Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, an autocephalous Oriental Orthodox denomination, is one of the oldest and largest Christian congregations in Africa, with its headquarters situated in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
It has communion with Coptic, Syrian and Armenian Orthodox churches; as well as diplomatic relations with Sudan and Djibouti. Furthermore, it belongs to the World Council of Churches.
Ethiopian Orthodox Church is one of the oldest Christian congregations in Africa. As one of the Oriental Orthodox churches, it is one of the largest Oriental churches and was initially part of Coptic Orthodox until 1959 when its own patriarch was appointed.
The Church of Ethiopia is autocephalous, boasting 81 canonical books and 14 anaphoras (prayer forms), with Geez serving as its liturgical language; Amharic is also utilized during liturgical services.
Ethiopian churches traditionally employ two primary rites: basilican and native. While basilican services tend to be found mostly in Tigray region, native services can be seen throughout Ethiopia.
Ethiopian people commonly adhere to traditional animist beliefs which hold that spirits have an influence over everything, whether this means helpful or harmful spirits. Some spirits can provide assistance while other spirits may create trouble for humanity.
Ethiopian Christians combine traditional animist beliefs with Christianity in order to form a religion which is both spiritually and culturally significant. Additionally, waaqeffannaa, or ancestor worship practiced among Oromo people and other tribal groups is popular with them.
11% of Ethiopians reported in a 2010 poll that they believed their ancestors possessed spirit or life force, and many still believe they can protect themselves from bad luck by offering sacrifices to spirits or ancestors.
Ethiopian Orthodox Church dates back to the late 4th century and evolved through translation of the Bible into Geez language. Canonical books for this church include both Old and New Testaments along with many additional texts; furthermore it is self-governing with its own Patriarch, known as Abuna.
Ethiopian Orthodox Christians adhere to a Trinitarian belief system, asserting that God exists as three entities: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Ethiopian Orthodox Christians also believe in communion with God via Holy Eucharist; to receive it one must first be purified of any impurities before receiving communion.
Ethiopian Orthodox Christians observe their religion through daily services and special commemorative days that require lengthy services, singing and dancing performances, feasts and festivities such as Tsome Dihnet (which commemorates the plot to kill Jesus on Wednesdays) and Fridays which mark Jesus Crucifixion.
Ethiopian churches conduct their services using Ge’ez, an ethiopic language dating back at least to the 6th century and deriving from the Septuagint with elements drawn from Greek, Syriac and Arabic sources – in addition to Hebrew sources – combined.
At prayer time, faithful observant of Ethiopian church worship perform sigdet, or prostration, during prayer services. While this practice is required at all times during worship services, during certain special events like Sundays, Pentecost and feast days of Jesus Christ and Saint Mary kneeling is used instead for complete prostration.
At Ethiopian Orthodox churches, many Ethiopians who attend feel their calling is to serve as priests and devote much of their lives to ministry. When not in church, they should continue praying for their parish community, the Ethiopian church and country.
Ethiopian Orthodox Church is the largest church in Africa, belonging to the Orthodox church family established in Alexandria Egypt during the 4th century. Pope Cyril VI granted them autocephaly status and they now reside in Addis Ababa with headquarters nearby.
Liturgy derives its meaning from two Greek words – leitourgia and laos – meaning public service and people’s work respectively. More precisely, liturgy refers to an ordered sequence for performing religious services in churches that reflect their theological values while gradually inculcating these into its members of congregation.
Christian churches practice liturgy as part of their public prayer life; its rituals may include Sunday worship services, baptism, communion or other elements that make up its public prayer life.
Christian ceremonies also play a pivotal role in Christians’ lives, from entering as adopted children of the church through forgiveness of sins, blessings for lifetime vocations, intercessions for living and deceased loved ones and commemoration services for saints, interceding for earthly rulers and performing holy mysteries.
Ethiopian Orthodoxy Church, one of the world’s largest and most influential Orthodox churches, blends Christian beliefs about saints and angels with pre-Christian concepts of good and bad spirits and imps. Furthermore, Ethiopians believe the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) as well as other scriptures are valid sources of guidance and inspiration.
Ethiopia’s Ethiopian Church remains the dominant force, boasting more than 30 million adherents despite a history of persecution. Its clergy consists of priests, deacons and debtera who perform music and dance services associated with church services while acting as astrologers, fortune tellers and healers.
Ethiopian Christianity maintains not only clergy members but also monasteries primarily located in Addis Ababa and Harer. While at one time Ethiopian Christianity enjoyed strong links to Christian communities around the world, once serving as a major source of education in Ethiopia. Unfortunately however, its influence declined dramatically when Muslim Arab conquests cut it off from much of its neighboring regions and cut off Ethiopian Christians altogether.
Ethiopian Orthodox Church sebket (pronounced sebeket) is an annual celebration that marks Tahisas 7-13 (December 16-22). During this week-long event, church representatives recount the words of prophets regarding God’s incarnation into humanity.
Ethiopian Christians observing sebket observe a strict fasting schedule to honor penance and repentance for past sins as well as prepare for Easter celebrations.
Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church’s fasting practice stands out as being among the strictest fasting regimes worldwide, forbidding meat, eggs, fish and dairy products as part of its fast.
Customarily, members of the church attend daily services at their churches between morning and 2:45 p.m. It is also common practice for priests to attend night services with candlelight services, where they perform canons and recite Psalters by candlelight.
Additionally, many feasts take place throughout the year without any legal ramifications; these celebrations simply allow the church to honor and remember her saints as well as events from its history.
Feasts vary from region to region and focus on commemorating individual saints such as Mary, the Virgin Mary, Jesus and his Apostles. Tradition plays an important part, too – in some instances even including a tabot – an exact replica of what would have been found inside the Ark of the Covenant itself.
Saint Simon is one of the most celebrated saints in Ethiopian Orthodox Christianity and this feast day marks an opportunity for special prayers, asking that on that solemn event and before God Himself that everyone may remain upright.
Worship is at the core of Ethiopian Orthodox Christianity, both as an expression of spiritual devotion and an integral component of daily life for its ten million Christians.
Church services and celebrations take place regularly, with most people attending at least once every week. Many also fast during certain holy dates like Lent or Christ the Resurrection Sunday.
Traditional worship features hymns and minimal instruments led by a worship leader or minister. Worshippers usually join hands to sing Psalms and hymns before offering up prayers.
Ethiopian Christians exhibit higher rates of religious observance than Christians in many other countries and religious commitment across generations is strong. Estimates indicate that 78% attend church at least once each week while 87% fast during holy days (compared with an average of 10% fasting in Central and Eastern Europe).
There are various forms of worship within the church. From formal services to less structured yet informal gatherings.
An formal service typically entails sermons, readings from scripture or other writings, hymns and prayers in Geez; these may often be presented in this ancient dialect.
Ethiopians have begun incorporating more modern religious practices into their worship services in recent years, such as using translations of the Bible in local languages for worship services.
Ethiopians in the past were heavily influenced by an Arabic version of the Bible; however, Emperor Haile Selassie made great efforts to promote an Amharic translation and establish a Theological College in Addis Ababa as well. Through these initiatives he enabled clergy training as well as modernizing within his church.