ONE GOD. AMEN.
The Fast of the Prophets (Tsome Nebiyat)
The three Sundays prior to Christmas: Zemene Sebket, Berhan and Nolawi
Kassa Nigus &Tsegeye Girma
The season goes up to the vigil of Christmas and leads to the celebration of the Savior’s Nativity. It corresponds to advent in Roman Church and covers three Sundays from Tahisas 7 to 27 (December 16 -January 5). During the three weeks of the season, we prepare with mounting expectation for the coming of Christ in a spirit of waiting, conversion and hope.
The Liturgy during this period focuses on Biblical readings and hymns that recount the coming of the Lord. The three Sundays are known as Zemene Sebket, Berhan and Nolawi.
1. Zemene Sebket (the period of preaching)
‘Sebket’ is a Ge’ez word meaning ‘preaching’. The week covers the period from Tahisas 7 – 13 (December16-22). During the period, the church recounts the words of prophets about the incarnation of God. The prophets preached about the incarnation of The Word (Son), one of the persons of Holy Trinity, by symbolizing Him and His Mother St. Mary through different imagery God revealed to them as it is stated in the Bible, for instance, when Philip findeth Nathanael told him saying, “Philip findeth Nathanael, and saith unto him, we have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph” (John 1:45).
Then, the latter interpreters and commentators of scriptures like (St. Ephraim, St. Heryakos and St.Yared of Ethiopia) clearly explained what the prophets symbolized. Some of the symbols the prophets used (which are explained in the Anaphora of St. Mary) are stated as follows:
v David foretold the Birth of Christ saying, “Blessed be He that cometh in the name of the Lord: we have blessed you out of the house of the Lord. (Psalms 118:26); “Lo, we heard of it at Ephratah: we found it in the fields of the wood.” (Psalms 131:6)
v Isaiah the prophet said that Jesus would be born of a virgin, “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel”. (Isaiah 7:14) ; “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6) The prophet said this at least 600 years before Jesus was born.
v The ark of Noah, by which the saint and his family were saved from the flood, symbolizes the Virgin Mary. (Genesis 7 and 8) The three parts of the ark represent the perpetual virginity and absolute purity of St. Mary in thought and deed. Those who took shelter in the ark symbolize Christians who believe in St. Mary’s intercession. Those who were outside of the ark and drowned represent people who do not believe in St. Mary’s intercession.
v The ladder of Jacob: the ladder represents St. Mary that Jacob dreamed of on his way to Haran: “the ladder was set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven; and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it” (Genesis 28:10-19).
v The treasure box of Joseph: Joseph found a locked box which contained the precious stone. The box symbolizes St. Mary who gave birth to the Lord; the lock represents her virginity while the precious stone signifies the Lord.
v The bush of Sinai: the bush Mosses saw on Mount Sinai which was not consumed by the fire symbolizes St. Mary while the fire represents Jesus Christ. The fact that the bush was not burned out by the blaze signifies the perpetual virginity of St. Mary. The bush did not put out the fire indicting that Christ’s divinity is not changed or lost because of his incarnation.
v The rod of Aaron which grew, blossomed and bore fruit: when the son of Kohath challenged the authority of Aaron the priest, God ordered Mosses to cease the murmurings of the children of Israel. Then Mosses prayed up on twelve rods drawn from the twelve tribes of Israel and, behold, the rod of Aaron of Levi’s house brought forth buds, blossomed and yielded almonds confirming that Aaron was chosen by God. (Numbers 17)
v The statue of Joshua: Joshua made a covenant with the people not to turn away from God and wrote the words in the book of the law of God. He took a great stone and set it up under an oak as a witness among them. (Joshua24: 25-27)
v The closed gate Ezekiel saw also represents St. Mary. A prophesy in the book of Ezekiel reads, “Then he brought me back the way of the gate of the outward sanctuary which looketh toward the east; and it was shut. Then said the Lord unto me; this gate shall be shut, it shall not be opened, and no man shall enter in by it; because the Lord, the God of Israel, hath entered in by it, therefore it shall be shut”. (Ezekiel 44: 1-2 )
v The fleece of Gideon. When the children of Israel suffered by the Midian, God delivered them through the help of Gideon, and God show a sign to Gideon for His deliverance, “And Gideon said unto God, If thou wilt save Israel by mine hand, as thou hast said, Behold, I will put a fleece of wool in the floor; and if the dew be on the fleece only, and it be dry upon all the earth beside, then shall I know that thou wilt save Israel by mine hand, as thou hast said. And it was so: for he rose up early on the morrow, and thrust the fleece together, and wringed the dew out of the fleece, a bowl full of water”. (Judge 6:36-38)
v The bottle of ointment and horn of oil of Samuel, “Then Samuel took a vial of oil, and poured it upon his head, and kissed him, and said, Is it not because the Lord hath anointed thee to be captain over his inheritance?” (1 Samuel 10:1 )
v The root of Jesse: I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star.(Revelation 22:16)
v The harp of David. David made to depart the evil spirit from Saul by his harp, “And it came to pass, when the evil spirit from God was upon Saul, that David took an harp, and played with his hand: so Saul was refreshed, and was well, and the evil spirit departed from him”. (1Samuel 16:23)
v The pot of Elisha (2Kings 4:38-40) When there was a dearth in the land, Elisha fed the sons of the prophets and satisfied them by cooking herbs and wild vine in the great pot.
v The place in Bethlehem from which the law goes forth - the land of Ephrata of Micah (Micah 5:2)
2. Berhan (Light)
It covers the period between Tahisas 14 and 20 (December23-29). The prophets foretold the incarnation of God who is symbolized by light. The readings and hymns for the period are taken from the following Biblical verses: Isaiah 42:6, 49:6, John 8:12.
3. Nolawi (the shepherd)
The term Nolawi refers to God who gave his life for sake of his sheep (children). This season covers the period from Tahisas 17-27 (December 26 January 5). It is the last Sunday on which God descended from heaven to declare peace and to help those who were lost, thus bringing us closer to The Father glorifying his Divinity. He united his divinity with our flesh. Readings for the period include psalms 19:1, Ezekiel 34:1-20 and John 10:11.
Source: The Liturgy of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church 2010-The Anaphora of St. Mary, PP.184-186.
Fr. Emmanuel Fritch, Cssp, 2001. The Liturgical Year of the Ethiopian Church.
Hiruy Ermyas 2006 E.C. Mezgebe Tarik, part 1.
From: Mahibre Kidusan
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