Edna, my sister-in-law, called me on Friday evening:
I know this is super last minute, but I just found out that there’s a big event at the park to celebrate today’s Ethiopian holiday. It’s about the finding of the one true cross, and—
I cut her off.
You mean Ethiopia not only has the Ark of the Covenant, but it also has the cross of Jesus?
She confirmed. Call me doubting Thomas, but this I had to see!
I rushed home from work to change, and to grab my camera and blogging journal. I knew this detour would cause me to be late, but hadn’t anticipated a parking issue—it was like the Fourth of July. Even the smell reminded me of the mid-summer holiday, as embers burned from the last of a bonfire. I had missed it.
As the fire cooled, Ethiopian Orthodox priests wandered the crowds marking our foreheads with ashes. One approached me boldly and didn’t say anything to me, although he told Edna that I “needed” this. I didn’t resist, as he was probably right.
While Meskel is an Ethiopian Orthodox holiday celebrating the discovery of the true cross, its roots are actually Roman Catholic. The discovery is attributed to St. Helen, the mother of Constantine the Great (the one who converted the entire Roman Empire to Christianity). She traveled to Jerusalem and found the cross at Mount Calvary, buried beneath what had been a temple to the Roman goddess, Venus.
Somewhere down the line, a piece of that relic found its way to Ethiopia where it is safely guarded today.
The holiday in the park was the first of its kind in Northern Virginia, as all of the local churches banded together to celebrate as one.