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The 1st Sunday of Great Lent: Descemded (Zewerede)

Updated: Apr 10

The first week, known as "Zewerede" (ዘወረደ), which means "the one who descended from above," also referred to as Museni and the Fast of King Heraclius, is of profound significance due to the holiness of the Great Lent. The Church designates this week of preparation to precede the 40 days of Lent, teaching us to ready ourselves spiritually for this period.

This preparatory week isn't the only fast designated by the Church for preparation; two weeks prior to Great Lent, there's Jonah's Fast, also known as Nineveh's Fast. Lasting only three days, it's a fast focused on repentance. During this time, we reflect on Jonah's and the Ninevites' fasting and repentance, which, just like our fasting accompanied by repentance, saved them from destruction, similarly can save us from eternal damnation due to sin.

Each Sunday of Great Lent in our church carries a spiritual theme, facilitating spiritual dialogue with God through the incarnate, crucified, and risen Christ. The first week of Great Lent is called Zewerede ("God came to the earth"), Museni, or The Fast of King Heraclius. "Zewerede" comes from St. Yared's hymn, expressing, "Jews have crucified God who came to the earth to save Adam," singing about the salvation journey (i.e., birth, baptism, crucifixion, and resurrection) undertaken by our Lord Jesus Christ (John 1:9-11; 3:13-21). It is also named after the fast of King Heraclius, the Byzantine king, during whose reign a neighboring country invaded Jerusalem and took the cross of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The Church fathers implored King Heraclius to retrieve the cross, committing to a week's fast during his quest, serving as a spiritual preparatory period for Great Lent.

We fast to ready ourselves for the 40 holy days starting the following Sunday. The additional 15 days can be considered a substitution for the Saturdays and Sundays when we eat during the 40 days of the Holy Fast. We begin eating in the morning during the weekends unlike the rest of the week. [55 days = 40 days + a week of preparatory fast/King's fast + Passion week].

On the first Sunday of Great Lent, our church reminds us to focus on our heavenly treasures rather than earthly possessions, as taught in the Gospel of Matthew 6:19-21. This teaching encourages us to release our earthly belongings, emphasizing the futility of material possessions in heaven and urging us to prioritize spiritual wealth. Additionally, we're taught to trust in God's providence for the future, as highlighted in Matthew 6:26, emphasizing faith in the Lord's protection and guidance.

The first theme centers on the incarnation; God's descent from Heaven to become man in Bethlehem through the Holy Virgin Mary and by the Holy Spirit's operation. This act of divine love teaches us the importance of mutual love, found only in Jesus Christ, where we encounter God, His love, and eternal life.

"Glory be to God!"

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