One of the seven sacraments is instead, of course, baptism. But – quite apart from the fact that Christian baptism in general has its root in Jewish ritual ablutions – the Ethiopian timing of that important act must again remind us of an Old Testament law. It is said that “If a woman have conceived seed, and born a man child; then she shall be unclean seven days; according to the days of the separation for her infirmity shall she be unclean. And in the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised. And she shall then continue in the blood of her purifying three and thirty days; she shall touch no hallowed thing, nor come into the sanctuary, until the days of her purifying be fulfilled. But if she bear a maid child, then she shall be unclean two weeks, as in her separation; and she shall continue in the blood of her purifying three score and six days.” (Lv 12,2-5). After this the woman shall bring her offerings prescribed for the occasion to the Tabernacle, and the priest shall offer them before the Lord and make an atonement, whereafter “she shall be cleansed from the issue of her blood” (Lv 12,6-7).

In the Ethiopian Orthodox Church a male child is therefore baptized 40 days after its birth, and a female child 80 days after birth. This allows the mother to be present in church for that solemn occasion. And it is pointed out, that Jesus Himself observed that law by being presented in the Temple in Jerusalem in accordance with that law of Moses….

Ehiopian Orthodox catechisms indicate another reason, this time apocryphic in character, for the usage of baptizing a boy on the 40th, a girl on the 80th day after their birth. That reason is, that Adam, the father of all mankind, was created in a place in Asia called Elda, and there he spent the first 40 days of his life. Thereafter he was “born in grace”, and angels brought him into paradise. Eve had to wait 80 days for that favour, and the reason why they were not simply created in paradise was that God wanted them to desire and ask for the gift of grace themselves….. Kirsten Stoffregen Pedersen