Today is Catholic Easter and Orthodox hosanna. Being born into a Catholic family and sending my children to a Catholic school, but converting to Tigray Tewahedo Orthodox when my babies were born, I get lucky. I have two celebrations.
Today, I want to share some of my personal life with you all about becoming a member of the Orthodox Church.
I had a bit of a rough upbringing and very fragile, boundary-less parenting. I was left to raise myself in many way. And experienced things that are very hard to open up about. But I was always encouraged by my grandmas love and teachings. My grandmother is a devout Catholic and always instilled in me the deep love god has for all of us. But I often felt she just wrote learnt the sermons and didn’t actually always understand the spiritual significance of faith. Which I see so often, people reciting the Bible dogma but not truly understanding the messages. It is similar to how members of the other Orthodox Church sing “kill all woyane” during the middle of kidase. It is missing the true spiritual meaning of religion and playing on the vulnerable followers ignorance and confusion.
Anyway, despite the downfalls it was my grandmother’s appearance of unconditional love that kept me going. And I always felt from what she said that there was a significant meaning behind it. It was her words that helped me believe I was being guided by something higher and more powerful than me.
During my teens and 20s I went some what off the rails because my inner suffering was unbearable. I experimented with many ways to numb the pain, even almost took my life at one time. Closer to my 30s I became somewhat socially anxious and refused to connect with people. And learnt I am more an introvert rather than the rebellious extrovert I was in my teens. Despite how much I hated myself and didn’t know who I was, I always had this guiding hope in my heart that I was loved by something I had not met. I felt like in the pits of my despair that it had to be God that loved me.
I travelled bits and pieces of the world, ventured into places of all different religious worship. Experienced deep feelings of protection in both Mosques and Hindu temples, especially when the work of religious music was played. Towards the end of my travelling years, I came to Ethiopia. I heard mezmur for the very times and fell to my knees when I entered the sacred sites of Lalibella. An overwhelming sense of calm and peace came across me. I had always prayed with my hood on my head and the transition to the netxela was incredibly welcome. I felt safe and protected, like my body and spirit was protected and not on show for anyone to see. It is a deeply personal feeling. But something that made me both safe as a woman and as a spiritual believer. And I finally found a place where my heart felt at home. Despite the language and cultural barriers, I was able to be free with god in the Tigray Orhodox church. I could finally be around people and with God too.
It is this deep connection that I want to share and encourage others to look at more in their own mind and through their religious practice. Just as Jesus rose to give us a chance of spiritual redemption, I have learnt that the rebirth of who we are is something some of us do on a regular occurrence. Especially after trauma, loss or significant life events.
The message of Jesus rising from death taught me that we can all rise from the hell we suffer internally, if we are able to spiritually connect to god and face the pain we have inside. Knowing that what we are going through now is nothing compared to be nailed alive and bled to death. We are here, living and breathing and the hell inside can be felt and won’t kill us physically. That by facing the torment, we can be reborn into something new and even something more open and beautiful.
Through the practice of silencing my mind, connecting my heart to the melody and beat of kidase and mezmur, I have been able to find that place of positivity in my heart that I think is a gift to all women. When I go to church I observe the grandmas who have been through so much hard ship but submit their hearts and minds to god for cleansing. And as a woman, that is a very amazing gift we have to share with the men in our lives. I think when we can connect to god, we love our families stronger and respect our physical and immortal boundaries harder.
The women of Tigray have been violated by such overwhelming circumstances in the past 18 months. And if they have the deep loving practice that their grandmothers have, I know with love and protecting from the men in the society, they will adjust to the new normal. It will be broken and a fragment of what trust they had in humanity before, but that is the essence of rebirth, we are not fully healed, but reborn into something new post the trauma. And on Easter, (well one Easter), I want to thank all the men who are standing in solidarity with the women of Tigray as they heal through the hell of being physically violated. And to remind all men, that these rape victims are just that, victims, not someone who has given her body for free. But I also want to remind men, if it is ok for a man to freely engage in acts of the body, so too can a woman and still remain pure in her heart. For the judgement of a man or another woman, does nothing when she asks god to wipe her clean.