Today 11th day of the Ethiopian month of Ter ጥር, January 19 for the western calendar, the Ethiopian tradition celebrates its Christian Epiphany, which however has nothing to do with the Latin interpretation of the holiday, theologically incorrect and commercialized with pagan distortion.
In fact, we do not celebrate the visit of the Magi or Three Wise Men, which instead took place on the occasion of the birthday of the Lord, two years after his birth, and which is therefore celebrated on the same day as the Orthodox Christmas (7th January).
Epiphany means “manifestation” in Greek, and is translated into Ge’ez with the term “Asteryo” አስተርዮ, which also reveals the unmistakable Semitic construction of the latin/english words “Star” and “Astral”, literally what it shows itself, appears and makes itself seen, from the geez verb Reeye ርእየ “To See”. It is the public manifestation of Christ’s messianic authority, which took place with His baptism by the hand of John the Baptist, in the Jordan River, and it also marks the beginning of Christ’s public ministry as the Father’s High Priest. The feast is therefore also called “Timqet” ጥምቀት, Baptism.
The Lord was baptized at the age of 30 and began preaching, teaching disciples and apostles and administering the sacraments ever since, for 3 years until His crucifixion. In fact, Adam was created in the beginning as a thirty-year-old man, therefore in the age of full male biological maturity, to which Christ reconnects to present himself as New Adam and New Father of Humanity, and to qualify his work as a New Creation of cosmic purification and renewal.
“Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him. But John forbad him, saying, ‘I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me?’ And Jesus answering said unto him, ‘Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness’. Then he suffered him.” (Matthew 3:13-15)
Christ gets baptized in the same manner of sinful men, by hands of a sinful man, despite He had no sins to be washed away. It is thus manifested the mystery of the Perfect Humanity of the Lord, by which he must fulfill all human righteousness, Perfect God and Perfect Man together and in the same time. As a Perfect Man, he is a creature like us, subject to the Law of God, and as such he must accomplish all the things of man in an exemplary way. It is quite curious that certain orthodox people attack Rastafari vision because of the sacraments Haile Selassie I has received as an ordinary faithful, thus they show to ignore the same orthodox christology they pretend to defend.
“And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him: And lo a voice from heaven, saying, ‘This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased’.” (Matthew 3:16-17)
Here, on the other hand, the mystery of His Divinity and of His Triune Nature is revealed: The Father is pleased in the Son, and crowns him through the Holy Spirit in shape of a dove, which descends and overshadows the head of Christ.
The Lord thus received Baptism through complete immersion in the river, and the Ethiopian Church still baptizes only by completely covering of water of the body of the faithful, unlike the Catholic Church, which bathes only only a small point of the faithful’s forehead, thus administering a ineffective rite which is contrary to any doctrinal logic.
Baptism as a sacramental christian practice is allegorically prefigured by the ablutions of water prescribed by Moses, for the purification of human bodies and things:
“And whosoever toucheth any thing that was under him shall be unclean until the even: and he that beareth any of those things shall wash his clothes, and bathe himself in water, and be unclean until the even.” (Leviticus 15:10)
The Lord had also promised through prophet Ezekiel (36:25):
“Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you.”
And prophet Micah too (7:19), he spoke about this mystery:
“He will turn again, he will have compassion upon us; he will subdue our iniquities; and thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea.”
The Baptism of the Lord was also prophesied by David in the Psalm 76/77:
The waters have seen you O Lord ::
The waters have seen you and feared ::
The abysses of waters quivered; and their waters resounded ::
And again, in Psalm 113/114:
At the time when Israel came out of Egypt ::
And the house of Jacob from the enemy people ::
And Judah became His sanctuary ::
And also Israel His jurisdiction ::
And the sea also saw and fled ::
And also the Jordan turned back ::
The mountains jumped like rams ::
And also the hills like lambs ::
What’s up, sea, that you fled ? ::
And you also Jordan, that turned back ? ::
Mountains, that you jumped like rams ? ::
And you also hills, like lambs ?::
The earth was shaken before the face of Egziabhier ::
Before the face of the God of Jacob ::
Who has made the rock as springs of waters ::
And the flint like cisterns of waters ::
Immediately after baptism, the Lord received the anointing of the Holy Spirit, what is called in the West “Confirmation” or “Chrism” (in Ethiopian language “Mieron” ሜሮን) and which was biblically administered with olive oil to elect Kings or High Priests in Israel. Through this, the charisma of the Holy Spirit is communicated to the Anointed One in seven forms, which allows the faithful to preserve the grace acquired through baptism, just as the ointment after bathing allows the body to keep its cleaness and health. It was in fact written:
“A scepter will come out of the root of Jesse, and cause the fruit to rise from his trunk. And he will make the Spirit of Egziabhier rest upon him, spirit of wisdom and knowledge, spirit of power and counsel, spirit of understanding and justice. The spirit of the fear of Egziabhier will fill him”
(Isaiah 11, 1-3)
The Ethiopian Church administers this sacrament immediately after baptism in a single inseparable rite, according to that Christological model, and the Roman custom shows itself to be profoundly corrupt and senseless in this too, administrating the unction much later from the baptism and separating what God has united.
Here, then, the first two verses of Genesis and of the Bible itself come to mind:
“In the beginning God made the heavens and the earth. But the earth was naked and was not defined, the darkness was above the abyss, and the spirit of Egziabhier overshadows the waters.” (Genesis 1:1-2)
And again, after the flood of water in Noah’s time:
“And the dove returned to him towards evening; and behold, it had a fresh olive leaf in its beak. So Noah understood that the waters had diminished upon the earth.” (Genesis 8:11)
Hence we have the same symbolic physiognomy of the creation with Adam, and of the renewal of creation with Noah, indicating that Christ was beginning on that day to make all things new, a new life.
According to traditional ethiopian books, the dove corresponds to the lamb among the birds, both symbols of purity and innocence, and to the olive tree among the vegetable plants, which blooms as white as the sheep’s coat. It is the symbolism of the tribe of Levi (O-Live), the Lamb, to which the Old Covenant reserves the priestly power, and to which Christ belongs through the mother of the virgin Maryam, Hanna, of the tribe of Levi, and related to Elizabeth, mother of John Baptist: he was priest of the tribe of Levi and officiant of this Divine Rite. The Lord is thus elected High Priest of the Father according to the Law of Moses, fully authorized to administer the sacrifice of Himself, the Lamb who would wash away the sins of the world.