The faithful of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church have rallied throughout the land to celebrate the annual festival of Maskal.
The faithful of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church have rallied throughout the land to celebrate the annual festival of Maskal. In the Capital, Addis Ababa, some eight-thousand Christians gathered in Revolution Square on Monday (26 September) to watch the traditional rites that mark the finding of the true cross.
SYNOPSIS: Although the Maskal Festival draws priests and worshippers into the streets throughout Ethiopia, it's in Addis Ababa that the most spectacular celebration occurs. In Revolution Square a huge bonfire is built attended by robed priests. They're led by the church Patriarch, His Holiness Abuna Tekle Haimanot, who carries the huge gold cross used in his benediction of the faithful.
The cross and fire have a significance in the ceremony that can be traced to the fourth century. It is said that Queen Helena, Mother of Emperor Constantine I, travelled to Jerusalem in search of the Holy Sepulchre. She used wooden torches to light her way and according to church belief, the smoke from these torches descended to touch the spot where the true cross had been buried.
Apart from its religious significance, the Festival of Maskal also has meaning in terms of the coming of spring. But for the church, Maskal commemorates the finding of the cross on which Christ died, and the fire provides a climax for the festivities.
The Ethiopian Patriarch told the crowd that God would save them from Somali aggression. The festival took place amid secessionist wars in the north and south east of the country and Ethiopia's military rulers are said to be facing increasing internal opposition. Unconfirmed reports say demoralised soldiers beaten back by Somali forces in the Ogaden Desert have been calling for an end to military rule.