Updated: Mar 13, 2021
Great Lent (Abiy Tsom) - ዐብይ ጾም
The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church commemorates the Great Fast (Abiy Tsom) – Hudadi means Vast Land and which relates to the Greatness of the Lent Fast. This follows the example of Our Lord and Savior Eyesus Kristos.
The Lent or Great Fast (Abiy Tsom) has 8 weeks, which are divided into three separate periods:
1. 'Tsome Hirkal (Eraclius)' is the fast of Emperor Eraclius. During his reign the Persians invaded Jerusalem and took the Holy Cross of Our Lord Eyesus Kristos. Emperor Eraclius made an expedition to Persia and having defeated the Persians, he took the Holy Cross back to Jerusalem. The Christians in Jerusalem were very happy because of Eraclius’s victory and the return of the Holy Cross. They dedicated the first week before Lent to be the fast of Eraclius and included it in their canons. Thus The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church has accepted and included it in her canon to be a part of Great Fast.
2. Tsome Arba, is the forty days which Our Lord Eyesus Kristos's Fasted while in the wildness.
Luke 4:1-2 “And Jesus being full of the Holy priest returned from Jordan, and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, Being forty days tempted of the devil. And in hose days he did eat nothing: and when they were ended, he afterward hungered.”
3. Himamat (Passion Week) are the seven days the Holy Apostles fasted in commemoration of the Passion of Our Lord and Savior Eyesus Kristos.
8+40+7 = 55 Days in Total of This Fasting Period.
St. Yared, the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church hymn writer, wrote the hymnbook known as “Tsome Digua” (Hymns of Fasting). In this Holy book he composed songs for each Sunday of the Great Fast.
Each Sunday during the Great Fast is named after a song that Saint Yared wrote for that Sunday:
1. Zewerede - ዘወረደ : The one who descended from above
2. Kidist - ቅድስት : Holy
3. Mikurab - ምኩራብ : Synagogue
4. Mesague - መፃጉእ : One who is infirm
5. Debre Zeit - ደብረዘይት : Mount of Olives
6. Gebrehere - ገብርሄር : Good Servant
7. Nicodemus - ኒቆዲሞስ : The coming of Nicodemus to our Lord during the night
8. Hosanna - ሆሳእና : Palm Sunday
First Sunday of the Great Lent (Abiy Tsom) - Hudadi - Zewerede – ዘወረደ
'Zewerede' - ዘወረደ: The first Sunday is called “Zewerede”, which is a Ge’ez word meaning the one who descended from above. In the beginning of the hymnbook, Tsome Digua, St. Yared mentions that by the Incarnation and Crucifixion of Our Lord Eyesus Kristos, God taught us about His true love and how we should love one another.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life”
During the first week of the Great Lent, we fast and prepare with great expectation for the forty days of fasting in the spirit of penitence and hopefulness.
“Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry.”
The aim of fasting is beseeching God and asking him for the forgiveness of sin, and to make the desire of the body to obey the will of the soul. Therefore, for all the 55 days, it is mandatory to abstain from animal products and alcoholic drinks, which motivates lust. The daily fasting period begins at 12 Midnight and ends at 3:00 PM. No food or drink is consumed at that time.
“In those days I Daniel was mourning three full weeks. I ate no pleasant bread, neither came flesh nor wine in my mouth, neither did I anoint myself at all, till three whole weeks were fulfilled.”
The wrath of God that comes about as a result of sin can be averted through solemn prayer and rigorous fasting.
“And rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the Lord your God: for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil. Who knoweth if he will return and repent, and leave a blessing behind him; even a meat offering and a drink offering unto the Lord your God? Blow the trumpet in Zion, sanctify a fast, call a solemn assembly: Gather the people, sanctify the congregation, assemble the elders, gather the children, and those that suck the breasts: let the bridegroom go forth of his chamber, and the bride out of her closet. Let the priests, the ministers of the Lord, weep between the porch and the altar, and let them say, Spare thy people, O Lord, and give not thine heritage to reproach, that the heathen should rule over them: wherefore should they say among the people, Where is their God? Then will the Lord be jealous for his land, and pity his people.”
During the Great Fast, the Church increases her prayer for the dead, to remind the believer of his or her own mortality and thus increasing the Spirit of Penitence.
“The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away. Who knoweth the power of thine anger? even according to thy fear, so is thy wrath. So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom. Return, O Lord, how long? And let it repent thee concerning thy servants. O satisfy us early with thy mercy; that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.” The most important part is not the outward fast but the inward fast; prayer, repentance and works of charity.
“Wherefore have we fasted, say they, and thou seest not? wherefore have we afflicted our soul, and thou takest no knowledge? Behold, in the day of your fast ye find pleasure, and exact all your labours. Behold, ye fast for strife and debate, and to smite with the fist of wickedness: ye shall not fast as ye do this day, to make your voice to be heard on high. Is it such a fast that I have chosen? a day for a man to afflict his soul? is it to bow down his head as a bulrush, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? wilt thou call this a fast, and an acceptable day to the Lord? Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke? Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh? Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thine health shall spring forth speedily: and thy righteousness shall go before thee; the glory of the Lord shall be thy reward. Then shalt thou call, and the Lord shall answer; thou shalt cry, and he shall say, Here I am. If thou take away from the midst of thee the yoke, the putting forth of the finger, and speaking vanity; And if thou draw out thy soul to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul; then shall thy light rise in obscurity, and thy darkness be as the noon day:”
May Medhanealem Grant us to See The Light of His Resurrection in Peace Amen!