A Sacrament is a holy ordinance through which the believer receives an invisible grace under the form of an outward sign, visible or audible. It must have been instituted by Christ Himself. There are seven sacraments: Baptism, Confirmation, Penance, Holy Communion, Unction of the Sick, Matrimony and Holy Orders. The blessings got through the Sacraments do not depend on the life of the minister, it is God who works through the minister.

Baptism is the Sacrament through which a person is born again and accepted into the membership of the Church after being dipped into water three times in the name of the Father, the Son anal the Holy Ghost. Those who have been validly baptized must not be baptized again. It is by order of our Lord Jesus Christ that Baptism is administered. Infants and adults arc baptized.

As soon as the child is born the priest makes the proper calculation as to when the child is to be baptized and notifies the father. In case of a boy baptism takes place forty days after birth; with a girl, eighty days after birth. Baptism may be administered any time if the child is in danger of dying. The rite is long, including the churching of the mother and the purification of the child. Then the priest consecrates the oil and anoints the child, he also blows into its face, signifying the giving of the Holy Ghost. The child is anointed thirty times upon its different parts of the body. Later the priest baptizes the child by immersing it three timesQ"I baptize you (name) in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost. Amen" This may be said to be the end of the baptismal rite.

If the infant is ill, affusion is used in place of immersion. The baptismal rite is not repeated upon the Feast of Epiphany. "We believe in one baptism for the remission of sins". The rite practised on Epiphany is merely a renewal of baptismal vows and a commemoration of the Baptism of Jesus Christ in the River Jordan. Baptism by laymen, even deacons, is not allowed under any circumstances. Sponsors or godparents are a requirement. They exercise vigilance over their spiritual children. Back


Confirmation is the sacrament through which the believer granted the gift of the Holy Ghost who alone can confirm him in the new life given to him through Baptism. Like Baptism, this Sacrament can never be repeated. It is called also "Chrismation" because of the Holy Chrism, the oil applied in the administration of the Sacrament, the oil of balsam.

Confirmation follows immediately after the ceremony of Baptism. First the priest blesses the Holy Chrism and with it anoints the eyelids, eyes, nose, lips, ears, the back and the palm of the hands, the breast, the knees, the soles of the feet, the shoulders and the upper part of the breast. Then the infant is dressed in a white garment and the priest, having blessed the crown, places it upon the child's head. The Priest now places his hand upon the infant and bestows the Holy Ghost and the rite is concluded by the child receiving Holy Communion.

At the conclusion of the service the priest ties around the infant's neck a holy sign, the cord of silk, the MATEB, the badge of Christianity worn by every one. God-parents are exhorted to look after the child. Back


Penance is the Sacrament in which a Christian receives, through the mediation of the priest, forgiveness of sins on repenting and confessing them to the priest.

The doctrine of penance is based upon the command of our Lord who breathed upon the face of His disciples and told them to receive the Holy Ghost; whose soever sins they remitted, they would be remitted ( John 20:21-23) . Again He told His disciples that whatsoever they should loose on earth should be loosed in heaven (Matt. 18:18). In the Mass, absolution is given twice. Auricular Confession is the rule of the Church, confession being made only to a priest. The Lenten Fast ( Fast of Hudade ) and particularly Good Friday are appointed as special days for Confession. Confession is a requisite for the Sacrament of Unction. Absolution includes a blow over the shoulder administered with a branch of the Woira tree as a sign that the penitent has been delivered from sin and Satan. When the faithful fall into sin, they confess what they have committed, whether great or small, and the priest gives them penance according to the number and gravity of the offences. The penance may be in the form of fasting, prayer, alms or prostrations. 2 Chron. vii. 14, Mat, vii. 7, Mat. ix 13, Ps. xx. 9,2. This is a punishment for the sins; sins are not cancelled bv this, true repentance is shown when the sinner restores what he stole, forgives him who has injured him, asks pardon in humility of the man whom he has harmed, forsakes his accustomed sin, keeps away from all evil and returns with the whole heart to the Lord who is merciful and will cleanse him from sins. There is no forgiveness without true repentance by showing real sorrow, and resolve not to repeat the evil. Every family has a Soul-father, Confessor or Ya-nafs abbat who enjoys a confidential status. It frequently happens that the wills are deposited with him. The seal of confession is the obligation of secrecy imposed upon the priest with regard to every thing revealed to him in confession. It is absolute, with no exception. Back


The Ethiopian Church believes that the Holy Communion is both a Sacrament and a Sacrifice offered for our salvation, an unbloody sacrifice. As a sacrament it is that august mystery through which we eat the blessed flesh of our Lord, and drink His precious blood under the form of bread and wine. It is called also the Eucharist, the Lord's Table, the Body and Blood of Christ. The bread and wine which are blessed and consecrated by the word and help of the Lord and by the hand of the priest are united with His Body and Blood and truly changed, the bread is the Body of the son of God, and the wine is truly the Blood of the Son of God. Cor. 16, 17; Jn. xx 28. That which we receive is for a memorial of His death, for the forgiveness of sin, for the strengthening of faith and for eternal life. Mat. xxvi 26, 27, Jn. vi. 54. But he who eats and drinks when he ought not, eats and drinks condemnation to himself; it does not profit him.

It is our Lord Jesus Christ Himself who blesses and changes the bread and wine. By His word and grace, when the priest who has received authority blesses the bread, it becomes truly the Body of the Lord, and when he blesses the wine, it becomes truly the Blood of the Lord.

Before receiving the Holy Eucharist the soul must be free from sins, be washed in the water of repentance. What is necessary to prepare the body to receive the Eucharist is purity of heart and the works of faith, love, gentleness and mercy; outward fasting alone does not prepare the body with honor. But nevertheless, the ordinances of the church command those who intend to communicate to fast beforehand, taking no food and no liquid. The sick are exempted from the requirement of fasting and Eucharist may be celebrated for the faithful in time of sickness when they desire it.

Communion is administered in both kinds. Immediately after the reception the deacon gives water to those who have received in order that they may rinse their mouths. The wine is made before each service by the deacon from dried grapes and water.

The sacrament is reserved in the Tabot because occasional reservation is in use f.e. the last sacrament is administered in the homes of the sick people.

In brief the Church's faith is that our Lord Jesus is truly and actually present in the Sacrament of Eucharist, the faithful partake of the flesh and blood of Jesus Christ, get the spiritual food which helps them to grow in grace, receive remission of sins, abide in Christ and Christ abides in them, get holy companionship with Christ and fellow worshippers and with all the Church on earth, are given true life in this world and eternal life. Bells ring and believers prostrate themselves when the Holy Eucharist is in procession. When the flesh is divided and given to the believers, every part of it even the smallest part is perfect body of the Lord, the same with the blood. It is also believed that once the bread and wine are changed they remain flesh and blood till they are completely consumed. Communion is consecrated and given on the same day. Believers go and communicate in the church. In case of the very sick the priest takes communion to those who are near; for those who are far he consecrates Communion in a tent. Back


Unction of the sick is the Sacrament through which the priest anoints the body of the sick asking for divine grace to cure both body and soul. It is not an ordinary means of healing diseases and the healing power is not attributed to the oil but to the prayer. St. James mentions this Sacrament in his Epistle (5:14, 15). There should be seven or five priests ordinarily, but a smaIler number, even one, is sufficient. The sick man should be taken to the church but if it is impossible, he is anointed at home. For the anointing both oil and water are used separately and they are blessed by the priest on each occasion. Water is not essential. Confession is a part of the rite, and after absolution and anointing, Holy Communion is administered.

The oil with which the sick is anointed is consecrated. Those who consecrate it according to the words of the Gospel and the Apostle James, are the ministers. The manner of consecrating this holy oil is contained in the book called "The Book of the Lamp" tMashaf Quendil) in which there is written a portion of the Gospel and of the Epistle of the Apostle James.

This holy oil is not used on the occasion of any kind of slight sickness, but only at the time of severe sickness. The anointing profits the sick person both in soul and body. Back


"Holy Orders" is the Sacrament through which an ordinand receives authority to administer the sacraments and conduct other religious services.

Ordination is a sacred sign, accompanied by solemn ceremonies, with which the bishop, by the imposition of hands, confers on the fit chosen persons a portion of grace convenient for the ecclesiastical office to which they are raised. The episcopate, priesthood and diaconate were instituted by Jesus Christ and delivered to us by the Apostles and their successors; a man not ordained according to that institution cannot celebrate the Eucharist or perform any office of a priest. As to the validity of the Ethiopian Church Orders, in 1730 Josef Simen Assemain, a converted Marionite who had received a Western education, was selected by the Congregation of Propaganda in Rome to examine the whole question and give a full form used in Ethiopian Ordinations. With sound theological arguments Assemain declared that Ethiopian Orders were valid. A canonical ordination can never be repeated.

There are degrees of the Holy Orders: the major orders are the episcopate, priesthood and diaconate, the minor ones include subdeacons, deaconesses who assist in the baptism and confirmation of females, anagnosts or masters of ceremony, singers, door-keepers and others.

Much care is taken in the choice of a bishop; his character, age and absence of obstacles are thoroughly considered before an appointment is made, according to the epistle of St. Paul to Timothy ( 1 Tim. ii. 1-7 ) . A bishop is consecrated by the laying on of the hands of three bishops or two, saying the required prayers of consecration and being blessed as an ordinand.

The bishop's jurisdiction is over the faithful, the priests, the deacons and all ministers. In particular the bishop has the right to ordain candidates, try the clergy, consecrate holy oil, holy vessels, celebrate all the church sacraments and manage the general affairs of the church. When the Tabot is accidentally touched by a deacon or a layman it is the bishop who purifies and blesses it. He says the prayer of admission when candidates seek monastic seclusion and makes the sign of the cross on the skull-cap which each monk wears.

Requirements of education and age for admission to the diaconate and priesthood are not severe. Anybody who desires to enter the service of the church goes to a church school or any other institution for ecclesiastical studies. He learns the syllabary and then the "Fidal Hawaria", the first seven verses of the Epistle of St. John, then he reads books such as the Gospel, the Tamira Maryam, the Miracles of Mary, the "Gabata Hawaria" i.e. seven Epistles, one of James, two of Peter, three of John, and one of Jude, Psalter and a portion of St. John's Gospel. All these documents are in Geez, the church language. When the boys are ready they receive the diaconate from the bishop before marriage and later the priesthood after acquiring the technical knowledge of the services.

The duties of the priest are to baptize and confirm, to conduct Mass and the daily services of the Church, to solemnize marriage, to hear confessions, to perform the rite of Unction and to hold funeral services. A priest must not engage in other gainful occupations, he gives his services at all times and to every one irrespective of rank or wealth.

Purity of life is essential for deacons. During the divine service the deacon acts as acolyte. He bakes the Eucharistic bread in the oven of Bethlehem and makes fresh wine before each Mass. During the services he directs the actions and responses of the congregation. He is not allowed to touch the Tabot or to baptize or to say any benediction and is only permitted to marry before ordination.

The clergy have binding obligations, which they either meet or are deposed. Before ordination the candidates must be sure that the call comes to them from God, they must be blameless in order to be a good example to the congregation, they must be well acquainted with the Bible and church teachings. After ordination they should serve not as hired men working merely to get their wages, but as good shepherds who know that the sheep are theirs and that they are responsible for keeping them from beasts and for feeding them, ready to offer any sacrifice for their sake.

Priests and Deacons may marry before ordination, Bishops never. Monks also are not married, they keep celibate for life. Priests are ordained on feasts of the Lord or of Mary or Sunday. The hierarchy finally is: Patriarch, Archbishop, Bishop, Episcopos, Archimandrite, Priest, Deacon, Subdeacon and Debteras. Back


The Sacrament of Matrimony is the holy service through which a man and a woman are united and given the divine grace which sanctifies their union, makes it perfect and spiritual like the unity of Christ and Church, and gives them strength to abide by the contract which mutually binds.

Matrimony was instituted by the Almighty who at creation told Adam and Eve to be faithful, multiply and replenish the earth Christ taught that a man should cleave to his wife ( Matt. 19:4-6) .

During the rite the bride and bridegroom are anointed with oil and clothed in wedding garments including a crown. This church marriage is called Communion Marriage because the couple are married by Communion, Qurban; they take Holy Communion during the wedding Mass. The priest takes the man's hand and places it in the hand of the woman, blessing them with the sign of the cross. The bride is reminded that wives are subject to their husbands. The ceremony is completed with a Nuptial Mass in which both parties receive the sacrament.

The law of the Gospel and the Christian ordinances are one man for one woman and one woman for one man. The taking of another is forbidden ( 1 Tim. ini. 2; Tit. I. 6 ) . If either of them dies the other can marry. Separation is only allowed for adultery. Before marriage both should be Christians, Orthodox. They should not be related by a carnal or spiritual affinity, they should give their formal consent, the desire of parents is not sufficient. The Civil Law recognizes customary and civil marriages, the Church recognizes but one marriage, religious marriage, which is solemnized with a nuptial Mass or wedding Eucharist. This tie is binding and should it be broken by divorce excommunication follows automatically, communion is no longer given to the parties either guilty or not, because they are held to be impure. Church marriage is known as the "Eighty Bond" with a woman (Semanya Gebba). Back