The Ethiopian Cross, like the one in the picture, usually has an elaborate design, baroque style or filigree, reflecting the richness of the hearts of people in the Ethiopian Church.
The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church celebrates the appearance of the Glorious Life-Giving Cross of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ twice during the Liturgical year. The First celebration is held on the Seventeenth day of Meskerem (Ethiopian calendar) Twenty-seven day of September (Western calendar). The Second celebration of the Glorious Life-Giving Cross is celebrated on the Tenth day of Megabit, the Nineteenth of March.
The First and “Major” celebration celebrates the Finding of the Holy Cross by St. Helen, the mother of the Roman Emperor Constantine. St. Helen having been a Christian for most of her life (long before her son accepted the Faith) had made a vow to go to Jerusalem. After her son became Emperor and put an end to the persecution against Christians (the Edict of Milan 312 A.D.) he arranged for his mother to fulfill her desire to visit the Holy Land.
When St. Helen arrived in Jerusalem with her traveling companions and a company of soldiers, she inquired about the “Holy Places” of Our Lord’s Passion and Death, particularly the place of His Crucifixion. After a long search she found the place where The Cross of The Lord had been buried by the Jews. She ordered them to clear out the site of Golgotha where they found three Crosses and that was in the year 326 A.D. However, they did not know which of the three Crosses found was that upon which Our Lord Christ was crucified.
It happened at that time that there was a funeral procession passing the site at which these three Crosses where found. St. Helen had the funeral procession stopped. They lay upon the deceased man one of the Crosses and then the other but he did not rise up but when they laid the third Cross upon him he rose up immediately. They realized that this was “The Cross” of Our Lord Jesus Christ. The Empress and all the believers kneeled down before The Holy Cross; after the Empress sent a piece of the True Cross and the nails which pierced Our Lord’s hands and feet to her son The Emperor, at Constantinople.
The Second celebration (which is celebrated today – Megabit 10 – March 19) commemorates the recovery of the Holy Cross by the Christian Roman Emperor Heraclius in 627 A.D.
The Persian Empire had long been at war with the Roman Empire. At that time another decisive battle occurred at which the Persians were defeated by the Roman Emperor Heraclius. As these defeated Persian’s retreated from Egypt to their country, they passed through Jerusalem. A Persian Prince entered the Church of the Holy Cross, which had been built by Empress St. Helen. He saw a great light shinning from a piece of wood located on a place decorated with gold. He thrust his hand to it and there went forth from it fire which burned his fingers. The Christians told him that this is the base of the Holy Cross and they told him how it was discovered and no one was able to touch it except a Christian. This Persian Prince deceived the two Deacons who were standing to guard it and gave them much money so they would carry this piece and go with it with him to his country. They took it and put it in a box and went with him to his country along with those whom he too as captives from the city of Jerusalem.
When Emperor Heraclius heard that, he went with his army to Persia, fought with them and slew many of them. He traveled about this country searching for this piece of The Holy Cross but he could not find it, for the Persian Prince had dug a hole in his garden and ordered the two Deacons to put the box in it and buried it and then he killed them.
One of the captives of that Persian Prince, which was the daughter of one of the Deacons, was looking out of the window by chance and saw what happened. She went to the Emperor and told him what she saw. He went with the Bishops, Priests, Deacons and the Soldiers. They dug there and found the box, which they removed from the hole. Upon opening it, the piece of the True Cross shone – this was in 628 A.D.
The Emperor provided costly silks and cloth of gold and a chest made from gold encrusted with gem stones. The Bishops wrapped this piece of The True Cross in these costly silks and cloth of gold fabrics and placed into the Gold gem encrusted Reliquary. The Emperor then took it back to the city of Constantinople where it was placed in the Basilica of The Holy Cross.
Note: No wonder Muslim raiders from the Arab peninsula defeated Persians in 632 A.D — four years after the true Cross was rescued from Persia. This particular event probably paved the way for the Islamic conquest of the once great Persia.