Cross (Meskel - in Amharic)
Meaning of the cross
Cross is one of the most frequently used in our Church. Whenever we use it, we are reminded of the sufferings and death of our Blessed Saviour Jesus Christ. It is the symbol of our deliverance and the emblem of the mercy of God giving redemption to sinful man. The Church teaches that the cross is a summary of the faith and salvation. It reminds us that we are the brethren of Jesus Christ and it is our strong weapon in our fight against evil. Cross is not only a symbol of death and suffering, but also a sign of resurrection and life
The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church teaches the faithful to venerate the cross. It is one of the insignia of the ordained clergy. A priest or a bishop always holds it in his hand and offers it to the faithful who kiss it with deep recollective piety.
Those who use the cross without piety and only for its decorative value have lost its true meaning. Crosses used in this manner are as worthless as the crosses used to crucify the two convicted robbers on either side of Jesus. They had no healing powers.
The faithful also adorn their clothes and ornaments with marks of the cross.
Types of Crosses
Basically there are three major types of Crosses in our Church:
1. Staff-mounted crosses
2. hand crosses and
3. pendant crosses
Staff-mounted crosses are very widespread in Ethiopia and are often characterized by great dimensions and very intricate decoration and can be displayed to the congregation during the liturgy. A characteristic aspect of all these crosses that is peculiar to the Ethiopian tradition is the pair of hooks or loops at the base of the vertical arm, from where a long cloth is appended and hangs along both sides of the shaft.
Hand-crosses in metal or wood usually belong to Priests and monks. Priests always carry with them a small hand-cross, they use it to bless the faithful who kiss the top and base of the cross every time they greet their pastor. Priests also display their handcross in front of their chest as a sign of their professional identity when they present themselves in ceremonial occasions or when they are photographed.
Pendant crosses, usually made in metal, wood or leather, are worn by people of both sexes and all ages, under or over clothing, close to the neck or on the chest, and are considered prominent signs of faith and sources of protection, often given to the wearers at the time of their baptism.
The Festival of the Finding of the True Cross
The Cross on which our Lord Jesus Christ was crucified continued to heal the sick who touched it long after the day of the Crucifixion. As a result, many became believers. Angered by this, the Jews threw the Cross into the town garbage dump. For over three hundred years, the Cross remained buried under piles of garbage.
In the 4th century AD, Empress Helena, the mother of Constantine, the first Christian Roman Emperor, made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land in search of the True Cross. She beseeched the Lord with fast and prayers for a revelation of the spot of the buried Cross. Following an advice from an elderly man named Sirakos, the Empress ordered the inhabitants of Jerusalem to pile pieces of wood for a bonfire. She then lit the bonfire and added plenty of incense to the fire. The smoke that rose from the bonfire bent over and touched the spot where Christ's Cross was buried. This took place on Meskerem 16 (September 26). Before she proceeded to unearth the Cross, Empress Helena ordered messengers to pass the news to her son, the Emperor using torches. Thus, Mesquel is celebrated on this day by the ancient and Apostolic Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church to commemorate the finding of the True Cross.
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