Contemplations on a Pasta Sauce

“Wow, you chopped the onions very fine, I use the chopper when I want the pieces really small”, commented a family friend. Truth be told, The onions weren’t that fine if you ask me. Mom would probably ask me to chop them finer. I replied with a forced smile I had become good at over time. It made up for my weak communication skills and not being able to deal with compliments.

  I threw the “finely” chopped onions into a big saucepan and asked for a spatula. I knew my way around the kitchen, but me being Ethiopian played its part in not opening the drawers to get one from the kitchen I’ve been in a little over a couple of times. The onions were now being tossed over from side to side on low heat. “Here’s the video I was telling you about” she said handing me her phone with one hand, holding a can of opened tomato paste in the other. The video was about a German tourist’s journey to the Philippines. 

“It’s like paradise, ya?” she asked with her strong Filipino accent. I could clearly taste homesickness in her words. 

“Yes!” I said, ” It looks straight out of a magazine.” 

It really did look magical with green islands bordered with white sand and transparent indigo waters. It did look like the wallpapers of old PC monitors.

 “Pff.. what is Maldives? Filipino islands are better but people like to go to Europe and Turkey only”. 

” Why?” I asked, thinking it was a case of less publicity or the country’s government not focusing on tourism as much as it did on “transformation” like my motherland. But I was surprised when she said “Because it’s so far, it’s an eight hour flight, but to Italy or Turkey it’s just three”. The video ended, and honestly it was enough for me to know how beautiful the Philippines was, but she kept looking for more videos. I figured it was due to homesickness, so I held myself back from saying anything. As she was scrolling down through videos I was still stuck on her last words. 

Because its so far, it‘s an eight hour flight, but to Italy or Turkey its just three.

    I have taken a flight before and I don’t recall doing anything else in the plane than just sitting down or sleeping, eating and occasionally going through channels to watch something. I don’t remember intensive manual labour being involved. It’s just that people want everything short and easy these days. Short flights and easy lifestyles.

Work Gebre, work

Okay maybe it’s that people hate sitting down for a long time. Maybe it’s that they like to work so much that they can’t bear sitting down for another five hours. Yeah maybe that’s it. But does that explain driver-less cars, auto parking systems, automatic vacuum cleaners? Does it in anyway explain not wanting to be bothered with finely chopping two, just two, onions to make a simple pasta sauce and using an automatic chopper instead? Perhaps they can’t sit on one chair for eight hours. They need to change seats and locations.

Work Gebre, work. Don’t get tired Gebre, work

     I had added the tomato paste and started stirring. She plugged her phone to the speakers, alternating her eyes between the same tourist videos and the rice she had  started cooking. She doesn’t like pasta.

   Who would believe it took the Israelites 40 years to get to the promise land when it takes 4  hours today? Who would have the guts today to walk from Israel to India like Thomas the apostle? Forget his skin being ripped off and all of the struggles he faced because of the ministry. What about Abraham? And even Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ and Our Mother the Virgin Mary, that travelled from Bethlehem to Egypt, then to Ethiopia, back to Egypt then at last back to Israel by foot. I don’t think anyone would take flights of this journey let alone travel by foot. I guess it’s too much to expect from this world that wants it’s coffee done in less than a minute. I don’t believe work of faith has been preserved as much as the faith was for thousands of years.

Work Gebrework. Don’t get tired  Gebre, work. You fight with many devils if you don’t work. Work Gebre.

“Here’s the garlic paste, we don’t have garlic.” She said handing me the jar. I put the storm of thoughts on pause  and flashed a smile symbolizing a thank you. I then quickly rinsed a spoon and added one spoonful. I kept stirring, lost in my thoughts again.

Till now I’ve added “tomato paste” that might not even contain actual tomatoes because I didn’t want to be bothered to chop some, and a “garlic paste” similarly full of preservatives. Yes it saved me 5- 10 minutes of peeling and washing and chopping, but it cost me my health and it’s natural content. I admit I should be thankful that it’s more “natural” compared to soylent, a liquid substitute for meals, specifically put together by computer programmers with absolutely no prior nutritional knowledge, for people who are bothered to chew. 

Work Gebrework. Don’t get tired  Gebre, work. You fight with many devils if you don’t work, but you only fight with one when you work. Work Gebre.   

   People now are bothered. They are bothered to chew, clean, drive, sit and fly, to read, to talk. They are bothered to work. And this is reflected from wanting to shorten the Holy Liturgy in churches, to using “pastes” to make a mere pasta sauce.

   The more people are bothered to work, the more devils they fight with, the less they turn to God, the more diabolic wars they lose, the harder it becomes to get up from their failures. The deeper they sin, the less they realize they’ve sinned.

 ” Work Gebrework. Don’t get tired  Gebre, work. You fight with many devils if you don’t work, but you only fight with one when you work. Work Gebre” says  St. Abune Gebre Kristos to himself briefly sitting down, tired from brooming the sandy doorsteps of the Baramus Monastery. He quickly then stood up and started cleaning the same doorsteps.

  St. Abune Gebre Kristos worked relentlessly all his life as a monk forsaking his riches as well as his position as a crown Prince. He wasn’t bothered to forsake the breezy Ethiopian weather in return for the arid Egyptian desert. He wasn’t bothered to walk to and from his cave to the monastery every Saturday for service when he later became a hermit. He wasn’t bothered to labour more and eat less. He wasn’t bothered to live with God and work for it. 

  I am afraid this generation won’t give birth to saints like St. Abune Gebre Kristos, as no saint has ever preferred using vacuum cleaners instead of brooms.

  “It smells good. You’re done?” She asked as my stormy thoughts calmed. ” Yes, I just need to add coriander and I’m done” I said. And even as the tiny grains of the coriander powder dove in to the sauce, St. Abune Gebre Kristos’ words kept ringing in my ears.

Work, Gebre, work.

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 No strings attached

 

I wanted to be remembered,

I wanted everyone to mourn my loss,

The whole world.

Or maybe do something that’d last forever,

Something honourable.

But then…

This world that I wanted to be remembered in,

Was a ticking bomb that’d soon blow,

A countdown clock that’d end.

This world in which I wanted to be mourned for,

Is filled with people who want to be accepted by the world.

Those who follow trends instead of God,

Memorise lyrics of a popular song,

Rather than a verse in the bible.

Artificials who’d rather count stars, horoscopes, and constellations,

Than read Revelations.

This very world that I wanted to raise my voice at,

Was a world with eyes and ears but rather deaf blind.

Deaf to the words of God,

Blind to the works and miracles of Jesus,

Taking shots on Friday nights and,

Running to church on Sunday mornings.

With people who choose to show some skin and get naked on stage,

Than show some respect and get their hearts naked for confession.

This is the world that I wanted to be remembered in?

These are the people that I wished to get mourned by?

Forget it then. Never mind.

I don’t want to be remembered.

Because then, I’d have to get accepted, right?

And I’d rather die unknown without a trace,

Cause all that matters is I get welcomed by angels up there,

By the One with true power and grace.

What was I thinking?

This is where everything that was written not to do is being done,

Where instead of angels and saints,

Actors, singers and models are shone.

Majority means correct,

Even though it’s the road straight to hell.

Science is applauded,

God’s work neglected,

Churches burned, demolished,

People’s minds brainwashed,

Serving God is being a nerd,

Believing in his name is being primitive,

Going to church is lame,

And wearing the cross is just for the sake of fashion.

I must’ve been crazy cause,

Doing something honourable today is a myth.

But as for me,

He gave me life and I will live,

Every heartbeat, every breath I’ll breath for Him.

No I won’t say YOLO and party all night,

Never will “He died for me” be a Facebook status I write.

Yeah He did die for me and I’ll die for Him,

He lived to save me and I’m saved when I live for Him.

And His laws in my heart I’ll keep them safe.

So listen you deaf-blind world,

His words aren’t lame.

They’re light, brighter than the Sun.

The church is a blessed place where ,

God lives with the Holy Spirit and His Son.

The virgin Mary isn’t just His mother,

She is the bridge, the ladder to heaven.

The cross isn’t just for fashion,

It’s is also a point where this world started a new chapter.

It is a symbol and a token of our promise,

That His sufferings we will also suffer.

So it is up to you now,

Believe in Him or not the world will end,

As peaceful as it may seem,

There’ll come a hurricane.

I’ve chosen my path, I’ve decided,

I don’t want to be remembered neither lamented.

I don’t want to speak up,

I want to stay low and keep silent.

God is the only one I want to be remembered by,

His words are the only ones I memorize,

His lead is the only example I follow,

The communion is the only meal to my soul,

And in His beloved hands is where I belong,

God,  I have utterly, finally decided,

I want to leave this world with No. Strings. Attached.

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.

 

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.