Ethiopian Orthodox Church Celebrates Baptism Day
Volume 1, Issue 3 / February 2009
The baptism of Jesus Christ in the River Jordan was beautifully commemorated by the Ethiopian Orthodox Church community with music, holy water, and sacred rituals
For Ethiopian Orthodox followers, Monday the 18th of January marked the eve of celebration for the baptism (timket) of Jesus Christ in Jordan River by the hand of John the Baptist. It is one of the most important annual religious festivals for Orthodox followers. Here in Kakuma Camp, the Ethiopian Orthodox Church community was alive with religious spirit.
A colorful procession snaked its way through the narrow sand streets of Kakuma, a crowd of religious observers gathered around priests carrying the symbol of the Arc of the Covenant (Tabot). Immediately surrounding the priests were deacons and choirs chanting in beautiful uniforms. They were in turn surrounded by a crowd of Orthodox believers of all ages, wearing their brilliant white Ethiopian costumes and singing in the streets. Together, the entire procession walked to the celebration site singing different songs.
As the sun set at the celebration site, the prayer ended and everyone went back home. But some youths remained at the ceremonial tent to watch over the Tabot and protect it from thieves. In the Orthodox religion, the Tabot must be present wherever a mass takes place, so it is transported to the site of Timket baptism and stored in a specially prepared ceremonial tent.
After dark, believers again gathered at the Timket site for midnight prayers. A three-hour mass began the next morning at exactly 6 a.m. After mass, the real Timket ceremony began. Outside in the field, three large water tanks were filled to the brim with water.
The spirit of the ceremony focuses on the Holy Water. Priests prayed over the water and Timket began. Everyone in the crowd was eager to have a drop of Holy Water (Tsebel) sprinkled on them as priests poured Tsebel from a jug.
“I am happy that God made me today to celebrate this special occasion. As I prayed and poured this Holy Water on me all my sins washed away,” says a middle-aged woman wearing a very bright white traditional costume.
The Congregation went back home for the morning and returned again at 11 a.m. to transport the Tabot from the celebration site back to the church.
In the same style as before, the devout convened again to walk in procession singing praises to God. Boys, girls, men and women all joined the procession in groups as the Tabot was taken back to the Ethiopian Orthodox Church at midday.