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Image by Greg Rosenke


Transfiguration Feast

         Six days following our Lord's query to His disciples, "Who do men say that I am?" during their journey to Caesarea, He led three of His disciples - Peter, John, and James - to the summit of a mountain, leaving the other nine at its base. Atop the mountain, the Lord was transfigured, radiating divinely as His face shone like the sun and His garments became as white as snow. In this moment, He unveiled His divinity and the majesty of His kingdom. Moses and Elijah appeared, conversing with Him. This selection of Moses and Elijah was deliberate, meant to honor Moses' request to witness the Lord's presence and fulfill Elijah's hope.


          Moses, who had conversed with the Lord 570 times, had yearned to see His face but was told it was not possible to see God's face and live. The Lord, however, assured Moses that he would behold Him when He sacrificed Himself. Similarly, Elijah harbored such hope. Moreover, Moses and Elijah's presence dispelled any misconception that Jesus was merely a prophet like them, as His miracles had led some to believe. Mount Tabor, representing heaven, underscored the promise that both married (symbolized by Moses) and virgins (symbolized by Elijah) are heirs to the Kingdom of God. Despite their longing to witness His glory, Moses and Elijah found themselves overwhelmed by His radiant presence and chose to return to their earthly abodes - Moses to his grave and Elijah to his chariot.

          Saint Peter, in awe, suggested constructing three tabernacles for Jesus, Moses, and Elijah, recognizing the completeness of their gathering. As Peter spoke, a luminous cloud enveloped them, and a voice from the cloud declared, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!" The disciples fell face down in fear, but Jesus reassured them, instructing them to keep their experience confidential until after His resurrection (Matthew 17:14, 3:17).

The choice to ascend Mount Tabor, leaving nine disciples at the base, was intentional. Among the nine was Judas, who was not deemed worthy to witness His glory. Moreover, the choice of Mount Tabor was prophetic, fulfilling David's prophecy, "Tabor and Hermon rejoice in Your name" (Psalm 89:12).


         The divine light that enveloped Mount Tabor led local shepherds to believe the day had not yet ended, prompting worried parents to search for their children with bread loaves (moolmool) and torches (chibo). This event has shaped the celebration of the Feast of the Transfiguration (Debre Tabor፣ also known as Buhie) in Ethiopia. Youths craft leather whips, mimicking the divine voice from the cloud, and mothers prepare moolmool. On the eve of the holiday, youngsters serenade homes with the song "Buhie belu, ho!" and are rewarded with bread loaves. The next evening, villagers ignite a bonfire, symbolizing the divine light seen on Mount Tabor.

Within the Ethiopian Orthodox Church's traditional schools (Abinet Schools), Debre Tabor is a prominent festival. Students collect ingredients from nearby villages to brew tella (Ethiopian traditional beer) and prepare food, which they bring to the church on Debre Tabor to share after the Divine Liturgy.


        As Orthodox Christians, it's our solemn duty to safeguard and perpetuate this significant religious festival and its associated traditions for future generations. In an era where many seek to erase the history of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, understanding and preserving our heritage is paramount. The story of Mount Tabor, rich in miracles, must remain intact and be passed down. The traditional and spiritual song "Buhie belu" must not lose its sacred significance to secular celebrations. Upholding, serving, and promoting our Church in an ever-changing world is a collective responsibility we all bear.


May the blessings of Debre Tabor be upon us all! Praise be unto God.

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