The Fast of the Ascension (Tsome Filseta) is one of the seven canonized fasts of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church. This fast lasts for 16 days starting on August 7th and ends on August 22nd. We observe this fast to beseech the Theotokos (Mother of God) to intercede on our behalf for mercy to Her beloved Son Our Lord and Savior Eyesus Kristos. As the Mother of God, Holy Virgin Mariam is greater than all creation and closer to God to intercede for us.
All generations shall call me blessed.
The Fast ends with the celebration and feast of the Ascension of the Holy virgin Mariam to heaven. This is the most highly honored feast among all the feasts of the saints. It is observed on August 22. The Lord did not permit the body in which He Himself had dwelt to be corrupted. Hence though Holy Virgin Mariam as a human being underwent death, She was raised from death and taken into heaven. As Christians we are assured of our resurrection first and foremost by the resurrection of Our Lord and Savior Eyesus Kristos and then by the resurrection of Our Holy Mother, the Virgin Mariam.
When the Holy Virgin Mariam departed from this world, the Apostles wanted to bury Her body in the Garden of Gethsemane, so they carried Her body to bury it. When the Jews saw this, they were very angry and said, "The Apostles troubled us before when they said Eyesus Kristos was Risen from death and now they will tell us that His Mother Mariam is risen and ascended." Hence the Jews blocked their way to prevent them from burying Her body and decided to snatch and burn it to ashes for fear it may thereafter bring news of another resurrection and ascension. A certain Jew named Tawfania ran forward to burn the Holy Virgin Mariam's body and when he grabbed Her body, the Angel of God struck off his hands. The Angel then took the body to Paradise, accompanied by Saint John the Apostle, and laid it under the Tree of Life. When Saint John returned to the other Apostles, they asked him where the Holy Virgin Mariam’s body was. He told them that Her body was placed under the Tree of Life by the Angel.
The Holy Apostles said to each other "John saw where Our Holy Mother's body is and we did not; let us pray and fast that we may see it also." They began fasting from the 7th of August for 14 days, after which the Angel of God brought the body of the Holy Virgin Mariam to the Apostles. They buried the body of Holy Virgin Mariam on Sunday in the Garden of Gethsemane. On Tuesday, three days later, the Holy Virgin Mariam rose from the dead and ascended into heaven just as Her Son Our Lord and Savior Eyesus Kristos had resurrected and ascended.
Saint Thomas the Apostle was not present at the time of Holy Virgin Mariam’s departure, but as he was coming back to Jerusalem being carried by a cloud, he saw the Holy Virgin Mariam ascending into heaven with glory, and he cried saying "I was not chosen to see your Son’s resurrection in glory, nor was I to witness yours." The Holy Virgin Mariam told him that he was the first to see Her ascending and gave him the garment (also known as Megnez or Seben in Ge’ez) with which her rested body was covered.
When Saint Thomas arrived where the Holy Apostles were, they told him about the Holy Virgin Mariam’s departure and that they received Her body from the Holy Angel and they buried Her. He said to them, "I will not believe unless I see Her body with my own eyes." They then went with him to the tomb and uncovered the place of Her body, but they did not find Her, so everyone was confused and surprised. Then Saint Thomas told them how he saw the Holy Virgin Mariam’s ascension with great glory and showed them the garment which She gave him as proof. Clergies of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church usually cover their crosses with a piece of garment to remember the garment that Saint Thomas received from the Holy Virgin Mariam.
Despite Saint Thomas' witness of the Holy Virgin Mariam’s resurrection, the Holy Apostles were still eager to see Her again. One year later they fasted and prayed again, starting from August 7th to plead Our Lord and Savior Eyesus Kristos to let them see the Holy Virgin Mariam in the flesh once again. On the 22nd of August their prayers were answered when the Holy Virgin Mariam came down to them with glory with Her beloved Son, Our Lord and Savior Eyesus Kristos. On that day, Our Lord and Savior Eyesus Kristos performed the Divine Liturgy designating Saint Peter as assistant priest and Deacon Stephen (coming from heaven) as an arch deacon and gave them the Holy Communion. After the service, Our Lord and Savior Eyesus Kristos ordered the Holy Apostles to preach and witness concerning the resurrection and ascension of His Mother throughout the world.
The Feast of the Ascension reminds us about the life of the Holy Virgin Mariam and Her purity and Her willingness to be obedient to God which was expressed in Her response to Saint Gabriel's message.
38 And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.
Each evening during the Fast of the Ascension in the Ethiopian Church bells will ring to invite every one to participate in the night prayer (Mahelet) and Sattat (Vigil).
May Her intercession and blessings be with us now and forever. Amen.
Rainy Season (Zemene Kiremt) - ዘመነ ክረምት
In Ethiopia the rainy season (Zemene Kiremt) begins on the 25th of Sene (July 3) and lasts until the 26th of Meskerem (October 5). During this time, we remember God’s provision of food to all creatures.
8 Who covereth the heaven with clouds, who prepareth rain for the earth, who maketh grass to grow upon the mountains.
9 He giveth to the beast his food, and to the young ravens which cry.
The rainy season is symbolic of our age spent on earth.
2 Timothy 4:21
21 Do thy diligence to come before winter.
During the winter season we see the farmer going through all hardships to prepare his farm. He has faith that he will get adequate rainfall for his crops, so he labors tirelessly. This refers to our lives, our faith should be like the farmer, we must tirelessly labor on earth and have faith that God will provide. Our work must be for the heavenly kingdom.
5 They that sow in tears shall reap in joy.
6 He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.
Also, our Church teaches the formation of rain happens through the evaporation and condensation process. This was clearly stated by Aba Giorgis ze-Gasicha around 14th century AD (G.C) in his famous book Se’atat, “He who contains the waters, scatters the thin fog. He raises the water from the lakes and brings it down from the heights of the sky.” All the readings of this season show how God provides for His creation.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, One God, Amen !