Patriarch Abune Mathias, the head of Ethiopia’s Christian Orthodox church, has led other faithful in celebrating Meskel. Meskel is an event that marks the finding of the cross of Jesus.
To start the celebrations, the faithful led by Mathias begun with lighting a huge bonfire in Addis Ababa. He led his thousands of followers in lighting candles immediately after sunset. Mathias was dressed in golden ceremonial clothes and showered blessings to commemorate the fourth century of the discovery of cross of Jesus by Queen Helena. Queen Helena was the mother to the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great.
According to history and faith of the followers, Queen Helena prayed to God for guidance to get the cross of Jesus which was used for crucification. As a result, she was directed by smoke of a burning fire to where the cross was. On finding it, she lit torches to celebrate the discovery. This is believed to have happened in 326 AD.
Additionally, the Patriarch of Alexandria is believed to have given Dawi, the Ethiopian Emperor, part of the cross in a bid to protect Coptic Christians. The remaining part of the cross is said to be preserved in Ethiopia’s Gishen Mariam monastery. The place is 100 km north of the capital.
Meskel means cross
In the eve of celebrations, all Orthodox priests were dressed in white robes and went into the streets of the city. They confined themselves in Meskel capital bringing business at a standstill. Meskel is a word in liturgical Ge’ez language meaning cross.
The festival, which starts at sun set and ends in the morning, started more than 100 years ago at the founding of the city. Believers also lit fires at homes before eating meat, dry bread, traditional foods and wine made from honey.