Feast of Saint Lalibela – Byzantine Rite – 19 June 2022

Troparion tone 3

St. Lalibela swarm and protect us as bees did you at your birth, Saint King of the stone temple wonders

Reading from the Book of Judges

After some days he returned to take her. And he turned aside to see the carcass of the lion, and behold, there was a swarm of bees in the body of the lion and honey.

~Chapter: 4, Verse: 8

Reading from the Book of Ephesians

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, …

~Chapter: 6, Verses: 10 to 18

Reading from the Gospel of Matthew

And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world? And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you.  For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.  For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. All these are the beginning of sorrows. Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake.  And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another.  And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.  And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come

~Chapter: 24, Verses: 3 to 14


During the reign of Gebre Mesqel Lalibela, a member of the Zagwe dynasty who ruled Ethiopia in the late 12th century and early 13th century, the current town of Lalibela was known as Roha. The Saint-King was named because a swarm of bees is said to have surrounded him at his birth, which his mother took as a sign of his future reign as Emperor of Ethiopia; this also started a rivalry with his brother Harbay.

The names of several places in the modern town and the general layout of the rock-hewn churches themselves are said to mimic names and patterns observed by Lalibela during the time he spent as a youth in Jerusalem and the Holy Land.

Lalibela, who is revered as a saint, is said to have been inspired in a dream or vision to attempt to create a new Jerusalem as his capital in response to the taking of old Jerusalem by Muslims in 1187. His influence and that of his trip to Jerusalem are seen not only in the names of the rivers and towns but also in the eleven stone temples of Lalibela. Each of the eleven temples was carved from a single piece of rock to symbolize spirituality and humility. The local legend states that they were hand-cut from the rock by angels, who only worked at night, over the course of twenty-two years. This is often interpreted as the workers being of European descent and could only handle the heat at night. Some scholars believe that these “angels” were most likely members of the Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ in the Temple of Solomon, who were known to be in the area at that time searching for relics, including the Ark of the Covenant, which is still believed to be in Ethiopia. The eleven churches are now United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) world heritage sites and are treasures of Ethiopia and a gift to the world.

From the desks of Elisheva+ and +Cherubim Abu-Seifein Akiiki

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