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The Flight of the Holy Family to Egypt Zemene Tsige - ዘመነ ፅጌ

In the Name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit, one God, Amen

According to the doctrine of Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo church calendar, the period of time which covers from Meskerem 26 [October 6] - Hedar 6 [November 15], is called Tsige [ጽጌ] the time of flowering. This season is where the earth is decorated with the colours of the flowers, the rivers become clean, the air breathes, the birds rejoice in song. It is also a time to think of the Flight of the Holy Family from Galilee to the land of Egypt. During this time, the faithful devotes in praying, fasting and other generous activities in memory of the flight of the Holy Family, their hardship in the wilderness of Egypt and the wonderful miracles Our Lord did during his exile in Egypt. During their journey the holy family also came to Ethiopia and stayed in Tana Kirkos island before returning home.

During this season of flight, the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Church offers special strophes of hymns illustrated in the writings of scholars such as

1. Mahilete Tsige - ማህሌተ ፅጌ (The Hymn of the Flower) by Abba Tsige Dingle

2. Seqoqawe Dingil - (The Lamentation of the Virgin) by Abba Giorgis ZeGasicha

3. Digua - Hymn of St Yared

These strophes of hymns composed in comparing Iyesus Kirstos and His Mother Holy Virgin Mariam by fruit and flower as the Prophet Isaiah stated, (Isaiah 11:1):

“And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots.”

The flight into Egypt has a biblical base as stated in the Gospel of Matthew:

“And when they were departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring you word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him.” (Matthew 2:13-23).

When the Wise Men came in search of Iyesus, they went to King Herod in Jerusalem and asked where to find the newborn "King of the Jews". King Herod became paranoid that the child will threaten his throne, and sought to kill him. Herod ordered the Massacre of the Innocents in hope of killing the child. But an angel appeared to Joseph and told Joseph to take Iyesus and his mother into Egypt. And Herod, supposing that he had found the Lord, slew with the sword a hundred and forty-four thousand children under two years old in Bethlehem, and in the district.

Why did Iyesus flee to Egypt?

  • To fulfill the prophets: “When Israel was a child, I loved him, I called my son out of Egypt” (Hosea 11:1).

  • To destroy idol-worshipping : "Behold, the Lord rideth upon a swift cloud, and shall come into Egypt: and the idols of Egypt shall be moved at his presence" (Isa. 19:1).

  • To bless and give persecution to the Martyrs: “Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:10).

The fasting of Tsige is performed on one’s free will for it is out of the seven official fasting periods for abundant blessings with the intercession of Holy Virgin Mariam.

May the intercession of Holy Virgin Mariam be up on us all!

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