Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Tabots consecrated in Bronx cathedral

A tabot is a small tablet that symbolises the Ark of the Covenant. Tabots are regarded by 35 million Ethiopian Christians as so sacrosanct that only priests are allowed to even look at them. Every Ethiopian church has a tabot, which is consecrated instead of the building and its grounds. Tabots are made from stone or wood and generally measure about 7" by 5" and bear a carved cross and an ancient Ethiopian inscription with the name of the saint the church is dedicated to. In the Syriac Church they use a wooden thabilitho (which also symbolizes the Cross of Christ) whereas Orthodoxy uses an antimension (meaning "instead of the table"). The use of the antimension spread in response to the heresies (initially primarily iconoclasm) where the clergy could not trust that the altar had been properly consecrated. Eventually the antimension was used even when there was no doubt about the canonical order of the church.

Bronx, NY (SCOOCH) – On the evening of Thursday, August 24, 2017, the clergy and faithful of the Ethiopian Orthodox Archdiocese of New York gathered at the historic Holy Trinity Cathedral in the Bronx to consecrate a pair of tabots – sacred altar stones, without which a church’s altar is not considered valid – for the chapels of the newly dedicated Kidane Mehret Kidane Selam Hermitage and Women’s Monastery, which is presently being established in New York’s Catskill Mountains.

The tabots were consecrated in the absence of H.E. Abune Zekarias – Archbishop of New York, who is presently traveling in Ethiopia – by H.E. Abune Thaddeus, Archbishop of the Ethiopian Orthodox Archdiocese of the Caribbean, and H.E. Mor Titus Yeldho, Archbishop of the Malankara Archdiocese of the Syriac Orthodox Church. Joining the Archbishops and the Ethiopian faithful were SCOOCH delegates Fr. Varghese Paul, who accompanied Mor Titus, and Deacon Gebre Kristos Nicholas, Ecumenical Officer of the Coptic Orthodox Diocese of NY & NE, representing H.G. Bishop David.

Groundbreaking ceremonies and the celebration of the monastery’s first Divine Liturgy will occur in the Catskills on Friday and Saturday, August 25-26 (see flyer for details). The establishment of Kidane Mehret Kidane Selam Hermitage and Women’s Monastery – the name of which means “Covenant of Mercy, Covenant of Peace” – is the culmination of a dream of many years of the convent’s abbess, Mother Wolletta Selassie.

As H.E. Mor Titus said in the moving homily he delivered on Thursday, this is not only a tremendous step forward for the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, but an inspiration to the Oriental Orthodox Church as a whole. The Standing Conference of Oriental Orthodox Churches congratulates H.E. Abune Zekarias, Mother Wolletta Selassie, and the Ethiopian Orthodox clergy and faithful on this monumental accomplishment. Glory be to God!

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