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Abba Giorgis ZeGasitcha - አባ ጊዮርጊስ ዘጋሥጫ

1. History

The Ethiopian scholar and righteous Abba Giorgis is an Ethiopian scholar who occupies a prominent position next to Saint Yared. Giorgis was born in the region of Wello, Borena province from his father Hizbe Sion and his mother Emne Sion [1357 E.C]. Abba Giorgis learned his first church teaching from his father Hizbe Sion. Later his father send him for more education to Lake Stephen Monastery (ሀይቅ እስጢፋኖስ ገዳም) where Abba Samuel of Garma taught him the hymns of Yared. He was also serving the fathers in the Lake Stephen Monastery by grinding grain. The stone Abba Giorgis used to grind grain is still exist in the monastery.

Abba Giorgis start to compose hymns and write books at early age. Hereafter at the time of Emperor Dawit Abba Giorgis start to engage in teaching of the children of the royal family, and continued to write different books. He also played a leading role in defending the teaching of the Church from external and internal enemies suppressing different heresies which arose at that time.

2. Defend the church from Judaism

During the reign of Emperor Dawit, one leading Ethiopian Jew asked the Emperor for public discussion with Christians. This Ethiopian Jew was so confident of himself, that he set the condition that if he defeat the Orthodox Christians they had to be converted to Judaism. Otherwise, he and the whole Jewish community would embrace the Orthodox Christianity. The challenge was serious and alarmed the Orthodox population. Even the Emperor Dawit involved himself in this matter, recruiting important and well versed Orthodoxy teachers to participate in the discussion. Giorgis was unable to attend the meeting owing the sickness. Emperor Dawit himself chaired the meeting where on one side stood the Jew alone and on the other the fathers of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. The floor was first given to the Jew and he began to say: "This Eyesus Kirstos whom you call the Son of God, if he really was the Son of God. would he not have known where they buried Lazarus because your Gospel says that when He reached Bethany He said: 'Where have ye laid him? For God everything is clear in front of His eyes. From the Christian side none of them was able to answer the question posed by the Jew. Until that very moment they had not noticed the absence of Giorgis ZeGasitcha. Immediately Emperor Dawit sent some of his dignitaries and they brought Giorgis on a bed and put him in the middle of the meeting. Giorgis hearing the argument of the Jew said: "And I will not argue on the Gospel but your Torah." And then he quoted similar passages from the Old Testament. Then the LORD ask to Cain, "Where is your brother Abel?" and to our Father Abraham “Abraham, where is your wife Sarah? At this the Jew lost his answer and kept quiet.

It was at that time that King Yeshaq intended to inaugurate a church in the region of Shewa and Giorgis was invited to be present on this occasion. His poor health did not really allow him to go. But the king insisted, and Giorgis was obliged to attend. During his return he died in the middle of the journey. His students according to his wish took him to Gasitcha and buried him.

3. The Light of Ethiopia

Giorgis produced more works, possibly than any other writer in the Church of Ethiopia. For this reason he earned the title of Light of Ethiopia. In Abba Giorgis ZeGasitcha monastery Located in Wollo, Borena, manuscripts, which are used in the lifetime of Abba Giorgis ZeGasitcha, who built the monastery still exist. The exact number of his books are not known. Some of the few known books are

  1. Hohite Birhan/Mesehafe Birhan- መጽሐፈ ብርሃን : This is a short praise of Holy virgin Mariam which usually appears with the Arganon. It was arranged into 7 sections to be used during the seven days of the week. It is accepted as being the first work of Giorgis. The content is very similar to the Anaphora of Holy Virgin Mariam and Anketshey Birhan.

  2. Arganon - አርጋኖን : This book is known as the second work produced by Giorgis. It is known widely among the faithful Christians who use it for morning prayer. The book of Arganon is divided into seven sections to be used on the seven days of the week. Emperor Dawit was so much impressed by this book and he ordered the book of Arganon to be written in golden ink.

  3. Sequokawia Dingil - ሰቆቃወ ድንግል : The Lamentation/sorrow of the Virgin

  4. Wedassie Meskel - ውዳሴ መስቀል : This book from the beginning to the end it praised the Holy Cross.

  5. Mesihafe Sibhat - መጽሐፈ ስብሐት : The Book of Praising. It is a hymnal book to be used in churches and monasteries particularly during Lent.

  6. Anaphora - መጽሐፈ ቅዳሴ : It was Abuna Bertelomewos the Metropolitan. who asked Giorgis to write anaphoras.

  7. Wodassie Hawariat - ውዳሴ ሐዋርያት :

  8. Se‘atati Zeme‘aliti Wezeleliti - ሰዓታት ዘመዓልት ወዘሌሊት :

  9. Fikre Haimanot - ፍካሬ ሃይማኖት : Analysis of the Faith: Giorgis wrote this book because Tewodros, Commander of the Army in the court of Emperor Dawit asked him about the Orthodox faith and Giorgis presented this treatise in response. As the title itself reveals. Analysis of the Faith, was written to refute certain non-Orthodox teaching of the time. This book attracted the attention of Emperor Dawit and church scholars, and they equated it with the works of St. John Chrysostom and st. Cyril of Alexanderia.

  10. Mesihafe Mistir - መጽሐፈ ምሥጢር : Mesihafe Mistir is widely available in many prominent churches and monasteries. The Ethiopian Church scholars use it widely. The oldest copy of this work is found today in Debre Libanos which was discovered in a cave in Wellamo region during King Menelik II time and later it was given to Debre Libanos Monastery.

May the prayer of Abba Giorgis ZeGasitcha be up on us!

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