My heaven

October 1, 2016,  angels were heard blowing trumpets above the clouds. Feathery clouds formed a circle above the centre of Israel’s desert city. The sound of the trumpets was so clear and echoed around the city that anyone could tell it wasn’t anything of this world. It had certain grace. Its hard to recall what exactly I was feeling when I was watching the video, but I felt something different.

Today again I heard the same trumpets and I recognised it instantly as I felt the same feeling of being submitted to something so much bigger than I am. But this time round, this feeling didn’t stop with the trumpets, it continued through the hymns that were being magically sung.

A few months back I was surfing the web to know more about icons and iconography, and one of the things I found about the Holy Icon of the Theotokos holding Her Son was that the icon slowly drives the venerator from the purity, innocence and grace of the Theotokos to Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ through Her hand. The venerator first looks at her, and is then led by Her hands that held Her son to the humility of the child image of Our Lord. Just as the icon, the hymns felt like they were leading me, and anyone watching, high up into the clouds where the Throne of the Almighty is.

Today I heard the trumpets miles away from the Israeli sky. Today angels were not in the skies behind the clouds. Today angels were blowing those heavenly trumpets full of frightening grace in Ethiopia, during the celebration of Paraclitus, the 50th day of the Pentecost. The sound of the trumpets and the devoutness of the faithful took me above the clouds to the reflection of my heaven. My heaven that I had imagined and sewed from bits and pieces of what this world had and was deprived off. But as I saw what heaven truly is like, I tore my imagination back to the bits and pieces I had been sewing together all these years. I saw heaven.

Think about this for a second. Forget what you’ve been holding onto as paradise for a while. What if heaven was different? What if heaven was completely out of this world? Heaven is unimaginable anyways right? What if heaven was not of just people with white robes, and wings that have feathers for pens? What if there’s no harp that we see in the movies with posh evening parties that sound like this worlds definition of soothing music? What if angels don’t have blond or brunette, straight, long hairs? What if heaven was Ethiopians praising God, with harps of 10 strings, and drums that take the soul up to the skies and back along with the beats? What if heaven was Ethiopians conducting mass peacefully? what if heaven was Ethiopians celebrating here on earth but their souls lifted up with angels? What if heaven was the devout Ethiopians? What if heaven was the devout Ethiopians praising their Lord freely? Without sheep-skinned goats misleading them. Without false shepherds driving them to wrong grazing lands, without trying to limit their prayers, cut down their masses, burn their praying books, burn their monasteries, burn their monks alive, burn everything into ashes. What if heaven was Ethiopians conducting mass without the church being torn apart and bulldozed in front of them? Without the church land being shared among pigs that are always hungry for money. Without their history miss told and hidden or misinterpreted irreligiously?

 

What if heaven was Ethiopia minus the hungry government, minus the destruction hungry officials, minus the hungry for blood satanists? What if heaven was Ethiopians blowing their trumpets together with the angels without clubs turning up their music louder?  Where priests remained priests even through the night, and the lands given to the beer factories returned back to the church along with our brothers and sisters taken from us through TVs given to praise with us. What if heaven was all of us Ethiopians not only wearing white but yellow robes and yellow headdresses immensely glorifying God, His Saints and angels, side to side in the native language of heaven, Ge’ez. What if heaven was the Green Ethiopia with miraculous trees and leaves minus the dense jungle of pure concrete?

What if Ethiopia was heaven? Untouched and raw,  her forest un-deforested, her monasteries un-burned, her books not stolen, her leaders un-misled for money, no government hungry for money. What if heaven was indeed Ethiopia? What if I told you heaven is really Ethiopia?

Although nothing is comparable to the Theotokos’ holy hands, the celebration led me above the clouds where the angels first blew the trumpets, but the gate keeper said the angels were all in Ethiopia celebrating the 50th day of the Pentecost and sadly no one was available to show me around. I asked when I could come back but he said that they’ll probably be there even if I came back again, he said some of them actually lived there. So I came down to see the angels and the Ethiopians blowing their trumpets, taking souls up only to bring them back here again.

 

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God is Ethiopian

As a child I always felt that God and His mother, the Virgin, were both Ethiopians. I know that where He’s from doesn’t matter but I always felt like I belonged in His hands and He understood me. I don’t know if there’s a better way to put this but, whenever I attended the Holy Liturgy with my grandma, I felt like it was heavenly and we were flying a hundred feet above the ground. But one day I remember seeing a different icon of the Virgin that made me question if she wasn’t really Ethiopian. And I remember realising that she was actually from Lebanon made feel distant and I don’t know, less loved and cared for than the people of Lebanon although I grew up closer to Her day by day.

Growing up, I noticed most of the religious movies (mostly made to make money) are neither biblical nor religious and are solely made to “white-fy” the bible. This is not to say race matters when it comes to religion, but there’s always this lingering feeling of being out casted after watching a so called “biblical movie” with people talking in British accent (I’m sorry if I pay so much attention to details). I can’t help but feel submitted to a foreign God. I feel less as I imagine a God like the one in the movies, I mean does He even speak Amharic? Or Should I just pray in English instead?

I’ll cut to the chase, I was embarrassed and heartbroken watching a TV program about the 121st Adwa Celebrations. The public was asked what it was about and NOT A SINGLE person mentioned God. This guy said;

It is a celebration to remember Ethiopia, as a black African country, had victory over Italy

It doesn’t even make sense! Black African? I’m surprised about how much western influence had damaged the minds of the youth, defining the purpose of our own victory shaped in accordance to their views. Making it about equality and economy, and colonization and what not.

Look! Adwa is much more. Adwa is God’s way of saying Ethiopia is mine. Adwa is a language of the quiet Ethiopians. A language of strength, a language of submittance to God. A language, deep, speaking softly yet with strength, that clearly showed the intercession of the saints. For one that paid attention, Adwa, is an immortal miracle, an answer to countless questions both from Ethiopians and around the globe. Menelik II is a hero, not because he led the army, but because he was STRONG enough to know  he was WEAK. Because he knew, like king David, God was stronger and without Him there’d have been no victory. Because he knew and trusted St. George, God’s warrior, would fight in the battle with him. And he did, on his white horse leading the Army. Adwa is a living proof that a prayer, pure, from the heart is always answered and faith makes everything possible.

But on the contrary, this rich history is fading away to just “victory of Menelik II” glorifying the king and not The King of Kings. Adwa now has been clothed with cheap robes of worldly praises. And I blame this “modernized and democratic” world for putting this victory in political terms completely ridding it off of it’s golden religious history. I blame this world for the thousands of books written about Menelik II and The battle of Adwa but not a single one praising St. George. I blame this world for hundreds of youth jumping at a concert prepared in the name of the battle with beer in one hand instead of attending the annual celebration of St. George. I blame this world for this man that just answered on the program. I blame this world for not just “white-fying” Christianity but also Adwa.

Amidst all of this, one of the questions Adwa answered for me was the undeniable fact that God is closer to me without me being able to speak in British accent or without me being white. It proved to me that no matter how much the westerners try to “western-ize” God, for Ethiopians He is Ethiopian. For Africans He’s African.

Welcome to my blog

After so much procrastination, I have finally decided to actually share something on my blog. I hope I’ll be able to be consistent with sharing whatever comes to mind. The contents will purely be my views, my perspectives of social and religious matters alongside my personal reflections of life. Hope you enjoy reading as much as I did writing.