after reading this thread I was in a dilama of how I could address the complex nature of the issue without once again breaking the etiquet of the forum, and writing a long reply. since I could not find a way I will again ask for forgiveness, for my lack of scholarly condensation of issues, and will share my personal view on this matter and if you will bare with me I will come to the point at some point
If we were to answer every time to all that has been said and is being said about the Ethiopian orthodox Church, I doubt a thousand books would suffice . however in the interest of using this opportunity to confess the tewahedo faith I a woman of Ethiopian orthodox Tewahedo Church, who is neither a scholar of any sort nor have any theological degree or any philosophical or linguistic degree, would like to do my part as a faithful of the church to answer to the sinful lies that are being disseminated by false brethren the best I can.
This woman and her husband are few among legions who have thought to rewrite history, and scriptures to fit their own grandiose delusions and prejudices. They use a very interesting term ‘two white men’ who came from the red sea etc as I was reading it, I thought how outrageous it was and how very unchristian like to use to those who by their own words were bringers of the gospel of Jesus Christ in their apostolic mission to call them by a racial term ’white men’ how vile! How sick! Is this the sentiment of the Protestants who seek to depersonalize our apostolic fathers and our saints into skin colors? Yet it strike me that there is a purpose to them saying white men, could it be an attempt to incite a racial bias among the Ethiopians who of course are black? it does correlate what these organizations are doing inside Ethiopia when they attempt to portray to the Southern Ethiopians that Orthodoxy is the religion of Northerners and they should reject it even on political principles as a result of which many churches are burnt and clergy and laity killed with ethnic hatred supported by religious sentiment. Does the person being black or white or of this origin or that have anything to do with the Gospel of our Lord they claim to want to preach? If so they have a lot to learn from the Ethiopian orthodox who according to the Gospel believe in giving due honor and reverence to those that bring the gospel of the Lord trusting in His word when he said ‘ He that hears you hears me; and he that despises you despises me; and he that despises me despises him that sent me.’ Luke 10:16 again on John 13:20 ‘ truly truly I say to you, He that receives whomsoever I send receives me; and he that receives me receives him that sent me.’ ‘Whosoever shall receive one of such children in my name, receives me: and whoever shall receive me, receives not me, but him that sent me.’ Mark9:37 and on the ground of such a promise we receive all those who proclaim the Orthodox Faith as did the early Christians when they received the apostles as St. Paul testifies about the Galatians ‘ and my trial which was in my flesh you did not despise , or reject but received me as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus. What then was the blessing you enjoyed? For I bare you witness that, if possible, you would have plucked out your own eyes and given them to me.’ Galatians4:14-15 so now suddenly these false brethren start to tell us these orthodox fathers are our enemies because they told us the truth? They zealously court us shamelessly using political rhetoric to follow them in their departure from the Orthodox Faith. Yet Ethiopian orthodox we know such earthly political slavery of hate is unbecoming of the Christian, for the Jerusalem above is free, which is the mother of us all. Galatians 4:26 so the Ethiopians also greatly revere those that brought them the Gospel of our Lord thanking Him for sending them. St. Philip the Apostle ! The Ethiopian Eunuch! ‘bitsue we diqdus kessate birehan abune selama !/St. Fremnatios /Abba Salama, reveler of the light or the illuminator/ father of peace ! St. Athnasios of Holy Alexandria and the pillar of orthodoxy, the brothers Emperors of Ethiopia St. Ezana and St.Saizana these and many more are revered and loved deeply by orthodox Ethiopia . The Holy Spirit that told St. Philip to teach the Ethiopian Eunuch also brought the tempest that brought us St. Fremnatios! The Holy Spirit that made the Ethiopian Eunuch ask for the help of St Philip made St. Fremnatios ask help from St.Athanasios who in turn inspired by the Holy Spirit made St Fremnatios himself Bishop of Ethiopia Glory be to God!
When we talk about the liturgical language of the Church, after Chalcedon the Holy Spirit sent us the Nine Saints who translated holy scripture , canonical and liturgical books into geez the language of the time in Ethiopia, initiated and strengthened the monastic life in Ethiopia by their incredible example of faith ,humility, love, hope ,perseverance , and all the other virtues that the treasury of virtues the Holy Spirit gives , because of that their fruit is still present and very much alive and multiplying in Ethiopia. These saints are revered and loved greatly in Ethiopia and when we look at unquestionable examples of what one needs to do when it is necessary to speak of the Faith in a different language , it is their undying work and testimony that we look at. they have come from different countries, although we know them mostly as the Syrian Holy Fathers, I as a lay Ethiopian woman I have no words to express my infinite gratitude and deep love I have for them along with my fellow Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo faithful who share that gratitude and love. Their translations are not only the treasure of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church but also the treasures of the whole Christian world. We realize then that God is not only communicated in Geez but in all languages that he has given to man. And the urgent need to use diverse languages of Ethiopia to carry out the Church’s apostolic mission is already agreed upon within the Church, with the first complete Amharic translation of the Holy Scripture by Abu Rumi, the need of properly printing the complete texts within the church was recognized and commissioned by the Emperor Haile Silasse I , and that along with all the readings and church sermons being given in Amharic that continues still today helped strengthen the church, the Emperor also opened the first Theological College in Ethiopia. He and his wife rebuilt many churches and monasteries that were destroyed by the Muslims and from the time of Judith the Jewish invasion. All these efforts came to an abrupt halt by the rise to power of the communist regime in Ethiopia. The communists killed the Patriarch and many priests and monks who they perceived to be a threat to their Godless agenda. Closed the theological colleges forbade any youth gathering , sermons were being monitored for challenges of what the regime was doing, the streets of Ethiopia became saturated with blood of her intellectuals and her Christian faithful , the regime forced the church to put to the patriarchate someone quickly , and God’s providence provided A hermit who the regime assumed to be easily controlled, the patriarch Abune Teklehaymanot II , however that was a grave mistake on the part of the regime, the patriarch far from being complacent he started to oppose the regime’s agenda in a very deeply spiritual way. to name few examples, in a time where there were corrupt clergy that were serving the regime and themselves, He refused to accept any luxury, the patriarch of the richest institution (as the church was called back then by the communists) in Ethiopia walked barefoot, dressed in the simplest garment of a monk, wearing the yellow garment which represented the burial shroud of Christ, which testifies his death and resurrection. He would hold his wooden cross (the golden one on his official meetings out of the request of his colleagues), stopping for every person that comes for blessing, walked barefoot everywhere inconspicuous without entourage and his body ever frail with intense fasting, with tears rolling silently on his face as he stands among the orphans of the civil war that he founded an orphanage for. He became a fire that refused to be stumped out by the communists, his life gave strength and hope for the faithful, the presence of Christ within the church, living their poverty, sharing their suffering, a true priest all looked at when there was a doubt if there were any true ones surviving. For anyone interested it is worth ones time to know a bit about this Holy Father, a true shepherd servant of the Church. The issue of his clothing and his shoes were very instructive, the clergy begged him to change his hermit garments and wear a sandal that was worn by the monks in debre damo for the sake of the honor of the Ethiopian church. He relented and wore the yellow garment and the sandal they gave him whenever he held a meeting and since the president had said he has to wear a shoe when he comes to visit the palace he wore the sandals then, but refused to eat anything besides bread and water/tea/. The president thought this monk is easily controlled because he nearly never preached as he always allowed others to do it, so in the president’s mind this man was doing nothing to contradict him and his agenda, but nothing can be further from the truth. His life transformed many. Each time he met with the president he begged for the ending of the civil war, the president of course ignored him. the communist officials have been ready to use this patriarch to turn the Ethiopian orthodox Churches into museums and they asked him to sign documents granting them the ownership of all to them thinking they had someone they can manipulate , to which he answered that those churches were not his property but the property of all the Orthodox faithful of Ethiopia and he has to consult with everyone of those faithful before he signs anything over to the communists, that made the communists realized they had indeed helped the election of a cunning and powerful man rather than a weak patriarch he appeared to be in their eyes. This very patriarch was the one who ended up quietly publishing the 81 canonical Amharic bible of Ethiopian orthodox tewahedo church! The irony of this entire history still makes me be in awe of the wisdom of God and His Power over all things! Now Ethiopia is home to over 76 languages and Amharic being the main language of communication. Since nearly all scriptures are translated into Amharic now intense translation work is underway to translate the liturgy and other church service books into other languages that can be used by the native speakers. To say no one understands geez in Ethiopia is nothing but a lie, coming from a wife of a protestant man who claims to have a reputation of his love for Biblical Greek, do you see the irony here? Geez is still very much understood and used within the church and among our linguistic and historical scholars, as it is the language we first read the scriptures with and many sacred ancient texts are read and interpreted. And yes we too love the richness of geez in giving us apt words for description of theological concepts. The liturgy when sung is sung with geez only because the musical nota was written first by St Yared for the geez text, but the Divine liturgy is not always sung it is also chanted, when chanting is done it is done almost always in Amharic! The readings are in Amharic, the sermons are in Amharic! The prayer books are all translated into Amharic and nearly all laity has at least one text of the daily prayer book at home, everyone has the psalms the daily prayer that includes the renunciation of Satan, the our father, the salutation, the Nicean Creed, the Trisagion , the praise to: the Holy Trinity , Virgin Mary, the Holy cross, the prayer of St Mary or the magnificent, the praise of Mary by St. Ephraim and the Gospel of St John the Beloved even from early times. In the above mentioned all the theological teachings of the church are packed into those texts and those in the country side who if they are literate would pray with or if they are not they would hear prayed by their church.
This is not to say that there are no language problems in the church, no far from it, but it is to say these things are work in progress due to economic and social reasons rather than lack of theological understanding of the necessity of the translations. By the grace of God, the closed theological schools are now open and many seminaries are being open all over the country to train the clergy in all the necessary works of the church. The laity is being educated via night services and Sunday schools all over the country, the youth that used to be drafted from churches into wars which was the case during the communist era, where they targeted those youths that were Sunday school teachers and servants by drafting them into the military, now the youth is gathering to praise God, and to get education it is the youth today that is undertaking the translation work of the other Oriental Church father’s works today so the church can benefit and gets to know the universal church and strengthen our relationship with our brethren. It is the youth that is using music to instruct to encourage to console and edify the members of the church; it is the youth that is reinvigorating the monastic tradition of the church. The church once considered to be a museum is very much alive and young Glory be to God!
The attack of the communists against the church has been received with glee by the protestant camp. While the orthodox church used the church buildings for gathering the protestants did not require that for their services they went into each house emphasized what was already being preached by the communists that the church was backward, full of superstition( these are people who say they are Christian and yet who believe that the ash from the censor of the liturgy can actually be used to heal their ailment, that touching and kissing the garment of their priests can heal them, that the wearing of prayer scrolls protect them, the bathing in the holy waters will heal them from any disease), does not even know Christ(yet their name is Haile kristos/ might of Christ/ Gebre kristos/ Servant of Christ/ Amannuel ,Fikirte Kiristos/beloved of Christ/ Hirute Kristos/Gift of Christ), believes in fasting when it is not necessary(gosh nearly 250 days of the year they are fasting), believes in repentance when all you have to do was say you believe in his name and you are guaranteed salvation, believes in the communion of saints when it is known that the saints once dead they are no longer alive , the church believes in Holy Eucharist when it is known that its only a symbol not a real flesh and blood of the Lord, on many cases the protestant camp did not even fully understand what the church teaches in order to contradict it properly and sometimes a purposeful distortion of known facts were applied as a further tactic of confusing then converting people to their camp. One of them is the understanding of what orthodox Tewahedo means, why the church went to the extent of including this very word into what defines her as One Holy Catholic Apostolic Church, of course these people whether knowingly or not they are content in this sinful act of lying even in the face of what the church clearly says about her faith. Tewahedo means union, to represent the Cyrilian Christology the church follows, we do not say He is half Man half God, we do not say His Divinity Swallowed His humanity, we do not say He was two persons one God and the other man, we do not say His divinity adopted His humanity, we do not offer worship to His divine nature apart from His human nature, all worship is offered to the One Incarnate logos. We say Eternal Logos unified Himself with our flesh in perfect unity that is without confusion, without alteration, without mingling. And we say ‘ ke Tewahedo behula mintawe yelem!”/ after unity there is no duality or separation, not even for a second!, and distinguishing the two natures in Christ after the union only can happen in contemplation we refuse to talk of duality after This Union!!! The other day I was reading a book by a catholic priest entitled my life with the saints, I came upon a phrase borne out of Nestorian outlook about Christ, it speculated on the hidden life of our Lord as well as St. Joseph and while doing so it goes on to consider whether or not the young Jesus fell in love , Lord Have Mercy! I threw the book far away from me, then my ingrained respect for the written word, made me pick it up and stash it where I cannot see it again. Yes it reminded me of the time of trial for the church during Emperor yohanis’s reign when the heretics who were saying that Christ had adopted humanity, and some anointed humanity , during the debate in the court of the emperor the theologians of the church expressed their faith in tewahedo in poetry that was the tradition of the church‘ qal emne siga be afea feletu wulude rome zenteni limade zeafa ze rome keme e-nigeber limade wahid ena kile’etu be Tabor gibhide zesegedehe le qal enze yiresi ahade lesiga segede habe segede baede ab eseme e-welede we dingil e’weledet baede!’ raphly translated ‘let us not do as children of the heretics are accustomed to do when they divide the flesh and the logos, for the unity of the two was revealed on Tabor, when one kneels in worship of the Logos ,one kneels to the very same one who is Incarnate In Flesh, no other did the Father begot, No other did the Virgin gave birth to!’ this of course was strictly against the Nestorian Christology.
So what has been said by the false brethren today is no news when it comes to defamation of anything that has to do with the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church. Both ignorance and arrogance laced with malice is the motivation factor. As to what someone asked about how are they being treated by the faithful of the church, well we are very well aware of the commandment of Love . and we do love them as people, and we do understand the futile nature of their erroneous ways, and where it will lead, thus out love we try to educate and appeal to them, when they refuse to listen to the church we excommunicate them in a hope that they will see that they have no union with the body of Christ while in such state of heresy and return to the fold of Christ. Titus 3:10-11 ‘reject a divisive man after the first and second admonition, knowing that such a person is wrapped and sinning, being self condemned’ This excommunication is taken very seriously by the church and her members.2 John 1:7-11, ‘…… if anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into your house nor greet him for he who greets him shares in his evil deeds.’ This is said about false brethren and they are taken very seriously. Although there are sincere faithful people among them, many have joined the protestants because they provided them with money ,food, etc. because poverty is a major problem in Ethiopia the protestants have found that this approach is better than any theological dialogue they could have to convince many. So this very forsaking of faith that people do for the sake of money makes them be in the status of those that are called greedy in 1 Corinthians 5-11 and people refuse to associate with them or even eat with them, this has created a social issue, the fact that there is such an arrogance among the protestants does not help the issue one bit, for instance they will come to church on feast days with their pamphlets and some screaming that this is idolatry bla bla they go on to blaspheme the saints and with their intense insane and in my view demonic hate for the Theotokos start to belittle her and blaspheme in front of the faithful, when the outraged faithful drug them out of the congregation, they claim you see we are martyrs you forced us to leave in such a way , its really ridiculous to put it mildly. the family issue is not an easy one either , they start to accuse the orthodox family member of idol worshiping , desecrate icons and books, instigate the beating of clergy and laity by their political zealots who are told that Orthodoxy is a religion of certain ethnicity, they come to social gathering of the orthodox faithful and start to give condescending speech on how people do not know the bible, how if they did they would burn all those idols they call the church, oh it is very difficult to describe the volatile nature of the situation. The orthodox although a majority have been incredibly tolerant with those who are anything but tolerant towards them ; however, they themselves are increasingly alienating themselves especially from the orthodox faithful whom they have targeted , mind you in Ethiopia there are millions of Muslims they are not their target however, their target is the Orthodox church and its destruction is their aim, be it them , a Godless government, or Muslims, either way they will pray for the destruction of Ethiopian church for the continuation of the tragic exodus of Ethiopians from their homeland due to innumerable unbearable suffering. Still the church and her faithful have lived in peace with their neighbors the best they could, but this time the arrogance of the protestants and their outrageous attempt of self victimization by going as far as coming to the liturgy and laughing , going to monasteries pretending to be monks and nuns and creating unmentionable chaos , impersonating the church clergy and cantors dressing like them , acting like them, but with a very different message, infiltrating the Sunday schools and forming groups that unknowingly will be steered towards the protestant theology ,and many vile things they have done just to appear like a persecuted church, as a result some youth have acted with anger to such desecrations however the church has strongly opposed their action and advised patience while pleading in humility to those who might be truly spiritual among the heretics to consider respecting certain boundaries for the sake of common peace and brotherhood however, this appeal continues to be ignored by them. The fact remains persecution of any kind is not condoned by the church and I have never heard anyone within the church advocating violence of any sort to deal with any heretical groups in Ethiopia in my lifetime and I am 34 years old.
Their hate of priests is very well known, I think it is very self explanatory why, however since they made the clergy look like they do not know what they are talking about let me explain that the clergy are the ones who catechize the young early on in the traditional dialogue method, everyone knows ‘who created us?’ answer ‘The Holy Trinity!’ question ‘how many are the Trinity?’ ‘One and Three, Three and One’ question ‘why did they created us?’ answer’ because they loved us and in worship we may partake their Glory’ it goes on. Into the mysteries of the church, this dialogue method is very effective in that it arms people how to answer questions of faith, so the faithful come to the priests when they encounter questions they do not have an answer to. And the priests of course will give answers, advice etc. Most importantly the priests take the time to give verses and theological arguments historical facts to refute the claim of the heretics! This ultimately is why there is such hate vented from the camp of the heretics against the priests. it is not new that the orthodox faithful love their priests and hold them in high regard and obey them as they would obey Christ. If this is a source of vexation for the Protestants it is as it should be. As far as being happy that many Ethiopians are in exile and far away from their priests, they obviously do not realize the first identity of orthodox Ethiopians is that they are orthodox Christians, the traditions are Christian traditions the holidays are very much a Christian ritual of affirming theological truths, their very clothing and jewelry is designed to proclaim their faith, if they go to the very end of the world they will still carry their Christian traditions with them. In that sense the Ethiopian can never change his Skin. They will go to great length to come together to get a church where they will celebrate the Divine liturgy, in fact I think the exiled Ethiopian orthodox are very dedicated in their active service within the Church despite the political situations that they face from within. They are very dedicated to bring priests and monks for their church they make sure that their children are raised in the church and hold the traditions that help them live their faith faithfully. So the hope of the adversary and its messengers that the church will be weakened by exile comes from their ignorance of the Holy Spirit’s work in the Church. They have claimed that Ethiopian orthodox have relied on the kings for survival, that is not so, the kings have relied on the Church as the source of their authority, the Christian emperors being Christian of course they have done a lot to help the church, however the church never claimed them as her kings, she has only One King, One Bridegroom Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! And Her King Lives Hallelujah!
Having said all the above, the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, still has a lot to do when it comes to being active in carrying out her apostolic mission within the country and in the continent and in the world in the general. Education is of paramount importance to her laity as well as her clergy, because with education faith is strengthened and where faith is strong it lays the ground for all other virtues. The church must become engaged with the plight of her faithful in all dimensions of their lives.
May the Lord be with us all Amen!