On September 10, the Orthodox Church commemorated a unique saint – St. Moses the Black. Although the saint was from Ethiopia, which is located in the East Africa, it takes a while to understand that St. Moses was a black man. What is more, even the fact that in Church Slavonic language the saint is called by a strange name “Murin” (the Moor), which literally means “black”, does not help to shed the light to his race at first.
Moses became a saint when he rejected his predatory way of life and accepted difficult obediences in one of the monasteries. For his great humility, for his repentance in his former sins and his work on himself, St. Moses was ordained as a deacon; some time later, after his virtues were tested, he was ordained as a priest. There was a joke that remained untill today, told by a bishop at the ordination of St. Moses. When he was being dressed a sticharion, the bishop said: “Now, Abba Moses, you are absolutely white”.
St. Moses died at the hands of the robbers. He rejected to escape from his monastery since he wanted the words of the Savior to come true for him: “All who take the sword will perish by the sword” (Matthew 26:52).
Although St. Moses the Black is one of the most well-known black Orthodox saints, there are plenty of them in fact. We can also mention, for example, the eunuch from Candace, who was baptized by Apostle Philipp, and who possibly was the originator of Orthodoxy in Ethiopia. There is also a countless host of saint fathers and mothers who spent their lives in the monasteries of Egypt and Ethiopia, martyrs and bishops as well as simple people of God, who were the loyal children of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church.
It is known that the Ethiopian Church preserved the Eucharistic communion with other local churches up to the time of the 4th Council of Chalcedon. This is why all the saints of the Ethiopian Church that lived before the 4-5th centuries can be commemorated as the Orthodox saints and we can ask them for help in prayers.
Overall, the Orthodoxy in Africa is strengthening, although the number of the Orthodox believers is still less than the number of the Catholics, Protestants and Muslims. However, Orthodoxy is the fastest-spreading confession on the territory of the whole continent. In the end of the 19th century, the clergy of the Patriarchate of Alexandria consisted of only 2 bishops and 50 clerics, while the total amount of the believers was about 100,000 people, the biggest part of whom were of the Greek origin. Due to the wide mission among the peoples of Africa, the total number of the charge of the Patriarchate of Alexandria consists today of more than 6,000,000 people and the Church of Alexandria is the most rapidly growing Orthodox Church in the world.
The expansion of the Gospel preaching in Africa and the fact that more and more people come to the fold of the Orthodox Church, helps the Christians from other local churches to understand the universalism of Orthodoxy, to understand more clearly the plan of the Lord, to understand the great mission of the Church: to consecrate any creature and to call all the peoples to the saving Kingdom of Christ. Such saints as St. Moses the Black testify that the doors of God’s forgiveness are open for any dreadful sinner, for everyone is “called to the marriage supper of the Lamb” (Revelation 19:9).
As a Black woman who is a convert to the Orthodox Church, I appreciate seeing this article. Thank you.