On the evening of Wednesday 6 January 2016, our feast of Epiphany, I was invited by Fr Ghebreyesus to celebrate Buruk Ledet, the Eritrean Christmas.
Fr Ghebreyesus is an assistant priest in our parish, Blessed John Henry Newman Leeds; he is also Chaplain to the Eritrean community in Leeds, Sheffield, Nottingham and Manchester. He has been in our parish since September 2014 and in this country since 2010.
I have never seen anyone work so hard! He has been instrumental in setting up a website for his people, produced a Prayer book in Tigrinya, which has the blessing of his Bishop in Eritrea. He has produced calendars, diaries, prayer cards – the list goes on. I once asked him what he does in his spare time and he told me – 'I water my plants'.
A GRAIL GRANT
Tony sharing Ga'at
Fr Ghebreyesus successfully applied to the Grail Society for a grant to help with the cost of production of the prayer book, which contains a comprehensive selection of devotional prayers as well as the prayers of the Mass. Having prepared the text, Father G (it's what we usually call him as it's less of a mouthful!) was then keen to obtain approval from his Eritrean bishop. This task entailed many emails and phone calls which delayed the process by several months before being satisfactorily achieved. His Bishop told him, he had been thinking of producing something like this for the whole Diaspora.
Fr G acknowledged the contribution made by the Grail Society towards the production of the prayer book and was happy to include the Grail Prayer in English and Tigrinya as well as the Grail logo, 'To help one person to grow is to help build the world'. These are in pride of place at the beginning of the book!
MIRACLES STILL HAPPEN
When I accompanied Fr G to the printer in the week before Christmas ('our' Christmas that is), we were told that as the printer was going to be on holiday until 4 January, there was little chance of the work being completed in time for the Eritrean feast. However, it seems that miracles do still happen as Fr G was able to take delivery of the prayer books on December 24th – in very good time for the Eritrean Christmas Liturgy. As you may imagine, Fr G was delighted!
At the vigil Mass of Buruk Ledet, which started at 6.30pm and lasted until nearly 10pm, there was a procession into Church. A choir led singing and dancing together with drums, tambourines and staffs. It was extremely lively. Fr Ghebreyesus concelebrated the Mass with, Fr Malaku, a Verona Father (Comboni Missionary) from Ethiopia currently living in Horsforth, Leeds. After the procession the children went for their own Liturgy and the Mass began in the Ge'ez rite. I was given an English translation.
The Eritrean community of Leeds entered wholeheartedly into their celebration and I was made most welcome. It was at this Mass they first used the newly printed prayer books.
At the end of Mass I was called up to the Altar and Fr Ghebreyesus thanked The Grail for the grant and gave me card, a beautiful bunch of flowers for Sheelagh who was unable to be there, various gifts including a 2016 diary for each of us and a framed copy of The Lord's prayer (in English).
Photographs were taken and there was rapturous applause. Afterwards, I was invited, together with the two priests and their deacon, to a family who gave us Ga'at,** a traditional Eritrean dish, which we all shared, eating from the same bowl.
** Ga'at, which is also called akelet, is a porridge traditionally made with barley flour. It is prepared by cooking barley flour and water to a stiff consistency. It is served by making a hole in the centre which is filled with tesmi (seasoned clarified butter) and berbere (a mixture of spices). It is typically served as a breakfast dish.
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