Saturday, August 18, 2007

Ethiopia - Abba Paulos: Smash the idols*

"We were Christian [charitable and monotheistic] for over a thousand years before Christ," Abba Paulos, Patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, declared nonplused. "We have been Christian since Queen Makeda [the biblical Sheba] visited King Solomon in Jerusalem to partake of his wisdom and returned to Ethiopia with the Ark of the Covenant -- containing the actual stone tablets of the Ten Commandments God gave Moses," he explained.

And herein lies the idiosyncrasy of the world's oldest church, which distinguishes it from all other churches: the antic relic held sacred, and placed in the Chapel of Saint Mary of Zion, in the ancient town of Axum, the cradle of Ethiopian Christian civilisation, the sellata Muse, is a thoroughly Jewish object. Indeed, the Ethiopian Church is perhaps the only Christian temple in the world to claim as its most sacred treasure a Jewish holiest of holies.

Many suspect that the Tabot of Zion (Ark of the Covenant) is hidden in the altar of the Church of Saint Mary of Zion. "Only I, and a select few bishops, actually know its precise whereabouts," the Ethiopian Patriarch grinned, gently stroking his salt and pepper beard.

Without batting an eyelid, and perhaps sensing my bafflement, Abba Paulos turned to the crux of his faith. "Religion is the belief in the power of the Almighty. He is the Creator of all. He is the Giver of peace, love and happiness."

According to traditional Ethiopian lore, Philip the Evangelist baptised a treasurer of the Ethiopian Queen Gersamot Hendeke VII. The New Testament's Acts of the Apostles corroborate this landmark event in Ethiopian history.

Ethiopian monotheism harks back much further in time, though.

Read the rest here:

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