The New Flower: Addis Abba

The morning (Saturday) began with a long drive up to Entoto which is the former capital of Emperor Menelik in the 19th century. There have been four capitals: Aksum which predates the advent of Christianity, medieval Lalibela, Gondor and finally Addis. The place was especially beloved by Taitu, Menelik’s consort, for its beautiful flowers and hence it acquired the name Addis Abba, the New Flower. The capital was moved there in the late 19th century. As we drove up the mountain it afforded a marvelous panorama of Addis.

As we journeyed we saw women with firewood strapped to their back. About 100 years ago eucalyptus trees were introduced to provide firewood.

Although we were unable to go into the church that the emperor built, we did go into the museum which housed exquisite ceremonial robes and crowns as well as lavish liturgical apparel, crosses and chalices the emperor had crafted for the church.
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Behind the church was the palace which was very modest. Only several buildings remain.
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I was deeply moved to see my tour guide kiss the door post of the gate to the church courtyard and then approach the church, make the sign of the cross three times, then prostrate and kiss the ground and then the door of the church. I asked him why three times to which he responded to adore the Trinity.

He gave me a very thorough tour of the National Museum where I learned a lot about the history of Ethiopia. They are fiercely proud of their independence and the fact they were never colonized.

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The Ethiopian hierarch who would not yield to Italian pressure to convince the people to submit to Italian occupation he was martyred for Ethiopian freedom.

 

 

Saint George was built by Emperor Menelik to commemorate the battle of Aweda where he lead his troops against Italian aggression in northern Ethiopia. He carried the banner of Saint George into battle and through his intercession Ethiopia secured her freedom threatened by aggression. He rallied his people at this point in the city and lead them to freedom.

On the wall surrounding the altar is a series of paintings about Emperor Haile Selassie who freed his people from four years of Italian occupation. He fled to Europe seeking to have pressure put on Italy. He spoke at the League of Nations but was ridiculed because he was black. He finally persuaded the British to help so he came back through Sudan with sufficient weapons to secure Ethiopian freedom. You can see him firing the canon. I hold him in deep affection as well as Menalik who were leaders who fought so those God had given to be under their protection werr free. They were courageous leaders of christian conviction who did not simply speak but took action.

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The museum houses ancient artifacts and pottery and Pre-Christian statues from Aksum.

A pagan altar from Aksum with Sabean writing  which is a precursor to Geez the ancient language of northern Ethiopia . You read the first line from right to left the second from left to right and the third from right to left and so forth.

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The statue house in the niche with the bas relief from before Christ. Notice the Egyptian influence.

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We proceeded to the paleontology section of the museum. Ethiopia is in the great rift valley that extends down the Jordan River and on into Africa. There are such rich remnants of human habitation and tool-making necessary for civilization. The young men asked me yesterday if I had visited our grandmother yet. I was puzzled. Then they said you will meet her at the National Museum.  Here she is: LUCY.

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These fossilized bones are 5.2 million years old.  My guide was so enthused about the paleontology section and very knowledgeable.

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Notice the fly whisker that priests use to keep away flies when at prayer. Notice also the sistrum that looks like a rattle that is used in church chant.

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The turtle was already enjoying his lunch as we were on the way to lunch.

When we sat down for lunch I notice the menu of the day was entitled: Fasting Lunch which led to a discussion, What is the fasting lunch. They said during Lent they can only eat vegetables and no animal product. To which I responded.  Since I am in Ethiopia I will follow the Ethiopian lenten discipline with them since they will be traveling with me. And honestly this plate of ingera, the bread that looks like thin pizza with all sorts of spiced beans and vegetable pate was a gourmet delight! This will be a great Lent with food so delicately spiced.

We then went to Holy Trinity Church however I visited the museum which houses a great collection of liturgical art and gifts. A young woman who won a medal at the Olympics about 10 years ago gave her medal to this church as a thanksgiving offering.

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As we were touring the church I asked my guide if the priest would allow me to venerate the cross because I have watched so many venerate that I felt drawn. My guide asked the priest and he asked me: Are you Christian? My guide and I looked at each other and smiled and the priest smiled at me with a smile larger than the room and spontaneously extended the cross for me to venerate.

Now that I am venerating the cross I asked my guides if they would teach me how approach the church like they do. I am making the sign of the cross three times as my guides do. Each time I enter the church courtyard I see this prayer. It is lovely and speaks of the nature of the Christian God who is mercy and compassion incarnate in Jesus.

 

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Very late in the afternoon we drove through the market which is the largest in Africa. My guide remarked that these people work hard day and night and the market never closes except on Sunday.

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Late in the afternoon we went back to the hotel since we begin our trek north at 5 am. I told my guide how much I delighted in sitting in church listening to priests chant. He said we will see many churches and hear a lot of chanting. Then he turned to me and said: May I call you Father. I was stunned for a moment. Before I could respond he said: You are a priest and I respect you so from now on I will call you Father.