Ethiopia : Vitality of an ancient land

The West Australian
December 29, 2014

I am about 4m from the Patriarch of the Orthodox Church of Ethiopia – an ancient Christian community of perhaps 50 million people with a tradition that dates back to the age of the apostles.

The golden-gowned Patriarch, Abune Mathias, is blessing what looks like a medium-sized swimming pool.

And then, within minutes, this now-holy water is hosed over the crowd of thousands upon thousands of the devoted who have come to these sportsgrounds in Addis Ababa for the Timket festival.

This is the blessing that they have been waiting for – some for hours, some since dawn, some overnight.

Timket (which means “baptism” in the Ethiopian language of Amharic) is the Ethiopian Orthodox Church’s celebration of Epiphany – observed on January 19 to commemorate the baptism of Jesus Christ in the Jordan River. Its climax is the ritual re-enactment of baptism.

I am here with a group on touring company Travel Directors’ African Dawn tour, which visits Uganda and Rwanda but which has its apotheosis here in Ethiopia.

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