Wednesday, June 20, 2012

St. Raguel Ethiopian Orthodox Church, Entoto

View of Addis Ababa from Entoto.
On our last full day in Ethiopia, Fr. Alexander, local superior of the Community of St. John, took us on an excursion up a nearby mountain overlooking Addis Ababa. It was the home of the Ethiopian rulers before the founding of Addis Ababa - a beautiful, cool height covered with fragrant eucalyptus trees. As we were ascending, we saw many women coming down carrying heavy loads of eucalyptus branches.

Woman carrying eucalyptus wood.
Situated in the midst of the eucalyptus forest on top of Entoto is the Ethiopian Orthodox Church of St. Raguel (Raphael), built by the Emperor Menelik II more than a hundred years ago. Prior to the construction  of this building, the liturgy as far back as 700 years ago in a cave on the grounds.

St. Raguel Ethiopian Orthodox Church, Entoto.
The shape of  Orthodox churches in Ethiopia is round. Just inside is a corridor that runs all the way around the structure. In the center of the building is the "Holy of Holies," where the actual liturgy is celebrated and only the priests may enter. This inner chamber is divided into three parts, one for the Father, one for the Son and one for the Holy Spirit. In the part dedicated to the Father is kept the tabot, the replica of the Ark of the Covenant. The walls of the Holy of Holies facing the corridor where the laity participate in the Eucharist are adorned with vividly colorful icons depicting scenes from the life of Christ and other events and personages from the Bible or Church history (see photos below).

The cave previously used for the Divine Liturgy. This portion was the "Holy of Holies,"
divided into three parts, one for each of the Persons of the Trinity.
As it turns out, almost at the same time that Jamie and I arrived in Ethiopia, Fr. Bernard and Br. Bonaventure (a newly ordained deacon) of our community also flew into Addis Ababa to direct a series of retreats and seminars for the Missionaries of Charity. Br. Bonaventure was able to join us for the outing.

An Ethiopian pilgrim greeting Br. Bonaventure.

Icon of the Theotokos, Mother of God.

The Last Judgment.

The Dormition ("Falling Asleep") of the Theotokos (Jesus is holding the soul of Mary, represented as a child).

Jesus appears to Thomas and the other Apostles.

The three young men in the fiery furnace - a very popular image in Ethiopian piety.

St. George and the Dragon. 

St. Antony of the Desert.

The deposition of Christ.

Jesus healing a blind man.

The woman with a hemorrhage touching the garment of Jesus.

You know who - and he doesn't look very happy.

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