BELIEFS AND TEACHINGS OF ETHIOPIAN ORTHODOX TEWAHEDO CHURCH
17. THE HOLY CROSS
The Cross is highly venerated in the lite of the Church and there are prophecies and symbolic representations about it. Prophecy “The grape-vine, cut from Hasisson and planted in Gologtha became my cure.” (Songs of Solomon 5:1-2).
“Thou has set up a banner for those who fear thee, to rally to it from the bow that thy beloved may be delivered. (Ps. 59:4).
Symbol: The wood with which Noah built his ark (Gen. 7:1-6). The staff of Moses (Ex. 4:2-9). The bronze serpent (Num. 21:9). All these are symbols of the Cross.
Before the crucifixion of Our Lord and Saviour Eyesus Christos, the Cross was the symbol of penalty, curse and humiliation (Deut. 21:23; 2 Cor. 5:21; Gal. 3:13). But after the crucifixion of Our Lord, the cross has become a sign of spiritual freedom and a throne of peace. As such it has become a sign of freedom and victory for all Christians (Ps. 2:15-17). The Cross which Constantine the Great saw in the form of light lives as a symbol of victory. As St. Paul stated, “For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved, it is the power of God”. (1 Cor 1:18; Phil. 3:18).
The Cross of Our Lord and Saviour Eyesus Christos has become an instrument of punishment for the death and Satan. As St. Yared stated in his hymn for the departed, the Son who created the world drove away His enemy by His Cross.
The faithful believing in Our Lord and Saviour Eyesus Christos and crossing themselves in the sign of the cross overcome demons and evil desires. The cross has also become the symbol of all Christian art. The Christians make a symbol of the cross on their clothing, books and household utensils. In Ethiopia needle works, embroidery and jewellery are adorned by the sign of the cross. Some Christians tattoo the cross over their foreheads and hands.
The faithful not only wear crosses in their life time but it is also kept with them after death. A cross made out from wood, metal or stone is planted over their graves. This is done to show that the cross is not only the symbol of death and suffering, but also a sign of resurrection and life. Since the icon and the cross occupy a prominent place in the spiritual life of Christians, the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church serves the faithful with consecrated icons and crosses. In Church services the cross is used for blessing. Priests always keep the cross with them, give blessings with it and it is kissed by the faithful.
In accordance with this, the church sings and prays as follows:-
“The Cross is our power, The Cross is our strength, The Cross is our ransom, The Cross is the salvation of our soul, The Jews denied, but we believed, we, who believed are saved by the power of His Cross.”
As the Psalmist said “We will worship at His footstool.” (Ps. 131:7); it is therefore fitting to prostrate, to kneel down and to bow for the cross in reverence and grace. This reverence is also based on the Hymn of St. Yared (Tsome Digua) which runs, “O Master, we prostrate for Your Cross and praise your Holy Resurrection.” This is in accordance with the teachings of our Church.