The feast of the Holy Cross - Mesekel (The Founding of the True Cross)

Sep 25, 2020

The Mesekel holiday is celebreated on Meskerem 17 (27th of September) and Megabit 10 (19th of March). The word Meskel means, Cross, and the feast commemorates the finding of the True Cross by St. Helena.

The story in brief is that after the crucifixion of the Lord, the sick were healed by touching it and rubbing their bodies against the Cross. Attracted by these miracles, many became Christians. Seeing this, the Jews threw the Cross into a rubbish disposal pit and after a long time this place grew into a hill. Christians knew the area despite their inability to dig out and retrieve it.

During the invasion of Titus, (70 A.D) all Christians left Jerusalem and long after the site of the site of the city was changed, it became difficult to locate the place where the cross was buried. Because of this it remained buried for more than three hundred years.

In the 4th century, (327 A.D) the mother of King Constantine, Queen Helena, made a trip to Jerusalem to find the Cross. But she could not trace the place for no one could tell her the exact location. Since the finding of the Cross was God’s will, a certain old man by the name of Kiriakos (KirakosYared’s Hymn Book of Helena) sympathizing with her search, advised her as follows: - “You need not tire out yourself and others in vain. Make people gather wood and pile it. Put incense on it and burn it. Following where the smoke drifts, dig and you will find out the Cross.” (Synaxarium Megabit (March) 10 E.C.). She did all that she was told. The incense smoke rose upward and bowed down indicating the site where the Holy Cross was buried (Yared’s Hymn Book of Helena). She then dug and found out the True Cross. The Ethiopian Hymnologist, St. yared has praised this event with the verse, “The Wooden Cross which was buried at Golgotha by the Jews is found today.” (Yared’sHymun Book of Helena). This event is also celebrated everywhere in the Christian world.

But in Eritrean orthodox tewahdo church it is celebrated with great spiritual feeling and traditional sentiments. People bring torches of twigs called ‘Shig/HJoya Hoye’ and wood to ‘Meskel Square’, to form the ‘Damare’ (bundles of branches of wood and twigs). The priests perform prayers in front of the Damera and sing,” Meskel has illuminated, and it decorated the sky with stars and showed everything like the sun!!,” saying this, they circle the Damera followed by a huge procession which circles it singing, “hoya hoye.” People at home also light ‘Shig/hoya hoye’ and make merry. Since prayers have been said over the Damera, people make a sign of the cross on their forehead with the ashes and spray it over their cattle. Since Helena started digging on Mekerem 17 (September 27th) and found the Cross on Megabit 10 (March 19th) these holidays are observed as the same holiday.

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