The eucharistic liturgy

The principal Ethiopian liturgy is the eucharistic Mass or qaddase, for the celebration of which two priests and at least three deacons are required, and which runs for several hours and is conducted mostly in Ge'ez with only the readings and nowadays certain portions of the liturgy in the vernacular. The first part of the Mass, which retains the form of the ancient Mass of the Catachumens, includes recitations from the Psalms, chanted prayers and usually four readings, from the Pauline Epistles, from the non-Pauline Epistles, from the Acts of the Apostles, and from the Gospels. The second part of the Mass centres on the anaphoras, which vary according to the liturgical calendar, and is called the fare qaddase, 'fruit of the Mass', or the 'akwateta qwarban, 'the sacrifice of the Eucharist'. There are uniquely fourteen anaphoras in use in the Ethiopian Church, of which the one in most common use is the Anaphora of the Twelve Apostles. The others are that of Our Lord Jesus Christ, St John Boanerges, St Mary, the Three Hundred, St Athanasius, St Basil, St Gregory of Nyssa, St Epiphanius, St John Chryso-stom, St Cyril, St Jacob of Serug, St Dioscorus and St Gregory the Thaumaturge. Communion is preceded by a long prayer of penitence and 44 repetitions of the formula 'Lord, have mercy on us, O Christ.' Communion is only infrequently taken by adult Ethiopians, as participating in the Eucharist requires an exceptional state of ritual purity. Children under the age of puberty, on the other hand, receive communion more frequently, as they are more likely not to have incurred ritual impurity. Likewise, monks and nuns are accustomed to receive communion more frequently than the laity.

The service in the Ethiopian Church takes place both inside and outside the church building, incorporating on occasions the ambulatory or covered walkway which surrounds the typical Ethiopian church. The most sacred part of the service, however, the offering of the Eucharist, is performed in the Sanctuary which lies at the centre of the church.

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