SILENT LIGHT, In the Land of Mary
"YOU ARE THE POT OF PURE GOLD WHERE IS HIDDEN THE MANNA, THE BREAD WHICH CAME DOWN FROM HEAVEN GIVING LIFE TO ALL THE WORLD. RECEIVE THIS BODY AND THIS BLOOD FOR LIFE AND NOT FOR CONDEMNATION. WORLD WITHOUT END."-- chant of the ancient semitic liturgical language, Ge'ez.
The indigenous African Christianity of the Tewahedo church contains a spiritual nexus at the holy city of Lalibela in northern Amhara region of Ethiopia. This oldest, independent nation of Africa is also, arguably, the first christian nation in the world. Its unique form of Christianity developed here in relative isolation, protected by the rugged Abyssinian mountains which provided a buffer to the muslim conquests taking place north, 7th century. Its faith stands apart in a belief, considered heresy, that human nature may also contain the divine. Tewahedo translates as "being made one" or "one united nature".
During the 12th century, Lalibela became a "New Jerusalem" attracting pilgrims from throughout the ancient world. A King's vision of a church being built from a single block of stone began what would become eleven monolithic churches carved from the top down into the "living rock" to create a mecca of underground temples connected by passages leading from darkness into light for the pilgrims' path. The work was considererd a miracle, one created by angels.
This center of the Orthodox faith, where one is lost in the ritual of worship, is also at the footsteps of where human beings originated. The evolution of ourselves is found in the Afar region of Ethiopia. The bones that have been pressed deep into the earth reveal themselves from an ancient landscape that was once an empire stretching from East Africa across the Red Sea to the South Arabian Peninsula. Ethiopia has known great wealth and great poverty. Its identity is tied to an ancient empire, a Christian kingdom and a divided modern nation in flux. It resisted European colonization, but suffered enormously at the hands of its own brutal rulers. Through all of these centuries the silent movement of this pilgrimage has continued.
In Bete Maryam, the church of the most venerated saint in Ethiopia -the mother Mary- a pillar stands with the inscription: "to reveal the past and future of this world".