26 January 2012
Monks process toward Abuna Garima Monastery, near Adwa, Ethiopia, to celebrate the visit of Patriarch Paulos, who was once a monk at the monastery. (photo: Sean Sprague)
In the May 2006 issue of ONE Michael La Civita wrote about how Ethiopia honors Mary, with a celebration that takes place annually on 30 November:
Not far from Ethiopia’s disputed border with Eritrea lies the sleepy town of Aksum (population, 41,000). Though not a common tourist destination, Aksum holds its place as an important heritage site. It is littered with archaeological ruins, including the steles for which it is famous. Once the capital of a prosperous empire that stretched from eastern Africa to Arabia, Aksum controlled the East-West trade routes linking India and Rome. Its emperors were among the first to embrace Christianity, using it to forge a distinct culture and nation from a bewildering number of ethnic and linguistic groups.
Each year, on 30 November, Aksum is aroused from its sleep. Tens of thousands of Ethiopians, wrapped in their white pilgrimage attire, or gabis, converge on Aksum to celebrate one of Ethiopia’s holiest days, Mariam Zion, or Mary of Zion. They focus their attention on a modest shrine that is actually part of a cluster of churches all dedicated to her. Surrounded by a simple iron fence, and guarded by a solitary monk who alone has access to its contents, the chapel houses Ethiopia’s greatest treasure, the Ark of the Covenant.
To learn more about this tradition, read Ethiopia Celebrates Mary.
Tags: Ethiopia Africa Monastery Aksum