BELIEFS AND TEACHINGS OF ETHIOPIAN ORTHODOX TEWAHEDO CHURCH
6. THE HONOR ACCORDED TO THE SAINTS
The word Holy (Kidus) in Geez denotes being special, pure and esteemed. This prefix is an attribute to denote the nature of God since God is Holy by nature. Hence the word holiness is given to saints and blessed people who are at the service of Him who is Holy by nature. We address angels as saints. We call them so since they are free from all evil things, act and go in God’s way and praise Him. Blessed people who have attained angelic status are also called saints. God himself has said “Be holy because I, the Lord your God, am Holy” (Lev. 19:2; 1Pet 1:15-16). Prophets, Apostles, Saints and Martyrs have been accorded the honour of holiness and beatitudeness for they gave their lives for the sake of God, for they bore witness in His name, and served Him faithfully to the end of their lives with all their energies and capacities. It is written in John 17:17 that the Lord prayed for them “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.”
But above all these, Our Holy Mother Virgin Mariam, the Mother of God, is the incomparable saint; she is therefore called Holy of Holies.
A. The Honour Accorded to Saint Angels
Angels are from among those who were created on the Sunday (Jubilee 2:6-8). The Holy Bible says that Angels are made from fire and wind (3 Mac. 2:10-11). Angels do not reproduce, but remain as they were originally created. They are by nature thinking, speaking, living and powerful. They are free from affliction of sickness and death. Their number is not limited. They are divided into orders and chieftainship. They were divided in one hundred orders and into ten heavenly places.
According to Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo church the seven heavens are:
1. Tsiriḥa Ariyami (ጽርሐ አርያም)
2. Menibere menigisiti (መንበረ መንግሥት)
3. Semayi widudi (ሰማይ ውዱድ)
4. Iyerusalemi semayawIti (ኢየሩሳሌም ሰማያዊት)
5. Iyori (ኢዮር) - city of Angels
6. Ramah (ራማ) - City of Angels
7. Ereri (ኤረር)-City of Angels
Angels are close aides to God. They are always by His throne praising Him. (Rev. 4:8-11). They are fast in their service (Ps. 103:4; Heb. 1:6). They ascend and descend between God and man (Jn. 1:52; Heb. 1:14).
When generally explained the role of Angels can be said:-
Ministering between man and God
To present man’s prayers, alms and offerings to God.
To bring God’s mercy and bounty to men (Dan. 9:20-22; Lk. 1, 13; Acts 10:3-5)
To bring before God the soul of men after death. (Lk. 16:22; Sutu. Ez. 6:6-20)
To unfailingly guard every creature (Mt. 18:10; Dan. 4:13)
They are sent for exacting mercy or wrath (Rom. 9:22)
They are sent to bring solace and help in times of suffering and hardship (Acts 12:7-11; Ps. 89:7)
They are sent to separate the sinners from the righteous when the world comes to an end (Mt. 24:31; Rev. 7, 1-4)
The interceding and helping task of angels in bringing to God the prayers and offerings of men is a favour given to them. As can be gathered from the Holy Bible, they present before God the prayers, offerings and alms of men and help them get rewarded. It is a grace given to them by God that they are the messengers who proclaim happiness, offer solace and serve as the harbingers of all good tidings. (Gen. 48:16; Dan. 10:10-12; Lk. 1:13; 28-30; Jude 9).
The intercession of Saint Angels is widely written in the Scriptures as can be understood from citations in the following :- (Enoch Ch. 10:7; Zac. 1:12; Ex. 23:20-23; Ps. 33:7) That Angels take delight in the act of those who repent is written in Luke 15:10. This indicates the love and concern they have for men and their ministering role.
Saint Angels are favoured ones who stand in the presence of God
Saint Angels are devoted to their God.
Saint Angels are defenders of God’s creatures.
Saint Angels are sent for mercy and wrath.
Saint Angels help and intercede for people in times of adversity and sorrow; the Church therefore, venerates them. It honours them by dedicating churches, and having their services and miracles written. They are offered homage of veneration of grace. (Dan. 8:15-18; Gen. 22:31; Num. 22, 31; Jos. 5:13-15)
B. Saint Prophets
The Prophets have foretold, being inspired by the Spirit of God, about the Incarnation of the Son of God and His second coming. There are some from among them who have suffered all kinds of hardships to the point of death. Our Church therefore, honours them as saints and bears witness about them. To honour and remember those prophets who rose up from the times of Adam to Our Lord and Savior Eyesus Christos and who have been teaching about the coming of Our Lord and Savior Eyesus Christos and that He would give His life to redeem the world, the Church decreed the “Fast of the Prophets” (Tsome Nebiyat) which is observed every year before Our Lord and Savior Eyesus Birth date (Ledit).
C. Saint Apostles
“...As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” (Jn. 20:21). “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything. I have commanded you.” (Mt. 28:19-20). With this commission, the Apostles went out around the world, taught the Gospel and proclaimed His Name. Thus, the Apostles were chosen and blessed by Our Lord and Savior Eyesus Christos Himself. All those who later on followed on the footsteps of the Apostles and bore witness to His Name are the inheritors f this honour. The Church decreed the “Fast of the Apostles” (Tsome Hawaryat) which is observed every year after the celebration of Peraclistos (Pentecost).
D. Saint Martyrs
Those Martyrs who fearlessly and with confidence bore witness about Our Lord and Savior Eyesus Christos in front of people and kings and were therefore persecuted and suffered martyrdom are honoured as saints.
“What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul?” (Mt. 16:26). Those who gave their lives over to God, forsaken the world bearing the solitude of the wilderness and the danger of beasts and the temptation of the devil in asceticism and have kept themselves away from the distractions and trappings of the world, have been granted the honour of holiness and makes their glorious lives known from generation to generation. The Church has preserved, as it still continues to do, the lives and deeds of the righteous irrespective of age, gender and race, who sacrificed themselves for the Glory of God according to the dictates of its dogma.
F. The Covenant of Saints and Intercession
Saints are given favours by God because of their sacrifices made in this world. As they have been given spiritual powers to perform miracles while in this world such as making the dead rise, healing different ailments and driving out demons, one who implores by invoking their names, commemorates them and believes in their role of intercession shall be rewarded as has been confirmed to them by God. Our Lord has confirmed in (Mt. 10:41-42) “that if anyone receives a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward; and he that receives a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward. And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in nowise lose his reward.”
Saints intercede not only in realms of the flesh but in realms of the spirit as the Scriptures testify for they are alive in soul. (Ex. 32:2-15; Enoch 12:33-40; Lk. 20: 37-40). The word of God is living, it works on the living, His covenant never changes and He Himself has said that saints are also living. In accordance with these faith and teaching, the church believes in the covenant and honour bestowed on holy apostles, martyrs and righteous.
Covenant has been given to them that those who forsook all and followed Him by carrying His cross and received hardship for the name and glory of Our Lord and Savior Eyesus Christos shall sit upon the twelve thrones judging the twelve Tribes of Israel when the Son of man sits on His glorious throne (Mt. 19:28). The Church honours saints on the basis of the covenant that was given to them by God. The faithful beseech them. They build churches in their names, make their icons and commemorate their saintly lives.
G. Honour of the Relics of Saints
The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church honours the relics of saint who departed after serving God in word and deed. The Church keeps the relics of those saints who performed miracles through their teachings and prayers while alive and after death through their relics in a special place in a Church courtyard. Christians of ancient times treasured the remains of Saint Apostles and martyrs in their cave dwellings and wanderings. God performs miracles through the relics of the saints and gives His bounty and healing as well. (2Kgs. 13, 20-21). There is a Scriptural basis for the preservation of the relics of saints. The Israelites retrieved the relics of Jacob and Joseph from Egypt and preserved it in a place of honour. (Ex. 13, 19; Jos. 24:32; Acts 7:15). Tradition also tells that the remains of the fathers from the times of Adam to Noah in the time of the flood were also preserved and passed down from generation to generation and that Noah took them inside his ship. The Fetha Negest (The Book of Law of Kings) also says in article 20 that if we revere the saints whose souls are in paradise, then we should also does for the remains of the saints who bore hardships while alive. Our Church reveres the relics of saints because God utilizes them as cures and symbols of grace. It also accords them a special place of honour (Ps. 33: 19-20). The marks of the honour and saintliness of saints in the fact that they continue to perform miracles in places where they have shed their blood, where their bones have been lain to rest, where they have performed miracles, where they have toiled and laboured, where places of worship have been dedicated to them and in all places where their names are recited. (Ps. 33:20; Lk. 24:47).
Articles & Resources
23 Denison Road East, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, M9N 1B6