Thursday, March 10, 2016

Egypt's Coptic Church via Five on Friday

Thank you dear friends who supported me in regard to my last  post. Life is good and I really shouldn't complain but sometimes it makes me feel better.  It's time to link up with Amy over at  Five on Friday.

Great Lent officially began on Monday, March 7th for those following the old calendar. Easter will be celebrated on May 1, 2016.  I thought you might enjoy a little insight into the Coptic Orthodox Church which is Egypt's largest Christian denomination and one of the oldest churches in the world.

What is the Coptic Church?
St. Mark the apostle and author of the New Testament Gospel of St. Mark,  brought the gospel to Egypt via Alexandria in approximately 42 AD.  Out of Egypt's current population of 90 million people, 10% to 15% are Christians.  The Coptic Church is headed by a Patriarch, the current one being Pope Tawardros.  It is a liturgical, apostolic church and core belief is centered in the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.    Egypt has many non Coptic Christians but ultimately, they can trace their faith to a Coptic relative.  The Presbyterian Church was one of the first to have missionaries in Egypt in the late 1800's.  Since it was forbidden to convert those of the Moslem faith to Christianity, they converted Copts.  The western church was appealing to many in the study of the faith and the Sunday school, etc.  Since the early 1900's, the Copts have established many seminaries, a vast Sunday school program and excellent publishing houses with vast reading sources (both in Arabic and English). 

Handstitched art from Egypt

The Coptic Church in North America
The first church in North America was established in 1964 in Toronto, Canada, followed by St. Marks Coptic Orthodox Church in Jersey City, New Jersey and then the church in Los Angeles.  Today, there are many churches spread throughout Canada, United States, Mexico and many foreign countries.

The Copts are the fathers of monasticism started by St. Antony the Great in the late 3rd century. Back in the late 1970's St. Antony's Monastery was established in Newberry Springs, CA.  The choice of this area is pretty amazing in that it is located in the Mojave desert; a beautiful but barren landscape.  Much like the monastery settings in Egypt.  The monks there have worked very hard throughout all these years and a couple of years ago St. Moses the Black church was completed.  It's beautiful inside and features classic Coptic architecture.

Outside view of St. Moses the Black Church

Language in the Coptic Church
Originally, Coptic* was the language used in the church since the church's foundation was long before the 7th century introduction of Islam and the use of Arabic.  Today, the church liturgy is still a mixture of Coptic and Arabic.  And, in America, it is a mixture of Arabic, Coptic and English (if you attend an English service).  And, a few parishes are strictly English which are highly popular with the younger people and their children. *My father-in-law knew and spoke Coptic in addition to Arabic.  

Book of Divine Liturgy showing English, Coptic and Arabic

Coptic Theology
There are many things I could share about Eastern Orthodox or Oriental Orthodox (which the Coptic Church is considered) theology as there are so many facets to the faith.  The Coptic Church is an apostolic church and follows the teachings of the early church.   There are seven sacraments, the priests can be married and prayer and fasting are an important facet of the faith.  The Copts follow the old calendar (Julian) for feast days and also have their own calendar in conjunction to using the modern calendar (Gregorian) for business.  The Coptic calendar begins in 284AD and is known as the Year of the Martyrs.  In this year, Roman Emperor Diocletian killed over 1 million Christians for their faith.  Currently it is year 1732 (+284 = 2016) in the Coptic year.

Divine Liturgy book

Coptic Art
Coptic art can take many forms such as icons, textiles and manuscripts to name a few.  Below is an example of a modern piece of Coptic art; the Coptic cross which has been made with pieces of straw.  Coptic icons written in the Coptic style differ a bit from their Eastern Orthodox icons.  You can see the icons on the iconostasasis (altar) depicting the Lord's Supper, The Virgin Mary, Jesus's baptism and others.  

Depiction of Coptic cross made of straw on a black cloth background

Interior of St. Moses the Black church showing icons on iconostasis

I hope that you have enjoyed this little insight into Egypt's oldest faith.  And, I thank you again for your friendship and kindness in visiting Lilly My Cat.  I hope to share with you some crafty ideas next time.  
Wishing you all the best,


Linking with:


  1. Very interesting post, thanks for sharing. I would like to hear the liturgical songs, will search them at youtube, I'm very interested in music of foreign persuasions and languages.
    Have a nice weekend

  2. Very interesting Pat, something new to me. Have a good weekend. :-)

  3. You learn something new everyday or so the saying goes and your post just proved it. A great post.

  4. That looks like a fascinating church. I knew nothing about Coptic architecture before you shared. Thank you!

  5. Fascinating, thanks for sharing all the information with us. Have a lovely weekend:)

  6. I have of course heard of the Coptic Church, but knew next to nothing about it. Your post today was SO interesting!

  7. Such amazing history in your five. I'd enjoy visiting that monastery in the desert!

  8. Fascinating to read more about this. I didn't know anything about this religion but I know just a very little now which is interesting. Thank you for joining Five On Friday, I hope that you have a good weekend! xx

  9. Very interesting, Pat - I knew very little about this religion until now. It seems very similar to the Roman Catholic religion. The monastery is lovely. Hugs xo Karen

  10. Thank you for sharing this information with us. It is very interesting.

  11. That was so interesting, Pat. When I was a girl we often attended the Maronite Church, where the language of the service is Aramaic, a very ancient language. At one time I could sing the mass in Aramaic - an accomplishment about which I may have to blog at some point!
    You asked if I live in WA, you home state. Close by. I live on Vancouver Island.

  12. Very interesting post, Pat. I didn't know there was a Coptic Monastery in North America.

  13. I really enjoyed learning more about Coptic Christians. The persecution they and other Christians have been experiencing has been horrible, but I knew little about their faith and it is good to learn. BTW re your last post...unbelievably rude! But not just rude...perhaps a statement of "superiority" on their part?

  14. Thanks so much for sharing this information, Pat. Was the parish you attended in WA Coptic? I have read some about about Coptic history, and still have a stack of books I am reading about Orthodoxy. May your week be happy xx


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