereof, because that on that day Thou hast made us rest from our works, for the meditation upon Thy laws. [. . .] On this account He [i.e., God] permitted men every Sabbath to rest, that so no one might be willing to send one word out of his mouth in anger on the day of the Sabbath. For the Sabbath is the ceasing of the creation, the completion of the world, the inquiry after laws, and the grateful praise to God for the blessings He has bestowed upon men. All which the Lord’s day excels, and shows the Mediator Himself, the Provider, the Lawgiver, the Cause of the resurrection, the First-born of the whole creation, God the Word, and man, who was born of Mary alone, without a man, who lived holily, who was crucified under Pontius Pilate, and died, and rose again from the dead. So that the Lord’s day commands us to offer unto Thee, O Lord, thanksgiving for all. For this is the grace afforded by Thee, which on account of its greatness has obscured all other blessings.
Source: http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf07.ix.viii.ii.html

In the light of these, it can be concluded that "[t]he Ethiopian Orthodox church . . . observes both Saturday and Sunday as holy, but places extra emphasis on Sunday" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sabbath_in_Christianity#Eastern_Christianity).
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« Reply #9 on: April 20, 2011, 11:57:54 PM »

Thanks for all the info Michał! For those within the Ethiopian Church, what do you guys do on Sabbath?
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« Reply #10 on: April 25, 2011, 02:59:39 PM »

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For those within the Ethiopian Church, what do you guys do on Sabbath?
Gebre? Anyone?
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HabteSelassie
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« Reply #11 on: April 25, 2011, 09:26:15 PM »

Greetings in that Divine and Most Precious Name of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

Hello my Ethiopian/OO brothers! I read somewhere that the Ethiopian Churches observe Sabbath as well as honor Sunday as the day of Resurrection. Is there anything special that you do for the Sabbath? Is it observed as the Jews observe it?

Also on a totally unrelated note: Are there any Ethiopian Orthodox Churches in the States that have services in English?

In the Ethiopian Orthodox, this has been about as longstanding and thorny an issue as has been Christological theology!  Essentially (much as in say Spain) because of the extended history of political and military rivalry in East Africa and Arabian peninsula between Jews and Christians and Muslims (I'm talking since the 3rd century!!), specifically within the various stages of the Ethiopian empire(s).

The issue was most vociferously argued during the so-called Ewesatewos controversy during the time of Saint Ewestatewos (14th century) in Ethiopia.  The Church then broke into two factions, and those under the abbot St Ewestatewos observed a dual Sabbath, both on Saturday (as was the contemporary Ethiopian Jewish custom) and on Sunday.  The Saturday Sabatarians essentially argued two points, a kind of Old Testament revivalism similar to the experience of colonial American Christianity, and also a means of streamlining the continuous proselytizing of Ethiopian Jews and Muslims (who had been observing the Sabbath) as the Empire grew and absorbed large populations of these folks into the Christian sphere.  The Emperors Yekuno Amlak and Amde Tsion and rival Bishops around Saint Tekle Haimanot on the other hand, were strict observers of the Christian Sunday Sabbath.  These were essentially regional/cultural differences that had manifested themselves into political and ecclesiastical business.  Each regional clergy mutually excommunicated each other at different times and were then quite divided to varying degrees of ferocity.

The matters were by no means settled, and continued to be divisive in Ethiopia for centuries until Emperor Zara Yacob, as the Head of the Church, officially settled the matter through major concessions (including land grants) with pacified each faction into supporting a compromise, the Church recognized both Saturday and Sunday Sabbath as Canon law. 

Still there were regional and localized variations after this time and the issue remained thorny up through the reign of Emperor Yohannes IV who also had the matter settled alongside settling the internal Christological debates in establishing formally the Ethiopian Church as the unified, pan-Ethiopian Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church. 

The way this manifests/affects the Church is as such:

For example, in relation to rules about the Sunday Sabbath.  There is no fasting (that is, complete abstaining from food, we still keep it vegan on weekends Smiley ) on Sabbath days, so there is no fasting on both Saturday and Sunday since Zara Yacob's time to this day.  At various times, this also affected things like business regulations with Saturday being days of complete rest as well as Sunday (though this has not been universal and has varied over the centuries).  Also, the Church celebrates the Divine Liturgy mandatory on Sabbath, so both Sunday and Saturday have traditionally been equally days to go to attend the Liturgy and receive the Eucharist.
The Saturday Sabatarians also helped to continue to influence of other Judaic aspects of Ethiopian Christianity including the musical instruments, sociocultural traits, architecture, dietary restrictions and even the taking off of shoes when entering a church building.  However, these can not necessarily be solely attributed to the influence of Judaism or even the Old Testament, because Ethiopia is an indigenous Semitic country, so many of these "Jewish" traits are actually pan-Semitic and so they are as much a coincidence as anything.  This is especially evident in customs like social organization, dietary habits, circumcision, and dress.  It used to a be a kind of chicken and egg question, however more recent anthropology, biology and archeology now suggests otherwise, and it is almost surely a fact that many of these Semitic traits may have even originated in Ethiopia long before Judaism ever even existed!

These "Jewish" (Semitic) traits are so thoroughly pan-Ethiopian that they can be found in rural and isolated populations who are "pagan/animist/traditionalists" and who have no historic or cultural relationship with neither Christian or Jewish (or even Muslim) Ethiopia.  Its actually quite intricate and complicated Wink



It also determines the Liturgical calendar and cycles of particular chants and prayers.

stay blessed,
habte selassie
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« Reply #12 on: April 25, 2011, 09:32:29 PM »

The issue was most vociferously argued during the so-called Ewesatewos controversy during the time of Saint Ewestatewos (14th century) in Ethiopia.  The Church then broke into two factions, and those under the abbot St Ewestatewos observed a dual Sabbath, both on Saturday (as was the contemporary Ethiopian Jewish custom) and on Sunday.  The Saturday Sabatarians essentially argued two points, a kind of Old Testament revivalism similar to the experience of colonial American Christianity, and also a means of streamlining the continuous proselytizing of Ethiopian Jews and Muslims (who had been observing the Sabbath) as the Empire grew and absorbed large populations of these folks into the Christian sphere.  The Emperors Yekuno Amlak and Amde Tsion and rival Bishops around Saint Tekle Haimanot on the other hand, were strict observers of the Christian Sunday Sabbath.  These were essentially regional/cultural differences that had manifested themselves into political and ecclesiastical business.  Each regional clergy mutually excommunicated each other at different times and were then quite divided to varying degrees of ferocity.

This seems sort of odd from my background of experience, as among the Byzantines it is common to say that Sunday is not Sabbath but Saturday is.
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« Reply #13 on: April 25, 2011, 09:48:14 PM »

Greetings in that Divine and Most Precious Name of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!
The issue was most vociferously argued during the so-called Ewesatewos controversy during the time of Saint Ewestatewos (14th century) in Ethiopia.  The Church then broke into two factions, and those under the abbot St Ewestatewos observed a dual Sabbath, both on Saturday (as was the contemporary Ethiopian Jewish custom) and on Sunday.  The Saturday Sabatarians essentially argued two points, a kind of Old Testament revivalism similar to the experience of colonial American Christianity, and also a means of streamlining the continuous proselytizing of Ethiopian Jews and Muslims (who had been observing the Sabbath) as the Empire grew and absorbed large populations of these folks into the Christian sphere.  The Emperors Yekuno Amlak and Amde Tsion and rival Bishops around Saint Tekle Haimanot on the other hand, were strict observers of the Christian Sunday Sabbath.  These were essentially regional/cultural differences that had manifested themselves into political and ecclesiastical business.  Each regional clergy mutually excommunicated each other at different times and were then quite divided to varying degrees of ferocity.


This seems sort of odd from my background of experience, as among the Byzantines it is common to say that Sunday is not Sabbath but Saturday is.

If you are familiar first-hand with any Ethiopians, you'll find that we are amongst the most ecclectic yet sincere in Christendom, especially Orthodox, just look at all the racket we make in Jerusalem each year, as we been rattling the nerves of those Greek and Russians for over a thousand years with our drum and dancing in the streets Wink

ps.. how could I forget the most distinctive and also Judaic aspect of Ethiopian Christianity, the traditions around the Ark of the Covenant and the subsequent veneration of our altar stones called Tabots.  One of our most festive occasions are our Tabot processions which are performed on high holidays, and it is why we venerate every single Ethiopian parish church building as if it were in fact Solomon's Temple.  To say you visited a Church in Ethiopia you say, "I kissed the Church" because we kiss the walls and floor upon entering and leaving the way Roman Catholics cross themselves with a splash of holy water.  It was one of the major things that even attracted me to the Ethiopian Church in the first place.
stay blessed,
habte selassie
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« Reply #14 on: April 25, 2011, 10:23:52 PM »

Thank you so much Habte! I appreciate all of the info! I must say that I love the Sabbatarian aspects of the Ethiopian Church. Is there any special familial customs done on the Sabbath? Or does this vary quite a bit?
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« Reply #15 on: April 26, 2011, 07:53:54 AM »

This seems sort of odd from my background of experience, as among the Byzantines it is common to say that Sunday is not Sabbath but Saturday is.

It looks like for HabteSelassie the word "Sabbath" means "the holy day of the week," but what it actually means is "Saturday." As you can see here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saturday in the "Languages" section (on the left), many languages (especially Slavic and Baltic) use some variation of the word "Sabbath" (Sabado, Subota, Sobota, Sabato, Sabide, Sabat, etc.) to connote Saturday. BTW, Saturday/Sabbath is observed in the Eastern Orthodox Church -- as a day of commemoration of the Holy Theotokos and All Saints, and as a day of prayers for the dead.
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« Reply #16 on: April 26, 2011, 07:57:14 AM »

I must say that I love the Sabbatarian aspects of the Ethiopian Church.

What do you love so much about it, if I may ask? From what HabteSelassie wrote, it looks like it wasn't much of a blessing the past (causing controversies, tensions, divisions, schisms, etc.).
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« Reply #17 on: April 26, 2011, 09:07:38 AM »

A little OT but informative anyway.  The translation of the Ethopian Liturgy into English.  I am also interested in knowing whether there are any Ethiopian churches in the US or Britain celebrating Liturgy in English.


http://www.ethiopianorthodox.org/biography/englishethiopianliturgy.pdf

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« Reply #18 on: April 26, 2011, 11:55:58 AM »

It looks like for HabteSelassie the word "Sabbath" means "the holy day of the week," but what it actually means is "Saturday."

Certain theologies view Sunday as the Sabbath - either that the Holiness was transferred to Sunday from Saturday, or that the Lord's Day was to replace Saturday as the Sabbath, or in some cases where Christians honored both Saturday and Sunday as separate Sabbaths that varied in importance, etc.

In these cases it means neither "Saturday," nor "the holy day of the week," but rather the day that God set aside for rest, worship, and to keep holy (as per the fourth Commandment).

Also, there are lunisolar Sabbatarian groups to which "Saturday" is not believed to be the Sabbath instituted by God in the Old Testament.

BTW, Saturday/Sabbath is observed in the Eastern Orthodox Church -- as a day of commemoration of the Holy Theotokos and All Saints, and as a day of prayers for the dead.

"A day of commemoration" is different from upholding a Judaic Saturday Sabbath, which the OP was apparently trying to figure out to what extent they did.
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« Reply #19 on: April 26, 2011, 12:18:19 PM »

. . . the day that God set aside for rest, worship, and to keep holy (as per the fourth Commandment).

That's exactly what I had in mind when I wrote "the holy day of the week."
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« Reply #20 on: April 26, 2011, 12:45:51 PM »

Quote
A little OT but informative anyway.  The translation of the Ethopian Liturgy into English.  I am also interested in knowing whether there are any Ethiopian churches in the US or Britain celebrating Liturgy in English.


http://www.ethiopianorthodox.org/biography/englishethiopianliturgy.pdf

Thanks for the link! I am still interested as well. Are there any Ethiopian Orthdox Churches in the U.S that hold services in English?
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« Reply #21 on: April 26, 2011, 12:48:27 PM »

. . . the day that God set aside for rest, worship, and to keep holy (as per the fourth Commandment).

That's exactly what I had in mind when I wrote "the holy day of the week."

Then I apologize for assuming.
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« Reply #22 on: April 26, 2011, 01:00:04 PM »

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What do you love so much about it, if I may ask? From what HabteSelassie wrote, it looks like it wasn't much of a blessing the past (causing controversies, tensions, divisions, schisms, etc.).
I love icons too! We all know how much bloodshed accompanied them! Wink
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« Reply #23 on: April 26, 2011, 01:55:28 PM »

Greetings in that Divine and Most Precious Name of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!
A little OT but informative anyway.  The translation of the Ethiopian Liturgy into English.  I am also interested in knowing whether there are any Ethiopian churches in the US or Britain celebrating Liturgy in English.


http://www.ethiopianorthodox.org/biography/englishethiopianliturgy.pdf



While there are several parishes working both independently and collectively on this matter, Liturgical reform in Ethiopian Orthodox has been even more difficult than it was in the Roman Catholic history (and we all know how that turned out Wink ) and vernacular languages have only entered the Ethiopian Orthodox since the 1930s, and only after the direct influence of HIM Haile Selassie who had the common prayers and litanies of the Liturgies translated and chanted in the national language Amharic (though to be sure, this isn't exactly a vernacular more a kind of lingua franca, there are hundreds of languages and dialects spoken in Ethiopia) as is the custom to this day.

Keep in mind that in the Ethiopian Orthodox, we rightfully venerate the hymnology and liturgical music of Saint Yared.  If you've heard and experienced it, you will understand our sentiments.  It is of the most sincere and beautiful chants in all of Christendom, and we have always been wary of any alterations.  Saint Yared's entire musical structure was organized in Ge'ez, the language of his era in the sixth century AD, but which has been the Latin of Ethiopia since around the 15th century.  Today Ge'ez is only fully understood by clergy and used as a sacred language for church chants and music, however it is not quite fair to say it is a "dead" language, because it is the language of the liturgy, and over years and years many people come to learn the Liturgy at least, and there are several similarities between Ge'ez and the current languages (like Amharic or Tigranya) which the ear can easily recognize.

A shift to English is then ALWAYS a bit controversial, but the current generation of Ethiopian Americans are just not steeped in enough Ge'ez/Amharic culture, plus there is a rising Lutheran sentiment regarding vernaculars, largely put on the table by the Ethiopian Lutheran Church (Mekane Yesus).  Personally, I'm a conservative in this matter, I think the language is irrelevant to the spirit,  people only THINK they need to know the language of the Liturgy, or that if the Liturgy were just in a language they spoke it would be easier.  NONSENSE! There are plenty of Rosetta Stone translations of Liturgies from every language of Orthodoxy, if you have a sincere spiritual zeal to learn these prayers in their original form, it can be done through a prayerful effort Smiley

Besides, if people are not taking the time to invest in learning the Liturgy as it is, how do somehow think that they will magically get a boost in effort by the Church getting lazy to match their own laziness? No disrespect intended, but I feel that the Liturgy is a matter of the heart, not the intellect.  It should be experienced first and directly, and perhaps comprehended later with study.  

Stay blessed,
Habte Selassie
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« Reply #24 on: April 26, 2011, 02:27:14 PM »

Thank you for the response HabteSelassie!  Language is always a hot button topic.  As a mostly monoglot American convert to Orthodoxy I feel most comfortable in English, and have gotten a little perturbed by the resistance to celebrating Liturgy in a language that the majority of Americans can fully understand, in particular the Greek and Slavonic supporters.  Call me a hypocrite but I am really taken with the beauty and passion of Ethiopian/Eritrean and in general, all African celebrations of the Liturgy and hymnology and am not as bothered by their use of non-English.  Maybe it's the love of the exotic, but I think it's more of being filled with a sense of unrestrained spiritual joy that seems to be missing sometimes from the worship style of other Orthodox.  I'm sure I'm way off base, so please someone shoot me down with words!
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« Reply #25 on: April 26, 2011, 02:34:39 PM »

Greetings in that Divine and Most Precious Name of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!
Thank you for the response HabteSelassie!  Language is always a hot button topic.  As a mostly monoglot American convert to Orthodoxy I feel most comfortable in English, and have gotten a little perturbed by the resistance to celebrating Liturgy in a language that the majority of Americans can fully understand, in particular the Greek and Slavonic supporters.  Call me a hypocrite but I am really taken with the beauty and passion of Ethiopian/Eritrean and in general, all African celebrations of the Liturgy and hymnology and am not as bothered by their use of non-English.  Maybe it's the love of the exotic, but I think it's more of being filled with a sense of unrestrained spiritual joy that seems to be missing sometimes from the worship style of other Orthodox.  I'm sure I'm way off base, so please someone shoot me down with words!


Amen, that is precisely and exactly the sentiment behind the Ethiopian resistance to liturgical reform.  There is a sincerely unrestrained spiritual joy in our hymn/chant/liturgy which is quite noticeably different from others in Christendom.  It is what first attracted me to convert this way..

stay blessed,
habte selassie
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« Reply #26 on: April 26, 2011, 03:02:40 PM »

Quote
What do you love so much about it, if I may ask? From what HabteSelassie wrote, it looks like it wasn't much of a blessing the past (causing controversies, tensions, divisions, schisms, etc.).
I love icons too! We all know how much bloodshed accompanied them! Wink

Deliberately not having icons is theologically incorrect. Is it the same with not observing the Sabbath? I don't think so. On the contrary, I believe that observing both Sabbath and the Lord's Day is theologically questionable. It's like observing both the Jewish and the Christian Pascha, or like keeping both Jewish and Christian fast-days, or like receiving both circumcision and baptism. After all, we are Christians, not Jews.
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« Reply #27 on: April 26, 2011, 03:06:51 PM »

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I believe that observing both Sabbath and the Lord's Day is theologically questionable.
I'm not too sure to be honest with you.
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« Reply #28 on: April 26, 2011, 03:30:58 PM »

Greetings in that Divine and Most Precious Name of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

Amen, that is precisely and exactly the sentiment behind the Ethiopian resistance to liturgical reform.  There is a sincerely unrestrained spiritual joy in our hymn/chant/liturgy which is quite noticeably different from others in Christendom.  It is what first attracted me to convert this way..

stay blessed,
habte selassie
[/quote]

Do you think that English translations of Ethiopian Liturgy/hymns could be done as beautifully?  I agree that Geez/Amhraic is an incredibly beautiful sung language, but would be more meaningful if it can be understood.  Case in point, I was just listening to a playlist of Ethiopian hymns but they could have been singing the phone book for all I know.  The only word I recognized was "Mariam" so I assume one was a song to the Mother of God.
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« Reply #29 on: April 26, 2011, 03:50:31 PM »

Quote
I believe that observing both Sabbath and the Lord's Day is theologically questionable.
I'm not too sure to be honest with you.

I would say it may not be incorrect for Ethiopians, given their Jewish heritage from the Queen of Sheba and the Ark of the Covenant. Sunday will always be greater than Saturday as the day of resurrection and of fulfillment. But, given the heritage, part of the Old Covenant remains active in the New Covenant Church of Ethiopia. The Ark is still venerated, though it is fulfilled in the Mother of God. It has not lost its previous grace, IMO. I've heard people who try to approach it without a "blessing" die on the spot, and not by the hand of man.
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« Reply #30 on: April 26, 2011, 04:08:31 PM »

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I would say it may not be incorrect for Ethiopians, given their Jewish heritage from the Queen of Sheba and the Ark of the Covenant. Sunday will always be greater than Saturday as the day of resurrection and of fulfillment. But, given the heritage, part of the Old Covenant remains active in the New Covenant Church of Ethiopia. The Ark is still venerated, though it is fulfilled in the Mother of God. It has not lost its previous grace, IMO. I've heard people who try to approach it without a "blessing" die on the spot, and not by the hand of man.
That's what I wonder about. If it's ok for the Ethopians to keep Sabbath and venerate the Ark/Tabot, why not the rest of us?
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« Reply #31 on: April 26, 2011, 04:13:40 PM »

Quote
I would say it may not be incorrect for Ethiopians, given their Jewish heritage from the Queen of Sheba and the Ark of the Covenant. Sunday will always be greater than Saturday as the day of resurrection and of fulfillment. But, given the heritage, part of the Old Covenant remains active in the New Covenant Church of Ethiopia. The Ark is still venerated, though it is fulfilled in the Mother of God. It has not lost its previous grace, IMO. I've heard people who try to approach it without a "blessing" die on the spot, and not by the hand of man.
That's what I wonder about. If it's ok for the Ethopians to keep Sabbath and venerate the Ark/Tabot, why not the rest of us?
They don't keep Sabbath *with the Jews* in the Synagogues, for one.
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« Reply #32 on: April 26, 2011, 04:14:11 PM »

I would say it may not be incorrect for Ethiopians, given their Jewish heritage from the Queen of Sheba and the Ark of the Covenant.

"[T]here is neither Greek nor Jew . . ." (Col 3:11).
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« Reply #33 on: April 26, 2011, 04:17:58 PM »

Greetings in that Divine and Most Precious Name of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!


Do you think that English translations of Ethiopian Liturgy/hymns could be done as beautifully?  I agree that Geez/Amharic is an incredibly beautiful sung language, but would be more meaningful if it can be understood.  Case in point, I was just listening to a playlist of Ethiopian hymns but they could have been singing the phone book for all I know.  The only word I recognized was "Mariam" so I assume one was a song to the Mother of God.
The simple answer, yes, of course Smiley

I am a native English speaker, though I now have learned Amharic with a decent pronunciation and fluency, I even got my own particular manner of speaking which is distinct and I enjoy my Amharic persona, and I also learned much of the Divine Liturgy chant in Ge'ez.

I am terrible with languages, so the Amharic has been a constant battle, but steadily it has gotten through.  However, the Liturgy is different, I learned much of the Liturgy within my first year at the Church using a phonetic transcription into latin/english characters of the Ge'ez words.

For example:

The first words are

"Ahadu Ab Qidus, Ahadu Weld Qidus, Ahadu witu Menfes Qidus" (phonetic transcription) which means in english something like "Having Been Made Into One, Father is Holy; Having Been Made Into One, Son is Holy, Having Been Made Into One, also the Holy Spirit [is Holy]"

The Chant is in one of three tones which are determined seasonally by the the various interacting parameters set by the Calendar or the purpose, for it is the beginning of any liturgical service be it a Baptism (or just the blessing of any holy water in general even), Wedding, Ordination, Unction, etc..

I learned this chant in its three tones by ear through my experience in the Church services and in careful study and practice with my Liturgy book with its phonetic transcriptions.  I am a talented improvisational musician with a lot of varied musical experience, so I will admit plainly that it helped me learn the Liturgy so quickly, but I am convinced that with similar effort even a musical dolt could learn the Liturgy in Ge'ez in time.

To answer you question more particularly then, I would say that I have learned to chant the tones of the Yared's chants of the Ethiopian Church in a variety of English prayers, specifically from my Agpeya (Coptic Orthodox prayer book of the Hours) which I use daily for my devotions.  I taught myself through a prayerful effort, keeping in mind Saint Augustin's advice that he who sings a prayer prays twice, to chant the Psalter and the Litanies in English but in the Ethiopia tones.  I really really enjoy these prayers and sometimes just sing them walking along the road, in the Ge'ez tones and melodies.

That being said, of course they could be equally sung in English in the Church! But let me give you the insider info, the secret to the beauty of the Ethiopian Church services is the absolute sincerity of many of the clergy.  It is obvious to anyone who attends one of services that the priests have a bit more "unrestrained joy" (as you rightfully phrased it above) in the prayers.  Our priests are the polar opposites of the Pharisees who were distant in prayers, and were merely pretending even!
Orthodox has taught me to revere all Orthodox and even Catholic clergy as a Sacrament of God, however I have easily met more enthusaistic priests than others.  Some services are sublimely more ecstatic than others.  The major complaint of Catholics has been the revisions of Vatican II, and they are often nostalgic and taken back by their experience of Orthodox services to the point of jealousy because we across the jurisdictions keep it old school and original.  
The reason today there are not English liturgies in the Ethiopian Church is that there are not very many of the priests who are sincere or enthusiastic about singing these prayers in English.  The few attempts I have witnessed were rather uneventful and unfruitful in the long term..  We then should pray about the matter, that if God Will's it, He will bless the clergy with the same spiritual zest and zeal they have for the ancient and venerable Ge'ez as they may with English one day (or fully Amharic or Oromo or Tigranya etc etc)

stay blessed,
Habte Selassie
Quote
What do you love so much about it, if I may ask? From what HabteSelassie wrote, it looks like it wasn't much of a blessing the past (causing controversies, tensions, divisions, schisms, etc.).
I love icons too! We all know how much bloodshed accompanied them! Wink

Deliberately not having icons is theologically incorrect. Is it the same with not observing the Sabbath? I don't think so. On the contrary, I believe that observing both Sabbath and the Lord's Day is theologically questionable. It's like observing both the Jewish and the Christian Pascha, or like keeping both Jewish and Christian fast-days, or like receiving both circumcision and baptism. After all, we are Christians, not Jews.

True, this is exactly the bone of contention across the centuries in the Ethiopian Church.  For example, in the Church Law it is actually explicitly forbidden for public observance of any of the distinctly Jewish high holidays, with Passover and Yom Kippur mentioned specifically by name even. The Ethiopian theology teaches that all the sacredness of the Old Covenant rituals, liturgies, observances, regulations and holidays were transferred fully into the New Covenant relationship with the One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic Church.  So the Fasika/Resurrection is quite legally our Passover observance, our reception of the Eucharist is quite literally our observance of the Mosaic prescribed sacrifices for sins, our Pentecost celebrations are the Feast of Weeks, our Sunday quite literally the snuffed candle Sabbath (which has been quite strictly observed at different times). This is both Church Law and the teaching of our theological Fathers through specifically Ethiopian Church history in reaction to particularly Ethiopian nuances (such as the serious political/military rivalry between Ethiopian Jews and Christians which sparked in open war in the 5th, 10th, 13th,18th and 19th centuries!!).
But there are other nuances as well, for example the Ethiopian Church observes strict circumcision, dietary restrictions on pork and fish, and ritualistic purity in regards to menstruation and sexual activity, very much akin to the Laws of Moses.  However, it is almost very much a coincidence, as these are deeply rooted, Pan-Ethiopian, indigenous Semitic cultural traits particular to Ethiopia in its richly diverse heritage.  Even the "pagans" sincerely maintain these same cultural traits, and in fact is has been one of the major reasons for success of the Ethiopian Orthodox.

Where the Roman Church has to Latinize and Romanize the mostly Semitic/Eastern religion of Christian to suit the sociocultural needs of the Western Christians, the Ethiopian Orthodox had to over emphasize even the Semitic/Eastern aspects of Christianity to suit the sociocultural needs of its indigenous Semitic societies.

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« Reply #34 on: April 26, 2011, 04:22:17 PM »

If it's ok for the Ethopians to keep Sabbath . . . why not the rest of us?

Who said it's OK? Only the OOs -- taking into account that they don't oppose the practice. But there was no EO blessing for it. AFAIK, the EO Archdiocese of Axum does not observe the Sabbath.
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« Reply #35 on: April 26, 2011, 04:46:58 PM »

Habte Selassie - There should be a prize of some kind for your long, thoughtful posts.  I learn more from them than just about anyone on OC Net and I'm sure they are appreciated by many others here.  Thank you.
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« Reply #36 on: April 27, 2011, 12:35:34 AM »

Habte Selassie what exactly is done in the typical Ethiopian household on the Sabbath, assuming of course, that it is observed?
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« Reply #37 on: April 27, 2011, 08:30:46 AM »

Habte Selassie - There should be a prize of some kind for your long, thoughtful posts.  I learn more from them than just about anyone on OC Net and I'm sure they are appreciated by many others here.  Thank you.


Agreed!



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« Reply #38 on: April 27, 2011, 03:06:37 PM »

Quote
What do you love so much about it, if I may ask? From what HabteSelassie wrote, it looks like it wasn't much of a blessing the past (causing controversies, tensions, divisions, schisms, etc.).
I love icons too! We all know how much bloodshed accompanied them! Wink

Deliberately not having icons is theologically incorrect. Is it the same with not observing the Sabbath? I don't think so. On the contrary, I believe that observing both Sabbath and the Lord's Day is theologically questionable. It's like observing both the Jewish and the Christian Pascha, or like keeping both Jewish and Christian fast-days, or like receiving both circumcision and baptism. After all, we are Christians, not Jews.

The historical distancing between Christianity and "Judaism" was really particularly between Christianity and Rabbinicalism. Your post would seem to imply that emulating any particular element of pre-Advent Judaism would be theologically questionable. Do you really believe that?
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« Reply #39 on: April 27, 2011, 03:12:17 PM »

If it's ok for the Ethopians to keep Sabbath and venerate the Ark/Tabot, why not the rest of us?

Personally, given an identification of the Church with OT Israel, viewing us as essentially the same People of God, I think that there are various points at which it would be appropriate to honor or OT heritage, though we, as Gentiles, were never bound to those covenants.
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« Reply #40 on: April 27, 2011, 03:13:13 PM »

They don't keep Sabbath *with the Jews* in the Synagogues, for one.

Yes, of course such a degree of association with the Rabbinicalists is not acceptable.
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« Reply #41 on: April 27, 2011, 03:14:10 PM »

I would say it may not be incorrect for Ethiopians, given their Jewish heritage from the Queen of Sheba and the Ark of the Covenant.

"[T]here is neither Greek nor Jew . . ." (Col 3:11).

And what do you think that was particularly in response to? (loaded question)
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« Reply #42 on: April 27, 2011, 03:14:24 PM »

The historical distancing between Christianity and "Judaism" was really particularly between Christianity and Rabbinicalism. Your post would seem to imply that emulating any particular element of pre-Advent Judaism would be theologically questionable. Do you really believe that?

Depends on which element and what for, but generally speaking -- yes.
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« Reply #43 on: April 27, 2011, 03:15:55 PM »

If it's ok for the Ethopians to keep Sabbath . . . why not the rest of us?

Who said it's OK? Only the OOs -- taking into account that they don't oppose the practice. But there was no EO blessing for it. AFAIK, the EO Archdiocese of Axum does not observe the Sabbath.

Cause the Ethiopians weren't doing this before the schism.  Roll Eyes
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« Reply #44 on: April 27, 2011, 03:21:27 PM »

There is an underlying assumption in these posts that I actually have a bone of contention with, that is "we are Christians, not Jews". This statement is true in some sense, but in another it actually is not. Yes, it is clear that we are not Rabbinical Jews and that Rabbinical Judaism is a heresy/apostasy. Yes, it is true that we are not bound to the old covenants and must not create divisions in the Church on the basis of insisting upon their practice. However, taking this "we are Christians, not Jews" as totally and completely true in any sense is not compatible with the identification of the Church with Israel. Besides this, the Apostle Paul actually identified Christians as Jews in some sense; he referred to them as "true Jews". He had a big emphasis on not using the old covenants as stumbling blocks for Gentiles, but it is also clear that he did not have a problem with individuals choosing to honor the Jewish heritage of the Church. As such, I'm confident that people here are ripping "neither Greek nor Jew" out of context.
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