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Image by Greg Rosenke


Feast of the Holy Family


     Qusquam, a sacred site nestled in Upper Egypt's mountainous terrain, is home to the monastery and Holy Church of Al-Muharraka. This revered place marks the refuge of the Holy Family during their exile in Egypt, a sanctuary that served as the backdrop for the Angel Gabriel's revelation to Saint Joseph regarding King Herod's demise.


         Annually, on November 15th, the Ethiopian Church solemnly commemorates the Holy Family's return to their homeland, Israel. This day marks their liberation from the peril posed by King Herod, following 40 days dedicated to prayer and unique church services, remembering the Holy Family's trials during their flight. Additionally, the church celebrates the appearance of Lord Christ and His disciples on Mount Qusquam for the consecration of its church.


        As narrated in the Homily of Theophilus, the Holy Family's journey to Mount Qusquam is detailed vividly, depicting the angelic announcement of Herod's fall and their subsequent return to the land of Jerusalem. The narrative captures the divine provision and solace found at Qusquam, where the Holy Family resided for six months, experiencing God's miraculous sustenance and protection.


         This season, known as Qusquam, not only commemorates the Holy Family's respite from their harrowing flight but also celebrates Saint Gabriel's pivotal message to Saint Joseph, heralding a new chapter in their lives.


        As outlined in the Gospel of Matthew, the Holy Family's sojourn in Egypt, spanning roughly three and a half years, was marked by divine guidance. They journeyed through numerous towns in Upper and Lower Egypt until the angel's message prompted their return to Israel upon Herod's death. This narrative is a testament to God's unwavering protection and the fulfillment of His promises.


       In tribute to this period of Exodus, the Ethiopian Orthodox Church offers special hymns during Holy Mass and other services, notably Mahilete Tsige (The Hymn of the Flower) and Seqoqawe Dingil (The Lamentation of the Virgin), along with the hymn of Saint Yared (Digua). These hymns, steeped in biblical references, celebrate the Holy Family's perseverance and divine journey.


       The tradition of the Ethiopian Church holds that the Holy Family's Exodus extended even to the land of Ethiopia, visiting illustrious historical sites and monasteries. This tradition is anchored in scriptural verses from the prophets, indicating the profound impact of the Lord's presence in Egypt and Ethiopia, reshaping landscapes and heralding His eternal ways.

As we embrace the spirit of Qusquam, let us invoke the prayer and intercession of Saint Mary, drawing inspiration from her journey, her steadfast faith, and her role in the unfolding narrative of salvation.

May the prayer and intercession of Saint Mary be upon us all!



Africa Zion: the Sacred Art of Ethiopia. (1993:73-4.)
E. A. Wallis Budge, 201. Legends of Our Lady Mary the Perpetual Virgin and her Mother Hanna, (pages 98-99).
Synaxarium: The Book of the Saints of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church (Translated by E. A. Wallis Budge, page 122).
Rev. Afewerk Tekle, (2005 Eth. Ca.) Metsihafe Tarik Wegiss, pages 288-289.

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