BaptismalEthiopian Orthodox Christians are showered with water from a cross-shaped pool that was blessed by priests during Timkat. (Photo by Carl De Souza/AFP/Getty Images)

Last week millions of Ethiopian Orthodox Christians celebrated the feast of Timkat, the most important holiday for the Ethopian Orthodox faithful. Timkat began on January 19th and was celebrated for three days.

Forty percent of Ethiopians identify as Christians and are among one of the oldest Christian traditions in the world. This celebration of the Epiphany remembers Jesus' baptism in the Jordan River with a ritual reenactment and parades with replicas of a holy relic — a relic many of us may know from the Steven Spielberg film Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Pool BlessingEthiopian Orthodox Christian priests bless a cross-shaped pool of water during the annual festival of Timkat. (Photo by Carl de Souza/AFP/Getty Images)

A model of the Ark of the Covenant, called the Tabot, is wrapped in cloth and carried through the crowd in every city. A representation or model of the Ark resides in every Ethiopian Orthodox church. This holy relic is said to hold the Ten Commandments, which adherents believe God gave to Moses on Mount Sinai.

"To come close to the tablet is to come close to the word of God itself."

The Tabots are carried only by the most senior priests of the community and completely covered because they are too sacred for anyone to gaze at them. Even the head of the Ethiopian Orthodox church is forbidden to see it; only its guardians can look at it. The actual Ark of the Covenant is said to be in the city of Aksum, guarded by monks who have vowed not to leave the chapel grounds until death.

Ark of the Covenant - TalbotPriests carry models of the container said to hold the Ten Commandments in brightly colored cloth. (Photo by Gordontour / Flickr, cc by-nc-nd 2.0)

One of Ethiopia's most spiritual places for Christian Orthodox followers is Lalibela. The town hosts a church that was not just built, but hewn out of the region's rock.

Church of Saint EmmanuelA view of the rock-hewn Church of Saint Emmanuel where Ethiopian Orthodox Christians gather during for the annual festival of Timkat. The site is now protected by UNESCO. (Photo by Carl De Souza/AFP/Getty Images)

Rock Hewn WindowAn Ethiopian Orthodox Christian prays before taking part in celebrations for the annual festival of Timkat in Lalibela. (Photo by Carl De Souza/AFP/Getty Images)

Timkat CelebrantCelebrants wear traditional shamma, a thin, white cotton wrap worn like a toga, and as headdress. (Photo by Don Macauley / Flickr, cc by-sa-2.0)

Ethiopian priests and monksEthiopian priests and monks walk in a procession and carry embroidered fringed umbrellas. (Photo by Carl De Souza/AFP/Getty Images)

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6Reflections

Reflections

Beautiful pictures and interesting article!

GREAT PICTURES

You opened up my world to another world never known. Thank you.

Beautiful

The photograph isn't clear eogunh to see, but I believe they are carrying the burial shroud (epitaphios), which is an icon of the Lord's body painted on an ornate cloth. In Orthodox countries it is common to process through the streets of the city with the epitaphios. This is usually done at the conclusion of vespers on Good Friday. The following troparion is sung during the procession:The Noble Joseph,when he had taken down Your Most Pure Body from the Tree,Wrapped it in fine linen, and anointed it with spices,and placed it in a new tomb.At the end of the procession, the shroud is taken back into the church and placed on an ornate stand, where it is venerated by the faithful. In the Byzantine churches, the cross is usually not venerated on Good Friday as it is in the Latin West. There is another time, earlier in Lent, when the cross is venerated.At the veneration, the faithful come up (usually as families) and prostrate themselves before the icon of Christ, kissing the icon and a book of the Gospels. It is a very solemn and moving ceremony. Interestingly, one hears language during vespers similar to the reproaches in the Latin Liturgy. The trisagion in the Latin Good Friday liturgy is a remnant of the Eastern liturgy. By the way, in my Eastern Catholic parish, the choir sang Popule Meus at the Third Hour. Not in Latin, but English. This Good Friday hymn is by Tomas Luis de Victoria.

belle foto.- Ho fatto questo viaggio nel gennaio 2o12 e devo dire che è stata una delle più belle esperienze di tutto il viaggio in Etiopia.- Magica atmosfera che per 2 giorni ci ha accompagnato fra canti balli battesimi di bambini: tutto eccezionale.- Quello che ha deluso, purtroppo, è stato il battesimo finale: non più nelle piscine (dicono per sicurezza) ma con idranti!!!!!!!!!! ma credo sia logico: con migliaia di persone...............Viaggio da fare e raccomandare

apples