Hundreds of Ethiopians and Copts gathered last week at the Muharraq Monastery of the Holy Virgin 384km south of Cairo in Qoussiya, Assiut, to celebrate the feast of the dedication of the monastery’s ancient church to the Holy Virgin.
The celebration witnessed a candlelight procession to the beating of drums and Ethiopian dancing, amid prayers and praises for the Holy Virgin.
It concluded with Holy Mass in which Muharraq Abbot Anba Bigoul officiated, together with Anba Estafanous, Bishop of Biba and al-Fashn.
It is a tradition with Ethiopians to participate in the event every year, also in other events celebrating the Holy Virgin at Muharraq Monastery which they label the “Second Jerusalem”, and to which they come for pilgrimage.
Muharraq Monastery is known to be among the oldest still operational monasteries in the world. Tradition has it that it was the spot where the Holy Family spent more than six months on its flight into Egypt from the face of Herod the King—the story is related in Chapter 2 of the Gospel of St Matthew. It its believed that the ancient church was consecrated by Jesus Himself in the 1st century, and the altar stone is one that Jesus Christ sat on as a child. According to some researchers, it is the oldest church in the world.
Ethiopians have throughout history venerated places where Jesus lived; this includes Jerusalem and Muharraq which they called Second Jerusalem. The monastery records say that Ethiopian monks stayed at Muharraq since the 3rd – 4th centuries but their numbers declined over the years. Manuscripts preserved in Ethiopian monasteries attest to the numerous miracles which the Holy Virgin Mary made in her Muharraq Monastery.
20 November 2018