Abuna Aregawi (also called Za-Mika’el 'Aragawi) is one of the Nine Saints that traveled in exile from Rome to Axum - North part of Ethiopia to escape persecution after the Council of Chalcedon (451). Abuna Aregawi and the other Eight Saints are credited in Ethiopia with enculturating and spreading the Orthodox Faith. The Nine Saints are Abba 'Afse, Abba 'Alef, Abba Garima, Abba Guba, Abba Liqanos, Abba Pantelewon, Abba Sahma, Abba Yam'ata and Abba Za-Mika'el 'Aragawwas.
The Nine Saints remained in Axum for 12 years before they left Axum to evangelize different parts of Ethiopia especially Tigray region. The Axum royal court had converted to Christianity over a century earlier, but much of the country, outside of Axum, had yet to hear about the Gospel. Saint Aregawi settled on the mountain of Debre Damo and established the monastery. According to his Gidel Archangel Saint Michael came to Abuna Aregawi carrying a sword in his hand and pointed towards Debra Damo, directing Saint Aregawi to the place where the saint is to establish Debra Damo monastery. The other eight saints settled around Tigray countryside.
The feast of Saint (Abune) Aregawi is celebrated on Tikimit 14 / October 24 Ethiopian calendar which culminates that Abune Aregawi taken to heaven and celebrated in a pilgrimage to Debre Damo from all over the country. Debre Damo is only accessible by climbing up by a rope which symbolize the saint was assisted by a giant serpent to the top. The rope is made of "plaited leather", lowered from the cliffs, which visitors tie around their waist and are then pulled up by a monk at the top of the cliffs. It is only accessible to men and male animals. Women and even female animals are forbidden to set a foot into the monastery, and must remain under the cliffs. Female believers may pray and take the blessing of Debre Damo at Kidane Mihiret, located at the entrance to the wall.
On this day we also celebrate the departure of Gabra Kirstos the Hermit.
May the prayer of Abune Aregawi and Gabra Kirstos be up on us!