The Fixed Easter Cycle in the Ethiopian Church
This article deals with the fixed Christian Easter and the feasts, which depend on it. Both moveable and fixed feasts are recorded in Christian calendars and synaxaria. Following the decisions of the First Oecumenical Council of Nicaea (AD 325) the Ethiopians celebrated mostly the moveable Easter and its cycle. At the same time in the Ethiopian Royal Chronicles is also recorded that the Ethiopian Kings and their armies celebrated the fixed Easter and its festivals, especially the Good Friday.
The present article deals with a remarkable example of Ethiopian grammar and lexicographic treatise (Säwasəw), preserved in the Manuscript Department of the National Library of Russia in St. Petesrburg. The tradition of composing compilations of that kind goes back in Ethiopia to the period of foundation of the Gondarine Kingdom in the 17th century AD, which was noted with general flourishing of culture in the region. In all probability, that genre was borrowed from the Coptic Arabic tradition. Initially those treatises were created and used as glossaries for Biblical and liturgical texts. Later they began to be applied for education purposes as textbooks in monastic and church traditional schools. Such manuscript handbooks included lists of Ge’ez words with parallel Amharic translations and often grammatical forms of verbs. The grammar treatise in question is distinguished not only with a series of specific features, proper both to its contents and structure, but also with its colophon, that shed light on the history of creation of the manuscript and its further destiny. It was compiled outside Ethiopia, in the bosom of the Coptic Church. This circumstance explains the presence of some peculiarities in it in comparison with the most common examples of those lists. Glosses in Ge‘ez are translated not only in Amharic, but in Arabic too. The manuscript was intended for Peter VII, the Coptic Alexandrian Patriarch in AD 1809–1852, who was initially prepared to become the Metropolitan of the Ethiopian Church. Later in Ethiopia, which was passing through the sorrowful period of political disintegration, there was a need in a new head of the Church, who should be ordained and sent to that country by Peter VII
Two difficult passages are analysed in the 26th homily of the book Mäṣḥafä Mǝśṭir by Abba Giyorgis of Sägla, which are dealing with transition from the Old Testament Jewish calendar to the Christian calendar with its veneration of Sunday. The Jewish calendar Abba Giyorgis kept in mind was similar to those of 1 Enoch or Jubilees. According to his understanding, the Christian Sunday was already implied in the Mosaic Law as the year of release, as he has demonstrated with calendrical caluculations.
The Second Evangelisation of the Axumite kingdom was operated by Syrian monks coming from Roman Empire. They brought to Axum some important practices from their original places. These ensured their missionary success but they also introduced some novelties into social practices of local Christians. One of these practices was the name change as a consequence of ascetic behavior. Syriac ascetics either rejected their names of took upon themselves new Christian names like Man of God, Man of Christб Minister of Christ. Some of these rejection cases are well known from the Syriac monastic tradition (e. g. Alexius), other did not reject the name but showed themselves reluctant to accept old names (like Archelides). In Axum Za-Mikael Arägawi and НуMata Libanos were good examples of the implementation of these practices. In doing that Ethiopic ascetic of Syriac background tried to re-establish the society they were living in on new evangelical cornerstone — the new world should reject the old one.
Libanos, Ethiopian Saint, entry