Friday, June 26, 2009

The Treasury in the Second Jerusalem

Contrary to some very false claims circulating in the media recently, the Ethiopian Orthodox are not opening up the Treasury to reveal to everyone what longstanding Ethiopian legend holds to be the Ark of the Covenant. The Ark is a very important symbol to Ethiopian Christians; every Ethiopian Orthodox church has its own representative of the tabot, and at the Church of Our Lady Mary of Zion, the most important church in Ethiopian Orthodoxy (you can see the layout of its grounds via wikimapia), is what Ethiopians insist is the Ark of the Covenant itself, the legend being that Menelik I, son of Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, brought it with him for safekeeping, thus making the city of Axum, at least in the eyes of most Ethiopians, the Second Jerusalem. Very few people have ever seen it, and usually the only person who ever sees it is the monk chosen to guard it and pray before it day in and day out for the rest of his life. The Ethiopian Orthodox are not going to change this all of a sudden; the rumors seemed to be based on a misunderstanding of comments of by the Ethiopian Orthodox patriarch.

I find that one of my poem drafts is on the subject.

Treasury

A cathedral hewn of a single stone
holds a golden cross and an ancient throne
where the glory sat above the cherubim
in the holiest holy.

The Ge'ez prayers of an ancient rite
softly rise into velvet night
as Ezana's children pray by the wall
of the holiest holy.

I dreamed of Aksum where angels rest
on every tabot and stars are guest
at revels of hope and undying light
near the holiest holy.

Maryam Ts'iyon walks a path alone
through the cherubim beneath the throne
of the Highest High with His glorious gift,
the holiest of holies.

Ge'ez is the ancient Semitic language that was used by the Kingdom of Axum, or Aksum; it is still a liturgical language for the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, the Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Church, the Ethiopian Catholic Church, and even Ethiopian Jews. Ezana was the first Christian monarch of Axum; he is said to have built the first Church of Our Lady of Zion, although the current church only dates to the sixteenth or seventeenth century. And Maryam Ts'iyon, of course, is Our Lady of Zion herself.

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