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

dormitionandassumptionofstmary.png

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

Why change Orthodox Christmas date? Change the whole calendar!

ChangeCopticChristmas_ChangeWholeCalendar.png

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

House Blessings: Copts & Eastern Orthodox Compared

CopticOrthodoxChristianHouseBlessing.jpg

Just recently the priests of our church visited our new home, asking God to bless it. This is not just a Coptic custom, but an Orthodox one (and in fact, most religions include some sort of house blessing custom). As I intently listened to the prayers and read along as the service proceeded, I noticed a number of things that caught my attention. And I thought to myself, how does this compare with what the Eastern Orthodox do? Do they invoke the Holy Spirit? What do they declare as the purpose of this prayer? Do they pray over water even? Do they sprinkle water? Are the prayers themselves similar at all? I was fascinated with what I eventually found out.
Continue reading

Don’t like going to Pascha until Wednesday night when it gets “good”: Coptic and Eastern Orthodox Similarities of the Significance of Pascha from Sunday–Wednesday

PaschaBridegroomService

Let’s be honest. In our minds, many of us split Holy Pascha Week into two:

  • The not-so-important stuff until Wednesday Morning, and then
  • The important part beginning Wednesday night when Judas betrays Christ, followed by Covenant Thursday where we have the washing of feet and partake in the Mystical Supper with Christ, and then of course Great (or “Good”) Friday.

Many of us will only attend just Great Friday services, or at best will just attend “the important part” beginning Wednesday night.

So let’s try to make Sunday night through Wednesday more significant. (Note: For a PowerPoint Lesson to go along with this, click here to download) Continue reading

Behind the Iconostasis: Who May Enter Beyond It, and How We Copts May Have Gotten It Wrong

Iconostasis St Mary Atlanta Coptic Church

I was really surprised recently about hearing of many Coptic church members who decided to stop attending a particular church because the priest does not allow anyone among the laity to go beyond the iconostasis, as we Copts are (unfortunately) accustomed to.

Another situation came up recently as well, whereby a particular rank of the minor orders (I presume a chanter) was very upset by a request of the deacons (and I use this term loosely, referring to the minor orders of our church), that none should leave their position in the choir section of the church and stand behind the iconostasis during the service, unless they are engaging in a liturgical purpose, or unless otherwise they have received permission. Again I was greatly saddened to be reminded of a fact I had known but didn’t want to dwell on: most in the Coptic Church have forgotten where we should stand (and shouldn’t stand) in the church, and why that is the case.

What are we to think of this? Is the priest correct? Does he have any basis for his rule? What about the deacon? Should several deacons be allowed to rest or stand during the service behind the iconostasis? Continue reading

“Christ is Born!” … “Glorify Him!” – Exploring Why This Orthodox Greeting is Uncommon in the Coptic Church

AncientIconChristandMotherfromHangingChurchInEgypt

“Christ is born!” my priest says to begin his Nativity Feast sermon. Although he has taught us the response many times before, only a handful of people shout back “Glorify Him,” and even fewer (understandably) respond, “Truly He is born!” And as usual, Fr. Luke tells us that this is an Orthodox greeting that we unfortunately do not say.

But why is that? Is it really an ancient greeting? Was it used by the early church? And why is it so prevalent in the Eastern Orthodox Church and yet absent in the Coptic Church?

I don’t have all the answers, but here is what I could gather.  Continue reading