THE ARK OF THE COVENANT
Literally, the word 'Ark of the Lord's Covenant' or 'Tabot' in Ethiopian church language, means 'God's presence'. God gave the Ark of the Covenant to Mosses (Exodus 31:18)
(1 Kings 8:1-5). This covenant is a sign of unbroken and everlasting promise between human kind and the Lord. The covenant is mentioned not only in the 'Old-Testament', but also in the 'New-Testament' (Philippians 2:10, Revelation 11:19). The covenant contains the Ten Commandments with the name of 'Jesus Christ'. Therefore, we believe that it is very important to keep our Lord's sign of promise that carries his words inside our Church.
We firmly believe that God forbids the worship of any kind of cast idols. However, as the Bible indicates in Exodus 25: 19-22, God ordered Moses to "Make one Cherub on one end and the second Cherub on the other. Make the Cherubim of one piece with the cover at the two ends. The Cherubim are to have their wings spread upward overshadowing the cover with them". Additionally, God ordered Mosses to tie His words on his hands, bind them on his forehead, write them on the door frames of his houses and his gates (Deuteronomy 6: 8). In the New Testament, when St. Paul warned the Galatians to receive the spirit of Jesus Christ by saying "You foolish Galatians. Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was portrayed as crucified" (Galatians 3:1). The Scripture clearly states that our Lord Jesus Christ's crucifixion had been portrayed. Therefore, we keep icons of the crucifixion, St. Mary and God's Angels inside and outside of our Church, as remembrance of our Faith.
One of the items that God had chosen to have in the Church is incense. According to the Bible, God receives the smoke of incense with the prayers of saints (Revelation 8: 3-5) (Psalm 141: 2). The Bible says, when the Angels Gabriel appeared to Zechariah, he was standing at 'the right side of the altar of incense' (Luke 1:1-19). The Prophet Malachi prophesized "My name will be great among the nations, from the rising to the setting of the sun. In every place incense and offerings will be brought to my name, because my name will be great among the nations. Says the Lord Almighty" (Malachi 1:11). Therefore, we base our practice to smoke incense on these biblical and prophesized words.
THE HOLLY CROSS AND THE CRUCIFIX
The cross is one of the most important of the Ethiopian Church emblem that symbolizes the redemption through the death of Jesus Christ. The term crucifix designates a cross having the image of the suffering Savior affixed to it, while cross is a structure of wood or metal formed of an upright and a crosspiece.
The traditional story of the Finding of the True cross by St. Helena is of great antiquity and the event is commemorated by the church on the Festival of the Finding of the Cross-called Masqal, occurring on 27the of September.
In every church there are many crosses of wood and silver, some small and some large bearing the picture of the Crucifixion. There is a large cross of red bronze, which the priest uses on Sundays and for constant service, but the large silver cross with the picture of our Lord is borne forth only on festivals. The deacon carries the large crosses in a wooden handle named the matsor, lest he touch tem. One of the small silver crosses the officiating priest holds for his duty.
The cross is one of the insignia of clergymen; the pries or the bishop always holds in his right hand a cross, which is kissed by the people indoors and outdoors. It is used in the Mass, in the administration of the sacraments, in processions, on the tombs of the dead and on many various occasions. Attached to a cord or fine chain it is worn around the neck of nearly all Christians right from childhood until death. The true, genuine and holy veneration, the grandeur, magnificence and solemnity with which the Ethiopian Christians treat the cross will never be realized by anyone unless he witnesses the ancient and ageless holiday of Maskal, an day of solemn religious service and joyous secular celebrations. Tradition has it that the Holy cross-unearthed by Queen Helena was divided into four fragments, each of them going to the Patriarchates of Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria and Antioch. The fragment that originally went to Alexandria was eventually brought to Ethiopia and is preserved in the church of Egziaber Ab in the monastery of Gishen in the awe-inspiring mountains of Ambasel deep in Wello province.
THE SIGN OF THE CROSS
The most important sacramental of our Church and the one most frequently used, is the sign of the cross. Whenever we use it we are reminded of the sufferings and death of our Blessed Savior. It is the symbol of our deliverance and the emblem of the mercy of God giving redemption to sinful man. It is made from above downwards and from left to right with fingers in the form of a cross. No ceremony in the liturgy is performed without the sign of the cross. A priest confers blessings by the cross. In the administration of all the sacraments this sign is used at least once and in some of them it is employed many times. The sign of the cross is made over water at its blessing. In the Holy Liturgy or Mass the celebrant makes the sign of the cross very frequently over the people, the Sacred Host and the Precious Blood etc. The church teaches that is a summary of the faith and salvation which teaches us our true dignity, reminds us that we are the brethren of Jesus Christ and is our strong weapon as soldiers.
HOLY WATER (TABEL)
Holy water is water blessed by the priest for the purpose of seeking from God a blessing on those who use it and protection from the powers of darkness. It is a symbol of interior cleaning, interior purification. Holy water is used in the blessing of everything that the church wishes to sanctify. Besides the use of baptismal water, the sprinkling with holy water is part of many ceremonies. After the birth of a child the Confessor priest asperses the house and all within with holy water; cords for the neck (mateb) are blessed and demons are exorcised with holy water. If a any one is sick, sometimes Holy Water is supplied for drinking, pouring over his/her hands, and sprinkling her/his face and body. Holy water sanctifies whoever is touched by it, frees him/her from uncleanness and attacks of the powers of darkness, and secures that wherever it is sprinkled there is freedom from pestilence and snares of Satan.