How we got the Bible: Manuscripts, Translations, and Versions, and seeing it with my own eyes in the British Library

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It is one thing to teach about Christian history, and it’s a entirely different experience when you actually behold the subject of your lesson right in front of you. And that’s the experience I had when I visited the British Library and saw on display several amazing biblical historical texts, dating as far back as c. 200 AD (only about 150 years after the last New Testament writing).

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Italy is filled with saints’ relics, including those you may not realize are believed to be there (including St. Athanasius, St. Mark, several other apostles, etc.) (Spiritual Experiences in Italy Series)

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It should be no surprise to anyone that Italy is filled with saints’ relics. This is not only due to the Roman empire’s expansive control over the ancient lands which served as the setting of the history of Christendom, but also because the Lord Christ and His followers often were killed or otherwise afflicted at the direction or by consent of the Roman government (with the Coptic Church contributing so many martyrs, as attested to by the early church historian and bishop Eusebius, that the Coptic Church’s calendar was readjusted to remember the most infamous persecutor of Christianity, Diocletion).

And then, years later, beginning around the time of Emperor Constantine, the Roman empire fostered and eventually vigorously promoted the advancement and spread of Christianity, as well as reverence to heroes of the faith. Frequently that enthusiasm motivated problematic/troublesome behavior, with certain individuals choosing to take advantage of people’s devotion to the saints by selling fake relics, and sometimes even stealing (or protecting, depending on perspective) bona fide relics to sell them or bring them to Italy for safeguarding (think Venice, St. Mark the apostle).1

Here are several of the sites associated with saint relics that were of particular interest for me: Continue reading

History of the Holy Pascha (“Passover”) Week in the Coptic Church

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Arguably the holiest week of the year, known simply as “Holy Week” or maybe more preferably “Pascha (aka Passover) Week” is upon us, with the Pascha Feast (the more traditional term rather than Easter) marking the end of the week, but a beginning for all of humanity. As I had written in my previous post about the History of the Great Fast, it is not enough for us to know about or simply participate in religious observances, but we must understand the “why” in order to make it all relevant to us today. Here is a summary of what I could surmise as being the current practice as well as history of the Holy Week, with a particular emphasis on the Coptic Church. (Further below you will also find a PowerPoint presentation that I used to teach about this subject that you may download and use as desired.)

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History of the Great Fast (“Lent”) in the Coptic Church, including “Preparation Week” (a.k.a. “Heraclius Week”)

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We are about to embark on the Great Fast (a.k.a. Lent), but as with all worship and rites, it is preferable that we not only understand the what and how of our religion, but also understand why, in order to make it all relevant to us today. The fruit of my research on this topic was intriguing (e.g., there was no “Great Fast” for the first few hundred years), but also at one point I felt embarrassed as I learned the original reason behind what we now refer to as “Preparation Week.” Here is a summary of the current practice and history of the Great Fast, with a particular emphasis on the Coptic Church. Further below you will also find a PowerPoint presentation that I used to teach about this subject that you may download and use as desired.

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LAYING ON OF HANDS: What St. Paul calls an “elementary principle” of Christianity—neglected, forgotten, or rejected by so many Christians today.

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Many may have heard or read of the “laying on of hands,” but how many Christians understand its significance? St. Paul, in listing out what he called the “elementary principles of Christ,” mentions the “laying on of hands” as being as fundamental to Christianity as “repentance … faith … baptisms … resurrection of the dead, and … eternal judgment” (Hebrews 6:1-2).

Really? As fundamental as “faith” and belief in the “resurrection of the dead?” Yes. Yet, if you are reading this and consider yourself a Christian, do you understand what the laying on of hands is? And for those who recognize this as a familiar practice, I ask you this: is it being practiced by your church the way it was practiced by the apostles and their legitimate successors?

Here is its history and significance:

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American Orthodox Church of Alexandria: What’s in a Name?

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Update 5/5/15:

Link below to AOCA slides no longer working. Here is a working link to the PDF (click here)

Update 5/1/15:

Here is the latest on this endeavor, and it appears that the most substantive change will be language, while all other cultural aspects will remain mostly intact. Was hoping for more, particularly when it comes to the manner of singing hymns. Nonetheless, may God bless the bishop and all the servants in this attempt to reach more people.

https://www.slideshare.net/slid…/embed_code/…/7KdpbppPbbuKC7

Original Post:

H.G. Bishop Youssef has announced his intention to establish mission churches in his diocese, and the latest I have heard is that His Grace has settled on the name, “American Orthodox Church of Alexandria” [although I have also heard the title “American Coptic Orthodox Church” as well]. The plan is Continue reading