Saint Zena Maryam was born in the 14th century. Her father was called Gebrekirstos (servant of Christ) and her mother Amete Maryam (servant of Mary). Both of them were kind people who were living in the fear of God and who respected their marriage.
While living in the respect and obedience to the law of Gaod and their religion, as well as their marriage, they gave birth to three sons and one daughter. The name of their daughter was Zena Maryam (News of Mary).
When Zena Maryam reached the age of marriage, she was married to a young man in Holy matrimony in a big wedding prepared by her mother and father. During that season, while Zena Maryam's mother was in bed after giving birth to her fifth child, she died of an illness caused by a plague called "Hemame Bidbid" (Typhoid) which at that time was prevailing in that area.
After the burial of the mother, St. Zena Maryam took her brothers and went to a desert, where she settled by fencing a place near a massive stone. During the first night in the desert, wild animals, which were trying to devour them, surrounded them and St. Zena Maryam made them go away by calling the name of the Almighty God. On the next day, Zena Maryam took her sick brother and others to another empty house and settled
there. In that night, while she was in a deep sleep, the wild animals also came and ate her sick brother. In the morning after she collected the remains of her brother's body and burying it, she went to the nearby Monastery and became a nun.
Because of their husband's persistent nagging of her father to bring back his wife, her father found her, after a very tiresome search, and returned her back to her country (homeland). After her return, she was brought to an assembly and was asked as to why she betrayed her husband by fleeing to a Monastery, and her answer was that she consecrated herself to God since he is the one that has saved her from so many miseries. Then the assembly decided that her husband should let her go, however she had to forsake her wealth. She agreed to their decision and delivered her cows and oxen to her husband.
After this, she stayed in her father's home for about a year in order to prepare a memorial feast for her mother and then returned back to the Monastery, where she stayed for some years performing different
martyrdoms. Then she went to Enfranz, a region found in the province of Gondar, with a a monk priest who was her confessor, Abba Gebremichael and stayed in a cave called Washa Endrias (cave of Andre) for 25 years. After this, she went to a cave now called after her i.e, the cave of Zena Maryam and lived there until her death through prayer, fasting and martyrdom.
Types of her Hagiography
1.) She used to bow (prostrate) before the Lord from 100-300 times within an hour.
2.) She used to fast for two continuous days and on the third day she used to eat a very little uncooked grain. She did this every week.
3.) She used to pray 150 psalms of David and the gospel daily.
4.) She never used salt in any food she used to eat.
5.) During her asceticism of hermit period, she never used to even taste honey, butter or milk.
6.) Every week on Friday, she used to make a drink from the bitter leaves of a plant named "Koso" and drink it in remembrance of our Lord's suffering on the cross and his drinking of the bitter bile.
7.) She used to keep herself busy by planting and looking after vegetables, apart from when she was at rest from prayer and weariness.
8.) Her body used to have bruises and bleed, as well as open sores due to her giving herself 100 lashes a day in the remembrance of the whipping of our Lord.
Miracles of St. Zena Maryam
At the present day in the place called Zena Maryam, i.e. the tomb of Zena Maryam, there are many miracles that are being performed:-
1.) Patients with different visual impairment are being cured.
2.) Patients with different types of headaches are being cured.
3.) Patients with stomachache are being cured by being baptized by the Holy water and by drinking from it.
4.) Those who were barren become able to bear children.
5.) These and different types of sicknesses are being cured and will continue to be cured by the Holy water.
The Given Covenant
When St. Zena Maryam knew the time of her death, she through the Holy spirit climbed on a big tree and started praying where by, the almighty God, Jesus Christ revealed himself to her comforting her, and promised
the following covenants to St. Zena Maryam.
1.) I will forgive the person who believes and took refuge in your prayer.
2.) I will feed the bread of life in heaven to those who feed the starved in your name.
3.) I will let them drink from the water of life in heaven to those who give water to the thirsty.
4.) I will give them all the blessing of heaven and earth to those who make a memorial service in your name.
5.) I will write his/her name in a pillar of gold to those who chronicle your miracles.
6.) For having endured suffering for my sake from your childhood to the present, I will forgive those sinners whose number equal three donkey loads of grain.
As the sign of the covenant, he swere by His name, and she died on August 30th and was buried in a cave, which still bears her name.
Where is the Zena Maryam Monastery Found?
The tomb of St. Zena Maryam as well as the Holy water (spring) is found in the northern Gondar town in the province of Lebo Kemkem. The specific place is situated 20 kms. from Addis Zemen town, within the
Derita Keble farmers Association.
The place Derita farmers Association took its name after the work found in the book of Zena Maryam's hagiography that says in Geez weatsete koso/seekar derisa which means that she drinks the bitter or 'Koso'
Let the blessing of St. Zena Maryam be with us,
(From The Hagiography of St. Zena Maryam; From the book Saints and Monasteries in Ethiopia, by Kessis Kefyalew Merahi)