St. Takla Haymanot the Ethiopian:
Bishop Youssef "Poor in Spirit"
"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven."
St. Takla Haymanot was a blessed person always full of joy. He was blessed not with riches, not with mightiness and strength, not with worldly influence but with being poor in spirit. St. Takla's joy was found in his total dependence upon the Lord Jesus Christ.
The great saint, Takla Haymanot has a very prominent position in the Coptic Orthodox Church. The church celebrates an annual feast to commemorate the greatness of this seventh century saint.
His father was an Ethiopian priest who loved Archangel Michael and his mother was a rich and righteous woman who also loved Archangel Michael. Together, they always celebrated the archangels' feast on the twelfth of each month. After many years of prayer and supplications a son, "Feseha Zion" (the joy of Zion) was born into this family, for St. Takla's mother was barren until his birth.
The tidings of Archangel Michael were fulfilled when he said to Tsega Ze-Ab, Feseha Zion's father, "You will be the father of a child who will be an apostle in Ethiopia." His parents were overjoyed with his birth and celebrated by having a feast inviting the poor. Three days after his birth, the Holy Spirit descended upon Fesha Zion and the infant opened his mouth and said, "One is the Holy Father. One is the Holy Son. One is the Holy Spirit."
Since childhood, Feseha Zion performed many miracles. One such famous miracle occurred at the age of eighteen months. A famine had spread throughout the land of his family. As a result of the famine, Tsega Ze-Ab and his wife had nothing to celebrate the feast of their beloved Archangel Michael.
One day while Fesha Zion was being nursed he pointed to the flour basket, which was completely empty. His devout mother brought it to him and immediately when he touched the basket it became filled with flour. Basket after basket was placed before him until twelve overflowed with flour. She then decided to bring the oil jar to him. Fesha Zion placed his hand inside the jar and made the sign of the cross. Oil began to fill the jar. From this jar the mother poured oil into other jars until there was plenty for their monthly agape for the needy in honor of Archangel Michael.
When he was fifteen years old his reverent father took him to the Bishop of Amhara, Bishop Kyrollos, who saw a vision from God to ordain Feseha Zion a deacon. As a deacon he continued to perform miracles and began to heal the sick. Many confessed him to be a god, but he told them that only the One True God is worthy of honor, praise and worship.
One day while hunting with friends, Archangel Michael appeared unto deacon Feseha Zion and told him to dedicate the rest of his life to saving people's souls. The Archangel further told him that God would bestow upon him the ability to cure many illnesses, raise the dead, and cast out evil spirits in His Holy Name. It was then that Archangel Michael changed his name to Takla Haymanot, which means, "Paradise of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit."
St. Takla returned home and distributed all his money among the poor. Soon thereafter, Bishop Cyril ordained him the priest of Shewa. St. Takla focused his attention on the spiritual welfare of those around him. He preached the Holy Gospel of repentance and forgiveness of sins. He continually cured the sick and performed many miracles. As a result of the holiness of this man many were converted to Christianity.
He drove out evil spirits, cast our demons, he converted kings. St. Takla was bestowed with many gifts from the Lord. He raised the dead and could foretell events and quietly tell true prophecies. He labored among the hardest of tasks in the monasteries he dwelt with thanksgiving. He escaped from all praise. He continually led a life of devoutness-fasting, praying, chanting and kneeling before the Lord Jesus Christ.
One of the most famous of stories related to this saint is of his abiding in the Monastery of Abba Aragawi at the top of a very high, steep mountain. After living some time at this remote monastery, an angel of the Lord appeared to St. Takla and told him to go down to the base of the mountain and dwell in a cave to be found there. He bid the abbot of the monastery and the monks' farewell, requesting their prayers and began his descent from the top of the towering mountain. As was the custom, the monks tied the saint with a rope to aid in his descent from the peak of the mountaintop. The rope broke suddenly and the monks feared the worst. Instantly and miraculously, six wings appeared from the saint and flew him safely and swiftly to the base of the mountain. Due to this miracle St. Takla's icon features him with six beautiful white wings like the Cherubim.
The Lord Jesus Christ was always glorified in this great saint' weakness and spiritual poorness. Spiritual poorness does not mean material poverty. The spiritually poor recognize their complete dependence on the Lord Jesus Christ. They have discovered their spiritual sufficiency in Him. "Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God." (II Corinthians 3:5)
St. Takla's life joy and satisfaction was in finding favor with the Lord. He was humble in spirit and thought himself nothing without the Lord. For indeed his was the Kingdom of Heaven.
"Hail to the man in flesh and the spiritual angel.
Hail to him who became the father of the Ethiopian monks as Anba Macarious.
Hail to him who exemplified our father St. Peter the Apostle in raising the dead, nullifying magic, and healing the spiritual and physical sickness.
Hail to the one who is like St. John the Baptist, the priest and son of a priest, and also the son of a barren.
Hail to this sweet and blessed name, which is the righteous father and chosen vessel, the honored St. Takla Haymanot.
Hail to the one who completed his pure strife with all the virtues of the Holy Spirit.
Hail to the one who rejected the world, with all its vainglory, traded his talents and gained.
Hail to the one whose Master found him faithful in the little, put him in charge of the much and told him to enter the eternal joy of His Master in the land of the living.
Ask the Lord on our behalf, O our righteous father, St. Takla Haymanot the Ethiopian, that he may forgive us our sins."
(Book of Antiphonary of the Coptic Church, 24th day of Mesra)
May the example of St. Takla the Haymanot be always before us and we all discover the poorness of spirit within ourselves.
God bless you,
His Grace Bishop Youssef
Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Diocese of the Southern United States
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