MONASTIC LIFE ~ The Ethiopian Orthodox Monastic Community (Nefru Gedam)
The birthplace of man. The Garden of Eden. The Land of Sheba. Ancient Christians traditions of worship and prayer.
Ethiopians worshiped One God and accepted the Divinity of Christ centuries before those in Europe. Ethiopia is the home of thousands of churches, it is also a country which has numerous monasteries. The establishment of these monasteries started at the end of the 5th century with the arrival of the Nine Saints from Syria, Egypt and the Greco-Roman territory. These are the Fathers who at present are referred to in Ethiopia as the Nine Saints. Ethiopia once shared one Patriarch with Egyptian Copts, and therefore Ethiopians going to be ordained by the Coptic Patriarch would often stop at the desert monasteries on their way to Alexandria, and on their return home, built monasteries in the traditions of the Desert Fathers.
The oldest of these monasteries is Waldebba Monastery, which still today is the home of male and female monastics. Over the centuries the monks of Ethiopia have zealously guarded these ancient traditions, and even today the monastic communities are identical to those of the early desert fathers. You can find many men and women who remain unmarried all their lives in the hope of coming closer to God
* Like the first monasteries of Egypt, the monasteries of Ethiopia are built like ordinary villages, using the same materials as the poor people.
In Eritrea and Tigre it is rough, dry stone, and in the southern provinces mud and eucalyptus.
From one end of Ethiopia to the other the life of the monasteries is essentially the same, varying only in degrees of strictness.
Male only monasteries and women only monasteries are essentially the same, except that women cannot perform the Qidasse (Holy Prayers/Liturgy) and other priestly duties therefore Monk/Priests visit or may live nearby on the property to perform these duties.
They will eat and sleep separately from the female monastics.
+ + + I choose not to use the word "convent" because in the early days of the "Desert Fathers and Desert Mothers" the word monastery was used for the dwelling place of both men and women monastic's. I also do not use the word "Nun", I prefer the ancient ways, when there were just Monks ~ male and female monks.
(female ascetics in the East are called monks/monastics, Nun is a Western tradition)
Monasteries may vary greatly in size – a small dwelling accommodating only a hermit, or in the case of communities anything from a single building housing only one senior and two or three junior monks, to vast complexes and estates housing tens or hundreds.
The main purpose of a monastery is to be a place of prayer and prayer is simply communion with God.
* The center of the monks’ life is prayer. Monks rise on most mornings at four O’clock and assemble in the church to chant the morning office (Sa’atat) which last two hours. On Sundays and Major Holy feast days the Sa'atat starts at midnight and then the Mass (Qiddase), finishes at dawn.
Unlike the large secular churches monks do not dance as the secular priests do. Some of the more ascetical monasteries do not even chant the office (Sa’atat) and the Mass (Qiddase), but prefer simply to say them.
At 6 PM the bell rings calling the monks to gather once again, for evening prayers about 2 hours. Apart from these common prayers a monk is expected to pray frequently in private. Each monk is free to choose their own method of private prayer, though certain ways are common. Some pray in the areas around the church building while others retire to their rooms or huts every one or two hours and say the Lord’s Prayer and the Canticle of St. Mary "Waddasse Mariam". Others repeat ” Eeyesus Kristos, please save me ” or ” Through Blessed Mariam, have mercy on me. etc. The Jesus Prayer is for Orthodox monks one of the most profound and mystical prayers and it is often repeated continually as a part of personal ascetic practice. Its practice is an integral part of the eremitic tradition of prayer. " Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner". Kyrie Eleison (My Lords have Mercy)
is said 41 times after prayer by the congregation but is said hundreds of times throughout the day by monks. Monks also spend long hours at night in silent contemplation. "Quiet Time".
~~Prayer Rope /Beads
Prayer ropes /beads are used to help concentrate the mind and keep count of prayers by monks.
When monks began going into the deserts of Egypt, it was their custom to pray the entire 150 Psalms every day, some of
the monks were unable to read, so they would either have to memorize the psalms or perform other prayers and prostrations
instead. Thus the tradition of saying 150 (or more) Jesus Prayers every day began. "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God have
Mercy on me a sinner". (Ethiopian Monks still pray the entire 150 psalms daily in addition to their regular prayers.)
Monks would count their prayers by casting pebbles into a bowl, but this was cumbersome, and could not be
easily carried about when outside the cell.
The invention of the prayer rope is attributed to Saint Pachomius in the fourth century as an aid for illiterate monks to
accomplish a consistent number of prayers and prostrations in their cells. The use of the rope made it possible to pray
unceasingly, whether inside the cell or out, in accordance with Saint Paul's instruction to "Pray without ceasing In
everything give thanks: for this is the Will of God in Eeyesus Kristos concerning you." (I Thessalonians 5:17).
The western Rosary is said to have the same initial origin, however the Rosary did not come into existence until many years later.
When praying, the prayer rope is normally held in the left hand, leaving the right hand free to make the Sign of the Cross.
When not in use, the prayer rope is traditionally wrapped around the left wrist so that it continues to remind one to pray without
ceasing. If this is impractical, it may be placed in the (left) pocket, hung around the neck or suspended from the belt.
For humility: one should not be ostentatious or conspicuous in displaying the prayer rope for others to see.
The Father of Orthodox Monasticism, Saint Anthony the Great, originated the method of tying the prayer rope.
He started by tying a leather rope with a simple knot for every time he prayed Kyrie Eleison ("Lord have Mercy"), but the Devil would come and untie the knots to throw off his count.
He then devised a way-inspired by a vision he had of the Mother of God of tying the knots so that the knots themselves would constantly make the sign of the cross. This is why prayer ropes today are still tied using knots that each contain seven little crosses being tied over and over. The Devil could not untie it because the Devil is vanquished by the Sign of the Cross.
+ Today Prayer ropes may be found in knots of 33, 41, 50, 64, 100, 150, 200, even up to a 500 or more.
In Ethiopia the ropes are in 41 or 64 (knots or beads) instead of 33 and 50. Larger numbers are also used by monastics. 64 beads are in honour of the Virgin Mariam's age at her assumption, and 41 beads for the 41 lashes Christ received during His Passion.
is designed to be prayed early for the coming of the True Light, the Lord Eeyesus Kristos.
It is mainly associated with the eternity of God, His incarnation, His resurrection from the dead.
It is intended to offer thanks to Him for having risen us from the sleep, beseeching Him to shine upon us,
enlighten our lives, and grant us the power of His resurrection.
It is important for all the faithful to pray each day, especially the morning prayers and evening prayers.
If one does not know how to pray, it's important to learn how to pray.
~ The prayers below are said at beginning of every prayer.
~ In addition Kyrie Eleison is said 41 times at the end of all prayers ~
I worship before the Cross of our Lord Eyesus Kristos, which was sanctified by His precious blood.
I cross my face and all over my body with the sign of the cross.
1. Besemai Ab. woWold. woMenfes Qidus, Ahadu Amlac, Amen
(In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, one God. Amen.)
2. Kyrie Eleison, Lord pity us, Lord spare us, Lord have Mercy upon us, and Bless us, Amen.
3. Sibhat le'Ab, woWold, woMenfes Qidus, yi'izeenee wezelfenee, wele'aleme alem, Amen.
(Glory be to the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit, now and forever and world without end. Amen.)
4. Lord make us worthy to pray with all thanksgiving
5. We believe and offer our supplications unto Thy Holy Trinity. We denounce satan in the sight of the Holy Mother
Orthodox Apostolic Church; and in the presence of the Virgin Mariam whom is Zion for ever and ever. Amen.
6. NAKUTEKA EGZIO
O Lord, we give You thanks, and we adore and glorify You.
O Lord, we subject ourselves unto You, we put our trust in You,
We give thanks unto you, O Lord, and serve your Holy name,
We worship You, to whom all knees bow in worship and all tongues serve,
Thou are God of Gods, Lord of Lords, and Kings of Kings.
Thou are the creator of all who have bodies and souls.
We call upon you according to the teachings of your Holy Son, who said,
To Him let us give glory, giving thanks to God the Most High, and let us give thanks to His mother and His Honorable Cross.
Peace be unto you, while honoring you our mother Mariam, we beseech you. We trust you to save us from evil beasts.
For the sake of Hannah, thy mother and father Iyakem. O Virgin Mariam, today bless our congregation.
† TSELOTE EGZITENA MARIAM ~ (Prayer of Virgin Mariam) ~ Saint Luke Chapter 1 verses 46 ~ 55
And the Virgin Mariam said, my soul does magnify the Lord.
My spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. For he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden; for behold from
henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. For he that is mighty has done to me great things;
and Holy is His name. And mercy is on them that fear Him from generation to generation.
He has showed strength with His arm; He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. He has put down
the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree.
He has filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent away empty. He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of His mercy. As he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed forever and ever. Amen
† THE PRAYER OF THANKSGIVING
Let us give thanks to the beneficent and merciful God, the Father of our Lord, God and Savior, Eyesus Christos, for He has covered us,
helped us, guarded us, accepted us unto Him, spared us, supported us, and brought us to this hour.
Let us also ask Him, the Lord our God, the Almighty, to guard us in all peace this holy day and all the days of our life.
O Master, Lord, God the Almighty, the Father of our Lord, God and Savior, Eyesus Kristos, we thank You for every condition,
concerning every condition, and in every condition, for You have covered us, helped us, guarded us, accepted us unto You, spared us,
supported us, and brought us to this hour.
Therefore, we ask and entreat Your goodness, O Lover of mankind, to grant us to complete this holy day, and all the days of our life,
in all peace with Your fear. All envy, all temptation, all the work of Satan, the counsel of wicked men, and the rising up of enemies,
hidden and manifest, take them away from us, and from all Your people, and from this holy place that is Yours.
But those things which are good and profitable do provide for us; for it is You Who have given us the authority to tread on serpents
and scorpions, and upon all the power of the enemy.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, by the grace, compassion and love of mankind, of Your Only-Begotten Son, our
Lord, God and Savior, Eyesus Kristos, through Whom the glory, the honor, the dominion, and the adoration are due unto You, with Him,
and the Holy Spirit, the Life-Giver, Who is of one essence with You, now and at all times, and world without end. Amen.
† PSALM 50 ~ (Psalm 51 in the King James version English Bible)
1. Have mercy upon me, O God, According to Your loving kindness;
According to the multitude of Thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions.
2. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.
3. For I acknowledge my transgressions; and my sin is ever before me.
4. Against Thee and Thee only I have sinned, and done this evil in Thy sight:
That Thou might be justified when Thou speakest, and be blameless when Thou judge
5. Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin did my mother conceive me.
6. Behold, Thou desire truth in the inward parts: And in the hidden part Thou shall make me to know wisdom.
7. Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; Wash me and I shall be whiter than snow.
8. Make me to hear joy and gladness; That the bones which Thou has broken may rejoice.
9. Hide Thy face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities.
10. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.
11. Do not cast me away from Thy presence; and take not Thy Holy Spirit from me.
12. Restore unto me the joy of Thy salvation: and uphold me with Thy generous Spirit.
13. Then I will teach transgressors Thy ways; and Sinners shall be converted unto Thee.
14. Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, Thou God of my salvation: and my tongue shall sing aloud of Thy righteousness.
15. O Lord, open my lips; and my mouth shall declare Thy praise.
16. For Thou desire not sacrifice, else I would give it: Thou do not delight in burnt offerings.
17. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and humbled heart O God Thou will not despise.
18. Do good in Thy good pleasure unto Zion; Thou build the walls of Jerusalem.
19. Then shall Thou be pleased with the sacrifices of righteousness,
with burnt offering and whole burnt offerings: then they shall offer bulls upon Thy altar.
† THE LORD'S PRAYER including Holy Virgin Mariam (Emabeatachin Qidus dingl Mariam Hoy)
† In the name of Mary, Your mother Lord have mercy on us (41 times)
† KYRIE ELEISON (My Lord have Mercy) is said 41 times in honour of the 36 lashes that Christ received during His Passion, plus the
nails in each hand (2), plus feet (2) and the spear in His side (41). We concentrate our mind on the suffering He withstood for us.
~ In addition to these, Monastics say many more prayers and Psalms daily. ~
Throughout the day the prayers below are also repeated. Return to Top
~ Alador (the piercing on the right hand),
~ Danat (the piercing on the left hand),
~ Adera (the piercing on right foot),
~ Rodas (the piercing on the left foot)
~ Sador (the piercing on the ribs by the lancet) ~ 41 times
~ Oh God ~ 41 times
~ Eyesus Kristos (Jesus Christ) please save me ~ 41 times
~ Save us and deliver us by your mercy ~ 41 times
~ Hear us! Our God and Savior ~ 41 times
~ Eloi la'ma Sa-bach'tha-ni ? OR My God why has Thou forsaken me? ~ 41 times
(“Eloi” is the name Christ called His Father in Mt. 27:46)
~ Yae! Yae! Yae! ( “woe to me”) My God see me! ~ 41 times
~ OH God according to Your Mercy and not according to my sin ~ 41 times
~ Lord remember us in Your Kingdom ~ 41 times
~ Ig-zee-'o tesahalene ( "Lord have mercy upon us" ) ~ 41 times
~ Abba-ta-chin Hoy (Oh Our Father) ~ 41 times
~ Kyrie Eleison ( My Lord have Mercy) ~ 41 times
† If you would like to add these prayers to your daily life, my advise is to begin slowly, and repeat a few until you can say them as easily as breathing. Don't be too concerned with being perfect, the idea is to simply concentrate the mind and communicate with God.
~ I find it easier to always keep the Prayer Bead wrapped around my left wrist, with the excess crossed over the thumb with the Cross resting in my palm; so it's easy to slip on and off to pray silently at anytime and anywhere. I often even sleep with them on.
The ones I use has round beads divided at every tenth bead by a "Flat Metal Cross", or by a "Flat Red Bead" (Red signifies Christ's Blood that was spilled to save us). This makes it easy to count with the Prayer Beads without looking or while inside the pocket discreetly, or to find the point to interject "Lord Save Me" at certain intervals.
~ ~ ~ I usually say "Lord save me" at each "Flat Bead" , and also at the Cross at the end; or if I am in private I also Prostrate and
say "Lord Eeyesus Kristos, Son of God have Mercy on me a sinner".
~~~ It's also a good practice to prostrate at the beginning of and end of each set of 41 or 64; Still keep in mind that the most
important thing is to simply speak to God by praying.
† THE GRACE OF GOD BE WITH YOU ALL †
Emahoy Hannah Mariam