This post is about a circumstance facing many Christian denominations, which the Coptic church is not immune from. But first let me place this in context.
The Coptic Church is beautiful in its organization, structure, tradition, depth, and spirituality. But no group of fallible individuals will forever be without fault. Christianity is perfect; its followers are not, and that is okay, because the Christian life is a life of constantly striving towards perfection—towards Christ. So who are we to cast stones at others as if we are not ourselves full of faults? And be aware that sometimes we unfairly cast a negative light on individuals due to our own weaknesses more than theirs. Nonetheless, out of love for our Church, its priests, and its people, necessity bears upon us to cast a light upon matters that need attention. Thus, although we are all subject to weakness, it becomes particularly troublesome (and therefore important to point out) when the Church’s appointed/chosen leaders forget that they are servants at the feet of whom they serve rather than authority figures looking below at their subjects. Continue reading
Guest post by my wife Suzy Tawfik
Artwork by: Wael Mories
“And they cried with a loud voice, saying, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” Then a white robe was given to each of them; and it was said to them that they should rest a little while longer, until both the number of their fellow servants and their brethren, who would be killed as they were, was completed.” -Revelation 6:10-11
Take up your cross and follow Me
Immediately upon hearing that my fellow Copts were beheaded, the humanity within me reacted with anger and frustration, tired of the innocent bloodshed, the pain, and the emotional turmoil. In the words of Tertullian (3rd Century),
“If the martyrs of the whole world were put on one arm of the balance and the martyrs of Egypt on the other, the balance would tilt in favor of the Egyptians.”
You squeeze into a small room that can fit only a handful of people. You are barely able to follow along as the bishop/priest rushes through his prayers and the responses to those prayers leave you wanting. You examine the parents’ faces, the baby, and those gathered around, and offer a smile if anyone happens to glance your way. And all you and mostly everyone really wants is simply to get to the end of the service when the baby is dunked in the water three times.
For most of us, the rest of the service is really just superfluous. “Just get to the end already!” is what many of us are probably thinking. And finally, after the “main event,” the baby puts on his new outfit—oh how cute! And then the baby is paraded around the church at the end of the Divine Liturgy in a procession that has all the “deacons” (most of whom were not present in the baptism ceremony) asking, “What’s the kid’s name? Is it a boy or girl? What do we say at the end of this Axios? Do we go around three times or just once? Someone bring a candle! Two candles? Or just one?”
And then it’s all over, and what exactly happened? That’s how the priest actually ends the service, asking, “Didn’t you hear the words full of awe that were told you about the holy baptism?”
How many of those who attended are able to describe the key elements of the baptism ceremony that they just witnessed? Sadly, quite few. It has become more of a show rather than a solemn mystery. Here is my list of 5 key highlights of this occasion that people often miss:
At the end of the Super Bowl, the Seattle Seahawks were a yard away from victory when, to the surprise of everyone, a rookie named Malcolm Butler intercepts a (very ill-advised) pass and the game ends with a New England Patriots victory. What many may not have noticed is how Butler reacted on the sideline after the play was over. As he is being congratulated by teammates, an extremely emotional Butler continued to shake his head in disbelief and then points up, towards the heavens, apparently to either give credit to or thank God for the victory. Later on Butler gave an interview and said this:
I just had a vision that I was going to make a big play, and it came true. And I’m just blessed. … I don’t know how I knew what was going to happen, but I did … I just read the play and made a play.”
How many times do we see players thanking God in some form or fashion for winning a game, or asking that He make them victors? Or how about when a pastor prays for a particular sports team to be victorious, or when a team gathers before a game to pray? What is the purpose, and should we be involving God in this way? More importantly, should we believe He involves Himself in this way? Continue reading