Monday, June 17, 2024


Yared (505—571) is an Ethiopian composer, hymn writer, and priest, who was a leader in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church which venerates him as a saint.

He is renowned for having established his own system of musical notation, which predates the familiar European system, and is still in use today.

One of the important festivals within the Ethiopian Church is Meskel, where they celebrate the reputed discovery of the true cross by Queen Helena, the mother of Constantine. The story goes that while she was seeking for the Holy Sepulchre, she prayed for assistance, and was directed to where the cross was buried by the smoke from a fire. What interests me most here, is not the artifact’s authenticity, but the extent to which Yared and his contemporaries valued it, because they celebrated the work Christ did on the cross.

The following selection from Yared’s “The Finding of the True Cross” was translated from the Ge’ez by Burl Horniachek with Ralph Lee, and appears in Burl Horniachek’s anthology, To Heaven’s Rim: The Kingdom Poets Book of World Christian Poetry (2023, Poiema/Cascade).

From The Finding of the True Cross

Look and proclaim, how good
it is that men have obtained
this exalted wood.
Brief gold was not the currency
----to purchase back man’s soul,
--------but with his precious blood
------------he chose to pay that toll.
The cross shines out.
The cross shines out and is so bright
that earthly kings do trail its light;
the thing that seemed so dark and damp
is now the world’s great guiding lamp.
The cross’s feast takes place
----both high in heaven’s face
and low upon the earth.
----We know its worth,
prize and praise it, with no dearth
----of trust. It is man’s rebirth
and help in need.

Posted with permission of Burl Horniachek.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. He is the author of five poetry collections including Angelicus (2021, Cascade) ― a book of poems written from the point-of-view of angels. His books are available through Wipf & Stock.