|all the white clad pilgrims on the road on way to church|
This was the most unusual day of the whole trip - something none of us had ever experienced before. And what an experience it was. Friday 13th November 2015 - (3 Hadar 2008 in the Ethiopian calendar) the third Ethiopian day of the third Ethiopian month and an important feast day for the Orthodox Christian community in Lalibela, so
we change our itinerary in order that we can absorb for ourselves this extraordinary spiritual event.
Overwhelming, spiritually, physically and mentally.
Frightening - the crush of people - tiny children in among it all - the policeman who looked after our shoes for us - the guns, batons and high security around the church entrance.
|the crush on the path down to the |
|resting on way to church - in background|
In fact all the emotions felt thoroughly assaulted by the end of our experience….
So much so that many of us felt very much in need of a strong coffee and a quiet place!
|pilgrims climb back from church in right|
|taking time out by the side of the path|
|inside the cave, outside the church|
The coach turns off the main road and we bump along for a short while on a rough track before disembarking to walk the rest of the way to the church. As we make our way down the rough track along the cliff edge we are jostled from all directions, and this is the only time on the whole trip when we are warned to keep valuables close to us. People all around us are going in our direction, but there are just as many coming back up the path, and there is no lane discipline! The services here carry on for a long time and people come and go as they please, it seems. Some simply go to receive a blessing. We are given dust - it may be charcoal - to mark a cross on our foreheads, reminiscent of our own Ash Wednesday service - "dust thou art and to dust thou shalt return" - this tradition originated in Old Testament times and ashes then as now symbolise mourning, mortality and penance.
|note man in orange - priest - holding |
|villagers gather at top of path to church|
And we marvelled at the shoes strewn everywhere along the path to be found again after coming out of the church. We have to assume that as long as the men, women and children all find a pair that fit and perhaps are the right colour they are broadly happy. The shoes are mostly plastic flip flops or plastic sandals, mostly brightly coloured. There is no way they could hope to find the exact pair they started the day off with!!
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