ONE @ 50: Testament to a Joyous Heritage

In honor of ONE magazine’s 50th-anniversary year, the CNEWA blog series, ONE @ 50: From the Vault, aims to revive and explore the wealth of articles published in ONE magazine throughout its history. As Holy Week on the Julian calendar begins, read about the observance by Ethiopian Christians in Jerusalem, originally published in Spring 1988.

Read an excerpt from “Testament to a Joyous Heritage” below, then read the full story.

For Easter, Jerusalem puts on its biggest Christian celebrations. Thousands of pilgrims from all over the world converge on Christendom’s holiest sites. Greeks, Latins, Armenians, Copts, Jacobites, Anglicans, and more are there to compose the medley that is Christ’s faithful today.

Perhaps the most colorful and surprising of all these pilgrims are the Ethiopians. They are not usually seen in large numbers outside their homeland, so they bring to Jerusalem’s Easter observance excitement and gaiety that is unique among devout believers.

The Ethiopian presence in the Holy City is relatively small. Nonetheless, they stand out from the rest by their distinctive appearance, stately bearing, and smiling faces. They occupy two main centers in the city. The Monastery of Deir el-Sultan on the roof of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is the one where they hold the Easter celebrations.

The Ethiopian faithful have shown their deep attachment to the Holy Land through a long history of pilgrimage despite the many difficulties of traveling from their remote, mountainous land. Today, that tradition continues, although many obstacles remain. Recurring drought and ongoing civil war are recent burdens carried by the Ethiopian faithful on this pilgrimage.

At Easter, Deir el-Sultan with its simple stone and plaster monastic cells takes on an air of jubilant activity and triumph. Lay pilgrims dress in white, desert hermits wear bright saffron-yellow robes, and the clergy don richly embroidered vestments.

Read more.

Gerald Ring is a freelance writer and photographer traveling extensively in the Near East and is a frequent contributor to Catholic Near East.

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