Doctrine and Practice of the Church
The Christological Basis: Tewahedo
To be true to the Gospel, the total teaching of any Christian Church must proclaim the truth according to the great purpose of the church and it’s head Eyesus Kristos(Jé-sus Christ).
The church’s main task must be to maintain an interest in helping people in their responses to the one true God, who suffered for our salvation and who established only one Church of Him on earth.
It is necessary, therefore for all Christians to admit that God is not a Roman Catholic or Protestant. He is neither Monophysite nor Dyophysite or any other kind of indicated denomination that refers to political authorities and nationalistic ideals, which are contrary to the high principles of equality, unity and Christian love. Eyesus Kristos, Our Lord and God, is one Creator, one Saviour, for all mankind, who has the blood of all races in His veins, as He is the universal redeemer.
The teaching of the Ethiopian Church is founded on the Apostles’ experience of the Lord Eyesus Kristos as the Creator and Saviour of the world and on the conviction that the Holy Spirit is in the church. (Yesehaq, 101)
The Confession and Prayer of Faith
The Following is the creed the apostles gave in Jerusalem as is written in the Ethiopic Liturgical Book in the original Geez, It is used in Divine Services, especially during the Anaphora of the Apostles. (pg 40 and pg 63 in the English translation)
"...We believe in one God, maker of all creation, Father of our Lord and Saviour Eyesus Kristos, because his nature is unsearchable. As we have before declared, He is without beginning and without end, but He is ever living, and He has light which is never extinguished and He can never be approached. He is not two or three, and no addition can be made to Him; but He is only one, living forever, because He is not hidden that He cannot be known, but we know Him perfectly through the law and the prophets that He is Almighty and has authority over all the creations.
One God, Father of our Saviour Eyesus Kristos, who was begotten before the Creation of the world, the only begotten Son, coequal with Him, Creator of all the Hosts, the principalities and the dominions. Who in the last days was pleased to become man, and took flesh from Our Lady Mariam, the Holy Virgin, without the seed of man, and grew like men yet without sin or evil; neither was guile found in his mouth. Then he suffered, died in the flesh, rose from the dead on the third day ascended unto heaven to the Father who sent Him, sat down at the right hand of power, sent to us the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit who proceeded from the Father, and saved all the world, and who is coeternal with the Father and the Son.
We say further that all the creatures of God are good a there is nothing to be rejected, and the spirit, the life of the body is pure and holy in all. And we say that marriage is pure and childbirth is undefiled, because God created Adam and Eve to multiply. We understand further that there is in our body a soul, which is immortal and does not perish with the body.
We repudiate all work of heretics and all schisms and transgressions of the law, because they are for us impure. We also believe in the resurrection of the dead, the righteous and sinners; and in the Day of Judgment when everyone will be recompensed according to their deeds. We also believe that Christ is not in the least degree inferior because of his Incarnation
But He is God, the word who truly became man and reconciled mankind to God being the High Priest of the Father. Henceforth, let us not be circumcised like the Jews. We know that He who had to fulfill the law and the prophets has already come."
The Sacramental Theology
There are seven sacraments (mysteries) in the Church: Baptism, Confirmation, Penance, Holy Communion, Unction of the Sick, Matrimony and Holy Orders.
According to the teaching of the Ethiopian Church: “…The Sacraments are holy ordinance through which the believer receives an invisible grace under the form of an outward sign.” And in the performance of each sacrament the Divine Majesty Himself is present.
A regeneration and is the sacrament through which a person is born again and is accepted into the membership of the church after being baptized by the pouring on or immersion in water three times in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
It is listed as the first sacrament because it is considered the door through which the believer enters the church and the Kingdom of Grace, accordingly to what was said by the Lord Eyesus Kristos (John 3:5). Baptism brings salvation: “…even baptism does now save us” (1 Peter 3:21); “ He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved”(Mark 16:16).
The Ethiopian Church believes that baptism was commanded, directed and instituted by our Lord Eyesus Kristos, as all Christian Churches agree. It is the firm belief of the church that the original sin of the person is driven out through this sacrament. The person is then committed to the Christian cause as a citizen in the Kingdom of God, and a new life is bestowed upon the person.
Mateb (Neck Cord)
Mateb is given to the candidate during baptism. The priest must bless it before he ties it around the neck of the candidate. Mateb, which is worn by all Christians, is the badge of faith. It is made of a black, blue or white silken cord, carrying a cross to signify the Crucifixion of Christ. There are at least two important uses of the mark:
- To distinguish Christians from Moslems and pagans
- As a guard against evil spirits
The first three sacraments – baptism, confirmation and communion – are administered one after the other on the same occasion. Confirmation is received immediately after baptism to signify the Holy Spirit’s decent upon the Lord Christ directly after baptism (Mathew 3:16) Through confirmation, the believer receives the gift of the Holy Spirit: “ But ye have been anointed by the Holy One, and ye know all things.”(1 John 2:20)
The sacrament of Penance is necessary for repentance and sorrow for sins committed. It is administered before receiving Holy Communion; “ Let a man examine himself, and let him eat of that bread and drink of that cup. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation unto himself not discerning the Lord’s body” (1 Corinthians 11:28-29). “Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins maybe blotted out” (Acts 3:19). Through this sacrament, remission of sins and reconciliation with God are granted (Luke 15:18-24; John 8:11, 6:37, 1 Timothy 2:4; Acts 3:19).
The Lord's Supper
The Ethiopian Church through the ages has regarded the Lord’s Supper as the supreme act of life, when devout believers hold intimate communion with their Living Lord through the consecrated elements of bread and wine.
This is not the manna that Israel ate in the wilderness, the Holy Communion, the Lord’s Table, the Eucharist, the Flesh and Blood of Christ: “ Verily, Verily I say onto you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven but my Father giveth you the true bread from Heaven” (John 6:32) “ This is the bread which came down from Heaven; not as your fathers did eat manna and are dead; he that eateth of this bread shall live forever” (John 6:58).
This sacrament brings true and eternal life to the believer: “ Whosoever eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood, has eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. He that eateth of this bread shall live forever” (John 6:54-58) “ except ye eat the flesh of the Son of Man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you” (John 6:53).
The Ethiopian church believes that Our Lord Eyesus Kristos is present in this sacrament, not by way of granting His Grace, but by actually being there in the form of bread and Wine.
The sacrament of Matrimony is important for the Life of mankind. It is holy and ordained by God. Through it the husband and wife are united and given divine grace that sanctifies their union and makes perfect and spiritual, like the unity of Christ and the Church. This order is significant not only for the life of the couple but further demands the moral support and protection of all nations and their states. Moreover the Kingdom of God and the church are involved in this great mystery. Marriage is important for at least three reasons:
- For the propagation of humanity as it was commanded: “ Be fruitful and multiply.”
- To keep man and woman from the temptation of carnal lust.
- For the good relationship and mutual help between husband and wife.
The intention of marriage is that one husband should have one wife and one wife should have one husband. It is a gift for the preservation of man’s health in this world and for his salvation in the world to come.
This is the sacrament for ordaining and consecrating the clergy. Through this sacrament, the ordained clergy are granted a divine gift appropriate for the various services to which they are called: “Wherefore I put thee in remembrance that thou stir up the gift of God, which is in thee by the putting on of my hands” (2 Timothy 1:6). “ Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy with the laying on of hands in the presbytery.”(1 Timothy 4:14) The institution of this sacrament took place: First, when our Lord Eyesus Kristos appointed the twelve apostles and seventy disciples; second, when he commanded the apostles to preach and baptize all nations (Mathew 28:19-20); third, when Saint Paul said that it was Christ Himself who appointed some as apostles, some as prophets, some as evangelists, some as pastors and teachers (Ephesians 4:11).