Meskel – The Finding of the True Cross-Celebrated in Ethiopia - September 27, 2015
By: Tekletsadik Belachew
Meskel (Masqal) - the Cross – is the commemoration of the finding of the true cross of Christ celebrated in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia with the blessing of the Ethiopian Patriarch and the presence of the Coptic Patriarch with several Coptic bishops. Meskel as public celebration hosts several honorable guests including the President of Ethiopia, the Mayor of the city (of Addis Ababa), Ambassadors, tourists, scholars, visitors and hundreds of thousands Christians.
Activities of the feast of Meskel comprise choirs singing with their colorful traditional and ecclesiastical dressing, accompanied by traditional musical instruments (like harp, cestrum and drum), liturgical dancing, gospel reading and prayers. The story of Meskel staged in dramatic performance.
Mesqel is the commemoration and veneration of the unearthing of the true Cross of Christ in Jerusalem, in 326 by Empress and St. Eleni (Hellena), the mother of Emperor Constantine. The smoke pointed the exact location of the true cross as the story told by Christians in many places around the world including by the Ethiopic and Coptic traditions. It is also believed part of the true relics of Christ’s own cross (gimade meskel in Ge’ez) to be found in Ethiopia. The feast of Meskel culminated by igniting the bonfire of the Damara (the ritual of burning of the stacks of twigs in the midst of the Meskel square). The Damara is decorated and erected with yellow flowers and grass as well as the cross on the top. The Patriarchs and honorable guests set the fire of the Damara as a symbolic reenactment of the story of the finding of the true cross.
“Now first of all they believed in an orthodox manner in the preaching of the Apostles up to [the time of] Constantine, and Eleni (Helena) the Queen, who brought forth the wood Cross, and they (i.e. the kings of Rome) continued [to believe for] on hundred and thirty years.” (Kebra Nagast).
During the celebration of the feast of the Cross-, the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church Patriarch, His Holiness Abuna Mathias stated three reasons that make this year’s (2015) celebration of Meskel unique. Firstly, it is the presence of His Holiness Pope Tawadros II, Pope of Alexandria & Patriarch of the See of St. Mark. Secondly, we are celebrating it after “The Feast of Meskel is inscribed by the UNESCO as an intangible heritage of humanity.” Thirdly, the celebration of the Cross speaks to the unity that exists between the two nations (Egypt and Ethiopia) and the two churches (Coptic and EOTC). The unity tied for centuries around matters of life and faith. The patriarch mentioned the unity and solidarity of the two people hangs historically including on the recent Ethiopian and Egyptians execution in Libya while searching for the betterment of life, then commemorated as martyrs. The Nile River connects the two people. The consent by the two nations on the fair use and distribution of the Nile River is immensely significant. In matters of faith, he also evokes the name of St. Athanasius (Atanatios) the Great of Alexandria as the common father. The meaning of the cross declares solidarity in the time of distress and joyous celebration.
“On the basis of its spiritual and religious tradition numerous social, cultural, and artistic values have been developed. The feast of Meskel have contributed for the peaceful coexistence, love, unity and development of our society. May the Love of the Cross be with all of us.” (from the invitation card)
His Holiness Pope Tawadros II, emphasized the cross is a sign of peace (between God and man and between man and man). The cross was a sign of suffering for criminal punishment. But, after Jesus Christ crucified on it, He transformed it to a message of love, peace and joy.