Himamat (Holy Week)
Tomorrow is Easter Sunday. Last week followers of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church have observed the Holy Week, celebration leading to Easter.To understand and appreciate the processions, here is a description, taken from a book called The Ethiopian Orthodox Church published in 1970.
The Church has always taught the necessity of penance for justification.She has instituted Lent as remembrance of the forty days fast of our Blessed Lord in the desert and as a means of sanctification for her children.
To the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, Lent (Hudadi or Abiy Tsom) means a period of fasting when the faithful undergo a rigorous schedule of prayers and penitence.This fast is obseved with greater rigor than any other fast and it is a test of one’s Christianity.One who fails to keep it is not considered a good Christian.Properly observed it nullifies the sins committed during the rest of the year.The faithful should abstain from all food except bread, water and salt.It consists of 56 days.All meat is forbidden, and also, what are called “lactina,” milk, butter, cheese, eggs, etc.On all the fasting days only one meal is allowed and this is to be taken in the afternoon, at 3p.m. or in the evening.On Saturdays and Sundays people are allowed to eat in the morning.
Daily Services are conducted in all the Churches.Each day service are held from morning to 2.45 p.m.Priests regulary attend night srvices starting at midnight up to seven a,m.
Qibala is the sunday-before the opening of Lent, Monday-when the people eat thier fill.In Lent many grow tired and thin.
In accordance with the chronolgy of the gospel account of the last of Our Lord’s mortal life it is natural that sacred Triduum of Thursday, Friday and Saturday developed.A special “Holy Week’ became established in which all the faithful re-lived and received graces from the fundamental mysteries of redemption.
Palm Sunday or Hosanna is celebrated with the proper cermonies with palms, processions and special services.
Then follows Holy Week, the Week of Pains, the Himamat.For some, from Thursday afternoon until Easter morning no morsel of food nor a drop of water enters the mouth and the three days are known as “Qanona”.The priests neither eat nor drink but remain i nthe churches singing and praying incessantly.No absolution is given.
Good Friday.The solemn liturgical service of Good Friday is attended by thousands of believers.There is a sense of sorrow and desolation.All the symbols, images and instruments used in the passion of the Saviour are publicly exhibited in the church.Men and women go to church to prostrate themselves, remaining there from early morning till 3 p.m the hour of Jesus Christ.Believers confess thier greater and lesser offenses to the confessor or sit reaing thier Psalter.It is believed that on Good Friday blood fell from Christ on the cross and dripped into the grave of Adam beneath and there rose up and there rose up from the dead about 500 persons;the thief o nthe left was into darkness but the one on the right went before Adam into Paradise.On this Friday the Devil was bound with cords and Christ descending to purgatory (seol) sent forth to paradise all the souls that were in darkness (seol).Good Friday is a special day for confessions.
Easter, the Feast of Feasts, is celebrated with special solemnity.The church is filled with the frgrance of incense and myriads of lights.the Clergy are arrayed in thier choicest vestments.All the people hold lighted tapers in thier hands.Presents are exchanged, drums are beaten, hands are clapped and the singing is heared everywhere.Messages are exchanged between freinds and the whole day is one of spiritual and physical feasting, a commemoration of the holiest occasion of all history-a truly blessed time when christ rose from the dead.