My Intriguing Visit to an Ethiopian Orthodox Church—A First-Time Coptic Visitor’s Perspective

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What a remarkable experience I had visiting the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church! A friend of mine gave my name to an Ethiopian Orthodox priest, suggesting that I give the after-church sermon to the youth. He invited me to attend the service, which I did, and by the end of it I had so many questions I wanted answered due to all the intriguing things I witnessed! Here are all the fascinating things I learned, and my observations upon further reflection:

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How much of the Coptic liturgical text today is Greek? I just tallied the number and the results are surprising.

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If you didn’t already know, the Coptic Liturgical text today is filled with Greek. But how much of it is Greek? People have been giving and receiving all kinds of answers to that question, so I set out to get an actual answer. Here are the results, tips on telling the difference, and what the numbers may or may not tell us: Continue reading

What does the Afterlife have to do with Christmas? Making Christmas meaningful to you today.

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Last week I had the blessing of speaking virtually to a wonderful group of Coptic youth in Pittsburgh. The servants there asked that I correlate the Afterlife and Christmas, which may seem like an unusual and difficult correlation to make, but in fact not only is there a direct connection between the two, Christmas is even more relevant now. A link to the video presentation / lecture I prepared is provided below.  Continue reading

Where is St. Mary buried? Understanding why the ancient Church until now celebrates the Feast of St. Mary

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Tell me, where is St. Mary buried? If you know anything about the ancient Apostolic Churches, you’ll know that they love to pay respect to the relics of heroes of the faith, “of whom the world was not worthy” (in the words of St. Paul [Hebrews 11:38]). You would think that with all the honor and adoration given to St. Mary, the Orthodox and Catholic Churches would be lining up in droves to get a glimpse of her bodily remains! Well, the answer to “where is St. Mary buried” explains why we celebrate her in August (15th in Eastern Orthodox and Catholic Churches, 22nd in the Coptic Church).

The answer is: Continue reading

Evidence for Christianity: Book Overview and Highlights

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Recently I presented a few lectures derived from a book my wife bought me titled “Evidence for Christianity” by Josh McDowell (for PowerPoint lessons see below). He is a professor who teaches on this subject and collected his wealth of knowledge into a book. He is not an Orthodox Christian but most of what he writes does not disturb Orthodox theology or teachings, but for a few things here or there that should be obvious or are otherwise mostly benign. He presents evidence in support of the Bible, Christ, and His Resurrection from a historical and scholarly perspective, bringing to light writings and some archaeological finds that reflect the validity of the historical underpinnings of Christianity. I highly recommend his book, especially if you are seeking to stabilize your beliefs upon more solid evidentiary grounds. Believing on faith is best, but if you need evidence, there’s plenty of it!

Here is a list of the most interesting highlights I found in the book:

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Ordination & Excommunication. Two Essential Biblical Roles of The Church to Protect the Flock, Absent From Most of Today’s Denominations

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An expounder of false teachings, a man named Atef Aziz, who was excommunicated and whose teachings were formally condemned by the Church of Alexandria’s Holy Synod of bishops in 2002, has recently emerged particularly in the United States of America and has gained some ground and following in the hearts of some. On June 1, 2016 many Copts (by way of CopticWorld.org) and others received a communication from the bishops of North America warning Copts not to have anything to do with Atef Aziz (who has changed his name several times) or his followers or teachings, or otherwise be subject to suspension and possible excommunication. (To learn more about this heresy and recent controversies related to him, see the end of this post). (I got wind of this initially when I, as many others, heard the news of a beloved priest who was originally implicated with Atef Aziz’s teachings but has (as I understand it) since clarified to the Coptic pope his position and remains accepted within the flock.)

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Saint Quiz – How well do you know your Saints?

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How well do you know your saints? Icons are said to be written, not painted, because they tell a story so that even an illiterate person should know whose life is being portrayed. How good are you at figuring out which saint is depicted in these icons, paintings, and photos?
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Why change Orthodox Christmas date? Change the whole calendar!

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I don’t know about you, but after December 25th comes and goes, the remaining time between then and Orthodox Christmas January 7th doesn’t feel as much like the Christmas season, because most of the world has stopped celebrating it as such. The lights begin to come down, the movies and the songs revert back to normal, and everything else just reminds us Orthodox that we celebrate Christmas on a different day. And so, it is natural that around this time of year many of us begin to think about the Christmas date and whether we should be celebrating it all together at the same time. This idea particularly made waves when Pope Tawadros II of the Coptic Church discussed it with a congregation in Canada when he visited back in September, 2014. And the reaction to this was very heated, with many alarmed and even angered by such a suggestion, while others absolutely loving it.

Here is what I say to everyone: Let’s not just change the Christmas date, but let’s adjust the entire Coptic calendar!  Continue reading

What to think of the Non-Orthodox? What a Second Century Bishop says about those who are outside of “the Church.”

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I cannot believe how applicable this second century bishop’s words are to the present time. I challenge all of you to read this and not be at the least intrigued, or like me, be extremely moved by what he has to say.

He teaches fundamental truths that we Orthodox have too often slowly forgotten or are willing to do away with for the sake of being more “accepting.” Acceptance of people does not also require accepting their errant teaching.

To make this Church Father’s writings more accessible, I’ve provided his words in the form of a Question and Answer conversation/interview. Continue reading