Imagine visiting a man who could answer questions about your future, heal the incurable disease of a relative, be in two places at one time, have angels or departed spirits of saints visit you for solace or protection, or even meet you in your dreams to give you important messages: your reaction might be intrigue, disbelief, or maybe you’re thinking it sounds like a story of a wizard from Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings. Maybe you believe such a man existed, and that His name is Jesus Christ, God and king. True, but I’m speaking of a different man, to whom the Lord Christ graciously gave spiritual gifts, akin to the gifts given to the apostles and disciples, as attested to by an innumerable plethora of witnesses to this very day.
One of those witnesses was my great aunt, Ma’alee, and although I spent most of my life hearing of her close relationship with the saintly man of which I speak, I had never met her or even spoken to her, until her last year of life when I mustered the courage to call her in Egypt, and with her permission I recorded our conversations, so that I could preserve forever the voice and stories of the woman who was a legend in my household. Continue reading →
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 →
As the Coptic Church remembers its modern-day martyrs on the 15th of February each year, it is an honor to share this guest post by Mariah Heron, whose story evinces the early Church apologist Tertullian’s remark: “The blood of martyrs is the seed of the Church.”
Guest post by Mariah Heron
The brilliant Christian writer of the twentieth century, G.K. Chesterton was once asked, along with other literary figures, what book he would choose to have if stranded on a deserted island? Instead of the well-rehearsed request for a Bible, Chesterton replied, “Well a guide to practical shipbuilding of course!” The story in its simplicity brings humor because, in all truthfulness, one would also want a guide to ease the mind and heart in such a trial. Continue reading →
You may have heard of the allegations of excessive use of force by Israeli police on Coptic monks, but what I just came to discover is my family’s role in securing the Israeli Supreme Court ruling in 1971 justifying their peaceful protest of the Israeli government’s execution of an order that contravenes that standing Supreme Court decision. As I read through various sources (see below) to understand the historical context of this news and saw that the Coptic Metropolitan of Jerusalem initiated the legal action which led to that decision, I immediately called my dad and sought to confirm my hunch: “Was my great uncle, your uncle, Metropolitan of Jerusalem around the 1970s?” Immediately my dad affirmed, “Yes … Abba Basilios,” and then all the pieces began to fall in place as our ensuing dialogue over the course of several phone calls revealed details of my family history I hadn’t known, and ashamedly (I must admit) I never got around to pursuing more thoroughly until now. Continue reading →
My wife and I had the blessing of visiting Paris as well as various parts of Egypt this year. It was our first visit to both places (I was born in Egypt but hadn’t returned since coming to the U.S. when I was about 4 years old; my wife, Egyptian as well, had never been to Egypt). I encountered a number of expected and also unexpected sights that had a notable impact on me from a religious perspective. Both Paris and Egypt have a lot to offer in that regard, and here are my top 15 experiences:
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 →
Copts go through life and meet plenty of people who have little to no clue about the Coptic Church, and why it matters. Here are 10 notable facts and tidbits that friends and colleagues almost definitely do not know about the rich heritage of the Copts: Continue reading →
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 →
After getting word that His Holiness Pope Tawadros II will be visiting my parish here in the U.S.A. soon, I thought it appropriate to write this post to inform Copts and non-Copts alike about the eminence of the original papacy: the Coptic papacy.
It all begins with this: whenever anyone (not Coptic) says “The Pope,” who do they mean? The head of the Roman Catholic Church. As for myself, however, whenever I hear/see that title being used to exclusively refer to the Catholic Pontiff, a small part of me cringes in grief at the ignorance.
Because “The Pope,” for almost one millennium, used to exclusively be understood by all of Christendom (including Rome) to refer to one archbishop, and it wasn’t Rome’s; it was the Archbishop of Alexandria, the head of the Coptic Church. This is not a matter of uninformed, personal bias just because I am Coptic; this is a historical, well-established fact. Continue reading →