In the name of the Son, the Father, & the Holy Spirit, One God, Amen!
"Portal of light" ኆኅተ ብርሃን (Hohite Birhan)
'Hohite Birhane' means the gate or portal of light. Because Virgin St. Mary brought forth the true light which is Christ thus, our Lady is called "Hohete Birhane." In this article, we will look at what 'light' means according to the church, and We will look at the mystery behind the naming of St. Mary as the 'Gate of light' to the extent that has been revealed to us.
In our tradition, we have used the word 'light' in many different ways. When we call feasts, we put light as an adjective and call 'light of the birth, light of baptism, the light of the resurrection, etc. We call the angels of God as angels of light (& demons as angels of darkness). We call the time when there are so many evil works as the dark age as opposed to the successful years which we call it the age of light. To the kings and nobles who've done a good deed we add 'light' in their name as a title: e.g. 'Taytu Betuel light of Ethiopia'. We would say to an intelligent person, has a quick and inquisitive mind as a person with a bright mind. In the tradition and ritual of the light, to resemble our bright heavenly life; we light a candle at the time of prayer.
When the icons of saints are painted: they are surrounded by light, or It is seen as light emerging from their bodies. As it's written in Matthew 6:22, "The light of the body is the eye." We refer to whom whose eyes cannot see, as he lost his vision or light. If parents find success when they gave birth to children, or if they think that they will succeed with having children, then they name their child that relates to 'light' as Birhanu, Birhane, etc.. What is the Birhan- light?
Light is one of the eight creatures created on Sunday. Book of Hexaemeron of Epiphanius says that: On Sunday, when the angels were terrified wondering who created them; God appeared to them in a form of light from the east. On this first day, Fire was one of the creatures that were created.
When we look at the creation of the light described above, we recognize that it is possible to relate to salvation and knowledge. For example, Angels, have been unaware of the creator of knowledge and have known him when appeared by light. They did not examine him but found him as he appeared to them. When Satan tried to destroy them in the darkness of sin by saying, "I created you," God revealed his divinity light and saved them. Therefore, when light is first created, it is with awareness and faith (salvation).
The beginning of wisdom is knowledge and understanding God, the beginning of faith is to believe in the Holy Trinity. Christianity is the faith of revelation. There is no Christianity without revelation. Because it is impossible to know Him through research, fleshly wisdom unless God reveals Himself to our capacity. This is why we say just like Archangel Gabriel: First, we have to believe then, He will reveal knowledge to us. From this, even though in our tradition we use 'light' for many good things; In this article, we will only raise the knowledge and salvation of light then, we will briefly take a look at Our Lady of being a portal of light.
The devil, the father of ignorance, who constantly strives to keep a man unknowable so one won't be righteous, Made Adam's knowledge to loosen, misinformed him about the fig tree. Then made him go out from the bright life he had, to walk in the dark like him. Hence, humans being grieved by ignorance and darkness of sin. As prophet Hosea said: "My people are destroyed for lack of Knowledge" (Hosea 4:6). Human Dark life is called destruction. Until the true light (Savior) came, the righteousness of all the human race became as filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). But the creator, who saw his repentance and promised to save Adam, told the prophets that he would come down to this world and be born from a virgin. Thus, the prophets like Isaiah said: "The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light"(Isaiah 9:2). That's why St. Ephrem the Syrian said," A great light has dawned upon the people who lived in darkness and the shadow of death" (Wudase Mariam of Wednesday).
To save mankind who was in darkness and to reveal himself through great revelation, as promised to Adam and as the prophet spoke; God came to this world. (John1:4,1:5 ,1:9).
As light doesn't go with darkness, our Lord took the flesh of the Virgin Mary who is separated from darkness and became man. In the gospel, our Lord said, "I am the light of the world" (John 8:12). For our, Lord has been revealed to save the world from darkness. St.Ephrem said concerning the Lord "The true light which enlightens all people". 318 scholars gathered in Nicaea said to Christ the sun of Righteous: 'Light that is found from light'. St.Yared said concerning Christ: "as it is spoken by the mouth of kind David; Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord who is light, and shineth upon the righteous". King David sang "Send me your light" (psalm 43:3).
As we have seen above, all of the books testify to the true light of our Lord Jesus Christ. While we call him God, and lord and We call the Virgin: Mother of God, mother of the Lord, Theotokos. Similarly, We call Lord 'Light', and the virgin Mary as the 'mother of Light'. Matter of fact, as our Lord said "I am the light of the world" (John 8:12). Then to the saints: "You are the light of the world" (Matt.5:14) thus, we call her Light as well.
In the teaching of Mariology: Taketa and Patrika which are the ancestors of our Lady are widely spoken. We will find them when we count backward seven descendants of St.Mary.
They stayed for a long time without giving birth to a child, then one-night Teketa saw When she gives birth to a calf in her a dream, then calf gave birth to another calf then on the sixth they saw the moon and the moon giving birth to the sun. Then, an interpreter of dream said to them: they will give birth to a good woman, that she would give birth to another good woman. Then on the sixth, 'greatest of all creation will be born but regarding the sun, it is not revealed to me'. Tekta gave birth to Derden, Derde to Sikar, Sikar to Tona, Tona to Hermela, Hermela to Anne then, Anne and Joachim gave birth Our Lady who is called the moon. Then Our Lady, the Moon, gave birth to the true Light of Christ, the sun, without the seed of man. As our Lady gave birth to Christ who is the true sun, Scholars call her 'the new heaven'. Therefore, we call Virgin St.Mary: the source of light, Portal of light, the gate of light.
Solomon the wise spoke concerning our Lady as moon and light saying: "Who is this that appears like the dawn, fair as the moon, bright as the sun, majestic as the stars in procession?" (Song of Solomon 6:10).
Abba Geyorgis of Gasecha praised St.Mary and said: "Like a ray of prepared morning sunshine whom the prophet saw you, O heaven of Edom, I am glad in you. Who is this who appears like the dawn? as your father Solomon said. (Book of Arganon of Selus5፡10-11)፡
Abba Tsege Dingel said in Mahlete Tsege:
"Light, Golden candlestick Zion St.Mary; The prophet Zechariah saw your mark in February amid the two olive grove. When Ezra fell in the wilderness for devotion, Tsege flower, the beauty of your face shone on him" He testified that St.Mary shines as a motherhood of the light. (Book of mahlet tsege, p.27).
Therefore, Our Lady is Hohite Birhan- portal of light.
The holy bible teaches us that 'The eye is the lamp of the body' (Matt.6:22). St.Ephrem the Syrian calls Eve: as the blind left eye of the world, and Our Lady as the right eye of the world filled with light. When Eve led the world into the darkness, the bright-eyed virgin reached and rescued the world (Luminous eye, Sebastian Brock P. 70-73).
We've previously said that we would only see salvation and knowledge of light.
The former death that we have gotten because of Adam was changed by the work of redemption. Which is done by Jesus Christ, by becoming a man from Our Lady Mary. Thus our forefathers call Our Lady: The reason or the source of our salvation'. As the savior light came from her thus, St. Mary is called a portal of light. Concerning knowledge, it is said that 'There is no such knowledgeable as St. John the theologian when it comes to theology'.
When the fathers indicate where the Apostle got his knowledge, they said: it is when our Lord gave St. John his holy mother to be his mother saying "Behold thy mother" (John 19:20). And St.John took St. Mary to his home and St.Mary taught him for 15 years.
Our Lady also knows the mysteries of what all creatures don't know. As mentioned in the interpretation of Wudase Mariam after the ascension of our Lord, the Apostles said to our Lady "Tell us how you have birth to our Lord?" But our Lady said, " This mystery trouble me thinking about it let alone to tell you, leave it for this is the uncomprehending deep mystery." But they insisted on her to tell them.
Our Lady said: "The time was at three, The Temple compound was divided into three; There were a mist and a cloud, There was an angel that I knew didn't come but the Angel that I never knew came, when he blesses his right-wing, it becomes the food of life he ate and fed me when he blesses his left-wing, it becomes a drink of life he drunk it and made me drink from it. Then as she was entering to tell the mystery: the angel came and made a wonderful sound, they were all shocked and fallen. It was to tell them that 'You did not reach the level to know for the mystery she had'. As our Lady is a light through which salvation and knowledge are found, she is called portal of light (Hohite Birhan).
Mother of light who brought forth to us: the true righteousness of the Son, the true light that shines on the world. The Portal of light, may Virgin St. Mary shine the moon upon us and may, with the will of God her intercession shine upon us, that we may not be swallowed up in the darkness of the world.
†May this article be a memorial to my dear spiritual Mother: Hohite Birhan SundaySchool.†
Written by: Dn.Hilina Belete ZeHohitebirhan
Translated by: Teresit Dengel.