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ST. MARY OF ZION

ETHIOPIAN ORTHODOX TEWAHEDO CHURCH - LONDON

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'Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit'

St Matthew 28: 19

Charity No. 282910

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The Foreign Relations, conducted for the establishment of an Autocephalous Ethiopian Bishopic

The foregoing has shown that from the first  to the fourth century, Judaism, with its law, and baptism with its faith, were known in Ethiopia.  But because of the lack of a bishop, the sacraments of baptism and the Eucharist were not performed until 330 AD.

 

Frumentius

 

In the middle of the fourth century AD, the first bishopric of Ethiopia was established during which the sacraments were fully administered, the Church was organised and Christianity became the state religion.  This took place during the reign of the Ethiopian emperors of Axum, Ezana and Saizana.  The Church historian Rufinus also confirms this fact.

 

At that time, Meropius a native of Tyre, was travelling to visit India with his relatives, Frumentius and Edisius (Siracos). On his way he stopped at the port of Massawa, where pirates attacked them and killed Meropius the philosopher.

 

However, Frumentius and Edisius escaped from the danger and were taken to the palace at Axum.  They lived in the palace  studying the language and culture of Ethiopia for a long time.  The king assigned  them different duties.  He made the younger, Edisius, a steward and chief of the palace, and the elder, Frumentius, a custodian and secretary of the palace because he was an intelligent and educated young man. After a while, the king died and in his will he permitted that the two young men could return to their country if they so wished. However, queen Ahiyewa (Sophia), the regent, requested that they     stay and help her until the enthronement of her child.

 

The young Frumentius encouraged a Christian merchant who came to Adulis and Axum that they should build assembly halls and chapels. As a result of this, Christianity and its good news spread among the people. When the Prince was crowned  he accepted Christianity. Frumentius also met Enberem (Amram), the high priest of that time, and discussed Christianity with him. Frumentius said to Enberem: "I see that she [Ethiopia] had the Christian faith and baptism but you do not have the sacrament of the Eucharist."  The high priest replied saying: "The eunuch of Candace, Queen of Ethiopia, brought us baptism; but no one brought us the sacrament of the Eucharist."

 

At that time Edisius the brother of Frumentius returns to his country Tyre by the permission of the King.  But Frumentius stressed to the king and the high authority is the need at the sacraments of the Holy Order and the Eucharist.  And they told him "There is no person who knows the language and the culture of ours and theirs."  Therefore, they sent him to Alexandria to bring the Sacrament of the Holy Orders and Eucharist.  Frumentius went to Alexandria as the representative of Ethiopia and not of his native country by the permission of the King and the people of Ethiopia.

 

This happened after the Council of Nicaea in 325 during the enthronement of Athanasius as Archbishop of Alexandria in 328.

 

Receiving the letter which was sent from the Ethiopian government through Frumentius, St Athanasius called a meeting of the Synod to consider the matter.  After the contents, of the letter were discussed at the Synod under the chairmanship of St Athanasius, it was decided that Frumentius who knew the language and culture of the country be appointed a bishop for Ethiopia.  On the basis of this decision, St Athanasius yes consecrated Frumentius by the laying of hands as a bishop of Axum and all Ethiopia.  After naming him Abba Selama he sent him back to Ethiopia.

 

The men's has returned in 330 as the first bishop of Ethiopia and instructed that Kings Ezana and Saizana on the Christian faith.  He baptised them and gave them a Christian names of Abraha and Atsbaha.

 

After establishing his episcopate in Axum, and embarked on spreading Christianity.  He started practice in the Sacrament of Holy Order and Eucharist.  He ordained deacons and priests to assist him in spreading the Gospel all over the country.  He also translated Scriptures from Syriac, Hebrew and Greek to Geez.  He changed the order of the Sabean letters and arranged in writing and reading from left to right.

 

Starting from 330 Christianity became a state religion of Ethiopia and this was acknowledged throughout the world.  Frumentius was named the "revealer of light" because he preached Gospel which is the source of peace.  As Christ called His Disciples "You are the lights of the world," in the same way, Frumentius was justly called by the Ethiopians as the "revealer of light".

 

St Athanasius occupies a place of prominence as the defender of the Orthodox Creed that was unanimously approved by the Ecumenical Council of the Nicaea in 325 AD where the heresy of Arius was condemned.  St Frumentius, faithful to the covenant that he received from his spiritual father St Athanasius was so well-known for his opposition to the heresy of Arius and explaining the decision of Nicaea to the Ethiopian people.

 

However, when Emperor Constantine who called the Council of Nicaea and supported the condemnation of Arius died in 337, his son Constantius the second was crowned in his place.  As Constantius was a supporter of Arius and his heretical teaching, he dismissed Athanasius from the Alexandrian on Patriarchate and replaced him with George the Aryan of Cappadocia.  

 

Constantius also wrote a letter to the Kings of Ethiopia, Abraha and Atsbaha asking them to dismiss Frumentius as Bishop of Axum and replaced him with an Aryan bishop.  The letter was sent to the Kings Abraha and Atsbaha by Theophilos, an Indian priests, who was born in the town of Sokotra.

 

The contents of the letter which was sent to the Ethiopian kings was as follows:

 

"It is my wish that the teachings of the Lord and the thinking ability that He endowed us with would reach all those who seek righteousness and the truth that that unity prevail between your Church and the Church of Rome.

 

Athanasius, who has been dismissed from his throne and was not able to answer to numerous charges bought against him has sent Frumentius to your country.  You should therefore send Frumentius back to Pope George and the Clergy of Alexandria and let them decide about him.  Since Abba Athanasius's deeds are known in every country except yours, he has been denied refuge.  He therefore seeks protection with you

 

If Frumentius sincerely wants to be a bishop, let him explain his life history to the priests and if confirmed by them that he is keeping the law and the regulation of the Church, he can be reconsecrated as a bishop.  Otherwise, if he is against the Canon Law like the talkative Athanasius he will spoil your Church and your name and might create trouble.

 

According to my opinion Frumentius must return to Alexandria and meet with His Holiness Pope George and the higher ranking church scholars.  After mastering the canon law and the teachings he can return to his episcopate."

 

The Kings Abraha and Atsbaha held firm on their support of the decision of the Council of Nicaea and the teachings of Athanasius and did not therefore accept the request of Constantius.  Theophilos, who bought the letter to Axum returned empty-handed.

 

It is said that St Athanasius upon hearing the just stand of the Ethiopian kings Abraha and Atsbaha, wrote them a letter of gratitude from his place of refuge.  Frumentius, with the corporations of the kings Abraha and Atsbaha and the faithful, built in Axum a big church with 13 sanctuaries under the name of St Mary of Zion.  He also encouraged the Christians to build churches in every district.

 

St Frumentius died in July 26, 380 after fulfilling his apostolic mission.

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