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Feast of Mid-Lent/King Abgar

Christianity, as local tradition tells, came to Edessa (modern Urfa in South-East Turkey) during the time of the Apostles. This is reported in a number of documents including the Doctrine of Addai, one of the earliest Syriac Christian writings, and Eusebius´s Ecclesiastical History. Eusebius tells that he visited the archives of Edessa and examined a correspondence between the city's king, Abgar Ukomo, and no other than Jesus Himself. At Mid Lent, the Syriac Orthodox Church commemorates King Abgar who, according to this story, was the first king to adopt Christianity, and thus Edessa became the first Christian kingdom.

Here is the correspondence between King Abgar and Christ:

"Abgar Ukomo, the toparch, to Jesus the good Savior who has appeared in the district of Jerusalem, greetings. I have heard concerning you and your cures, how they are accomplished by you without drugs and herbs … And when I heard of all these things concerning you I decided that it is one of two things, either that you are God and came down from Heaven to do these things, or are the Son of God for doing these things. For this reason I write to beg you to hasten to me and to heal the suffering which I have …"

The reply, according to the same tradition, was carried by a certain Ananias:

"Blessed are you who believed in me, not having seen me … Now concerning what you wrote to me, to come to you, I must first complete here all for which I was sent, and after thus completing it be taken up to Him who sent me; and when I have been taken up, I will send to you one of my disciples to heal your suffering and give life to you and those with you."

The story continues telling how one of the Seventy disciples was sent to King Abgar.

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Last Update: February 19, 1998