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The Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria is:
An Ancient Christian Church. It is one of the most ancient Churches in the world, having been founded by Saint Mark the Apostle, the writer of the second gospel, in the first Century. The word ‘Coptic’ comes from the ancient Egyptian word ‘hekaptah’ meaning ‘Egypt’, and thus ‘Coptic’ merely means ‘Egyptian.’ As a conservative Church, the Coptic Church has carefully preserved the Orthodox Christian Faith in its earliest and purest form, handing it down from generation to generation, unaltered and true to the Apostolic doctrines and patterns of worship.
Trinitarian. She believes in the Holy Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit (being one God); and that our Lord, God and Savior Jesus Christ, the true Son of God, became incarnate, was born of the Virgin Saint Mary, died for us on the Cross that He may grant us Salvation, rose on the third day that He may grant us everlasting life with Him, and ascended to heaven after forty days, sending the Holy Spirit to His disciples as He promised them, on the day of Pentecost.
Apostolic. She was founded by Saint Mark the Apostle and Evangelist who preached to the Egyptians around 60-70 A.D.
Scriptural (Biblical). Her main point of reference is the Holy Scripture, as depicted in literal translations such as King James (KJV), New King James (NJKV), and the Revised Standard Version (RSV). Although the Coptic Orthodox Church accepts any New Testament translation that is faithful to the Greek Textus Receptus translation, She prefers only the Septuagint (LXX) translation of the Old Testament and not the Masoretic text found in most Bibles today.
Traditional. One of the pillars of her faith is the teachings of the early Church Fathers as well as the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed as a statement of Her Faith.
Sacramental. She has seven primary Mysteries: Baptism, Chrismation, Confession, the Eucharist (Communion), Marriage, Priesthood, and the Anointing of the Sick.
Conservative. She does not change basic matters of Faith, Dogma or Tradition to suit current trends (this does not mean however that matters such as language and day-to day practices are not changed to suit conditions of ministry and the needs of the congregation). Holding on to such matters of Faith and practice has not been an easy task, as the Coptic Church has always lived persecution of one form or another since its establishment in the first century.
The Term “Copt”
The term “Copt” and “Egyptian” have the same meaning as derived from the Greek word aigyptos. With the suppression of the prefix, the suffix of the word, the stem “gypt” has become part of the words for “Egypt” and for “Copt” in all the modern languages of Latin origin. The Coptic Church then is simply the Egyptian Church.
The Coptic Language – It is the last shape of the language of the ancient Egyptians. The earlier shapes represented in the Hieroglyphic and Hieratic and Demotic alphabet became inaccessible to the growing needs of daily life. After the spread of Christianity, Egyptian scholars trans-literated Egyptian texts into the Greek alphabet, and adopted the last seven additional letters of the Coptic alphabet from their own Demotic.
The Founders of the Church – The Copts pride themselves on the apostolicity of their national church, whose founder was none other than St. Mark, one of the four Evangelists and the writer of the oldest canonical Gospel. John Mark is regarded by the Coptic hierarchy as the first in their unbroken chain of 117 popes. He is also the first of a stream of Egyptian saints and glorious martyrs.
Church of Martyrs – After the martyrdom of St. Mark, the Coptic Church faced severe persecutions. The seventh persecution inflamed by emperor Diocletian; his reign (284-305) is considered by the Copts as the age of persecution. Under Maximin Daia (305-313), his successor in the East, the massacre continued for eight years of systematic killing. This could account for tremendous number of martyrs. So profound was the impression of the persecution of Diocletian on Coptic life and thought that the Copts decided to adopt for church use a calendar of the martyrs, the “Anno Martyri”. The first year of that calendar was 284 A.D., the year of the disastrous accession of Diocletian.
Catechetical School of Alexandria – The school of Alexandria was undoubtedly the earliest important institution of theological learning in Christian antiquity. It was a college in which many other disciplines were studied from the humanities, science and mathematics; but its main discipline was religion. According to Eusebius, its founder was St. Mark who appointed Lustus as its dean, (later on, Lustus became the sixth patriarch). Most of the eminent leaders of Alexandria like Clement, Origen, Dionysius, Athanasius, Didymus the Blind and Cyril, were known to have been connected with it, either as teachers or students.
The Church of Monasticism – The Christian Church heavily indebted for the creation of monasticism which started in Egypt. Although St. Paul the Theban (died 340) is considered the first hermit, the origins of monasticism are ascribed to St. Anthony (251356) whose fame was spread by his famous biography written by St. Athanasius. The Fathers of the Church from numerous parts of the world came to Egypt for training in the way of monasticism. Monasticism has survived in Egypt and has given the Coptic Church an unbroken line of 117 Popes beginning with St. Mark. Although most of the monasteries have disappeared under the Arab persecution there is a revival in the surviving ones.
Adapted from “The Servants’ Manual” by Joseph Ibrahim
The Coptic Church or the Church of Alexandria is called “Sees of St. Mark”; one of the earliest four sees: Jerusalem, Antioch, Alexandria, and Rome.
St. Mark, The Founder
The Copts are proud of the apostolicity of their Church, whose founder is St. Mark, one of the seventy Apostles (Mk 10:10Open in Logos Bible Software (if available)), and one of the four Evangelists. He is regarded by the Coptic hierarchy as the first of their unbroken 117 patriarchs, and also the first of a stream of Egyptian martyrs. This apostolicity was not only furnished on grounds of its foundation but rather by the persistence of the Church in observing the same faith received by the Apostle and his successors, the Holy Fathers.
St. Mark’s Bibliography
St. Mark was an African native of Jewish parents who belonged to the Levites’ tribe. His family lived in Cyrenaica until they were attacked by some barbarians, and lost their property. Consequently, they moved to Jerusalem with their child John Mark (Acts 12:12Open in Logos Bible Software (if available), 25Open in Logos Bible Software (if available); 15:37Open in Logos Bible Software (if available)). Apparently, he was given a good education and became conversant in both Greek and Latin in addition to Hebrew. His family was highly religious and in close relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. His cousin was St. Barnabas and his father’s cousin was St. Peter. His mother, Mary, played an important part in the early days of the Church in Jerusalem. Her upper room became the first Christian church in the world where the Lord Jesus Christ Himself instituted the Holy Eucharist (Mk 14:12-26Open in Logos Bible Software (if available)). Also, this is the same place where the Lord appeared to the disciples after His resurrection and His Holy Spirit came upon them.
Young Mark was always associated with the Lord, who choose him as one of the seventy. He is mentioned in the Holy Scriptures in a number of events related with the Lord. For example, he was present at the wedding of Cana of Galilee, and was the man who had been carrying the jar when the two disciples went to prepare a place for the celebration of the Passover (Mk 14:13-14Open in Logos Bible Software (if available); Lk 22:11Open in Logos Bible Software (if available)).
St. Mark and The Lion
The voice of the lion is the symbol of St. Mark for two reasons:
1. He begins his Holy Gospel by describing John the Baptist as a lion roaring in the desert (Mk 1:3Open in Logos Bible Software (if available)).
2. His famous story with lion, as related to us by Severus Ebn-El-Mokafa:
Once a lion and lioness appeared to John Mark and his father Arostalis while they were traveling in Jordan. The father was very scared and begged his son to escape, while he awaited his fate. John Mark assured his father that Jesus Christ would save them and began to pray. The two beasts fell dead and as a result of this miracle, the father believed in Christ.
Preaching with the Apostles
At first, St. Mark accompanied St. Peter on his missionary journeys inside Jerusalem and Judea. Then he accompanied St. Paul and St. Barnabas on their first missionary journey to Antioch, Cyprus and Asia Minor, but for some reason or another he left them and returned home (Acts 13:13Open in Logos Bible Software (if available)). On their second trip, St. Paul refused to take him along because he left them on the previous mission; for this reason St. Barnabas was separated from St. Paul and went to Cyprus with his cousin St. Mark (Acts 15:36-41Open in Logos Bible Software (if available)). There, he departed in the Lord and St. Mark buried him. Afterwards, St. Paul needed St. Mark with him and they both preached in Colosse (Col 4:10Open in Logos Bible Software (if available)), Rome (Phil 24; 2 Tim 4:11Open in Logos Bible Software (if available)) and perhaps in Venice.
Coptic Cathedral of St. Mark in Alexandria, EgyptSt. Mark’s real labor lays in Africa. He left Rome to Pentapolis, where he was born. After planting the seeds of faith and performing many miracles he traveled to Egypt, through the Oasis, the desert of Libya, Upper Egypt and then entered Alexandria from its eastern gate in 61 A.D.
On his arrival, the strap of his sandal was loose. He went to a cobbler to mend it. When the cobbler – Anianos – took an awl to work on it, he accidentally pierced his hand and cried aloud “O One God”. At this utterance, St. Mark rejoiced and after miraculously healing the man’s wound, took courage and began to preach to the hungry ears of his convert. The spark was ignited and Anianos took the Apostle home with him. He and his family were baptized, and many others followed.
The spread of Christianity must have been quite remarkable because pagans were furious and ought St. Mark everywhere. Smelling the danger, the Apostle ordained a bishop (Anianos), three priests and seven deacons to look after the congregation if anything befell him. He left Alexandria to Berce, then to Rome, where he met St. Peter and St. Paul and remained there until their martyrdom in 64 A.D.
Upon returning to Alexandria in 65 AD, St. Mark found his people firm in faith and thus decided to visit Pentapolis. There, he spent two years preaching and performing miracles, ordaining bishops and priests, and winning more converts.
Finally he returned to Alexandria and was overjoyed to find that Christians had multiplied so much that they were able to build a considerable church in the suburban district of Baucalis.
In the year 68 AD, Easter fell on the same day as the Serapis feast. The furious heathen mob had gathered in the Serapis temple at Alexandria and then descended on the Christians who were celebrating the Glorous Resurrection at Baucalis. St. Mark was seized, dragged with a rope through the main streets of the city. Crowds were shouting “The ox must be led to Baucalis,” a precipitous place full of rock where they fed the oxen that were used in the sacrifice to idols. At nightfall the saint was thrown into prison, where he was cheered by the vision of an angel, strengthening him saying, “Now your hour has come O Mark, the good minister, to receive your recompense. Be encouraged, for your name has been written in the book of life.” When the angel disappeared, St. Mark thanked God for sending His angel to him. Suddenly, the Savior Himself appeared and said to him, “Peace be to you Mark, my disciple and evangelist!” St. Mark started to shout, “O My Lord Jesus” but the vision disappeared.
On the following morning probably during the triumphal procession of Serapis he was again dragged around the city till death. His bloody flesh was torn, and it was their intention to cremate his remains, but the wind blew and the rain fell in torrents and the populaces disperse. Christians stole his body and secretly buried him in a grave that they had engraved on a rock under the altar of the church.
His Apostolic Acts
St. Mark was a broad-minded Apostle. His ministry was quite productive and covered large field of activities. These include:
• Preaching in Egypt, Pentapolis, Judea, Asia Minor, and Italy during which time he ordained bishops, priests, and deacons.
• Establishing the “School of Alexandria” which defended Christianity against philosophical school of Alexandria and conceived a large number of great Fathers.
• Writing the Divine Liturgy of the Holy Eucharist which was modified later by St. Cyril to the Divine Liturgy known today as the Divine Liturgy of St. Cyril.
The Coptic Church was established in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ by St. Mark the Evangelist in the city of Alexandria around 43 A.D. The church adheres to the Nicene Creed. St. Athanasius (296-373 A.D.), the twentieth Pope of the Coptic Church effectively defended the Doctrine of the Lord Jesus Christ’s Divinity at the Council of Nicea in 325 A.D. His affirmation of the doctrine earned him the title; “Father of Orthodoxy” and St. Athanasius “the Apostolic”.
The term “Coptic” is derived from the Greek “Aigyptos” meaning “Egyptian”. When the Arabs arrived in Egypt in the seventh century, they called the Egyptians “qibt”. Thus the Arabic word “qibt” came to mean both “Egyptians” and “Christians”.
The term “Orthodoxy” here refers to the preservation of the “Original Faith” by the Copts who, throughout the ages, defended the Old Creed against the numerous attacks aimed at it.
The Coptic Orthodox Church believes that the Holy Trinity: God The Father, God The Son, and God The Holy Spirit, are equal to each other in one unity; and that the Lord Jesus Christ is the only Savior of the world. Less changes have taken place in the Coptic Church than in any other church whether in the ritual or doctrine aspects and that the succession of the Coptic Patriarchs, Bishops, priests and Deacons has been continuous.
“Blessed is Egypt my people” (Isa 19:25)
God’s promise to His people is always fulfilled; He foretold that He would ride on a light and upon a swift cloud and come to Egypt (Isa 19:1); and in that day there will be an altar to the Lord in the midst of the land of Egypt, and a pillar to the Lord at its border (Isa 19:19). This promise was fulfilled by the flight of the Holy Family from the face of the tyrant Herod to find refuge among the Gentiles. Thus our Lord Jesus Christ came during His childhood to Egypt to lay by Himself the foundation stone of His Church in Egypt which has become one of the four primary “Sees” in the world, among the churches of Jerusalem, Antioch and Rome, and joined later by the “See” of Constantinople.
The star of the Egyptian Church shone through the School of Alexandria which taught Christendom the allegoric and spiritual methods in interpreting the Holy Scripture and was the leader in defending the Orthodox faith on an ecumenical level.
The Christian monastic movement in all its forms started in Egypt, attracting the heart of the Church towards the desert, to practice the angelic inner life. This happened at the time when the doors of the royal court had been opened to the clergy, and this consequently endangered the church, as the quiet and spiritual church work was mixed with the temporal authority and politics of the royal court.
The Egyptian Church carried our Lord Jesus Christ’s cross throughout generations, bearing sufferings even from the side of Christians themselves. She continued to offer a countless number of martyrs and confessors throughout ages. Sometimes the people of towns were martyred and many struggled to win the crowns of martyrdom happily and with a heart full of joy.
Our Church is ancient and new at the same time: ancient in being apostolic, founded by St. Mark the Evangelist and traditional in holding fast to the original apostolic faith without deviation. She is also new through her Living Messiah who never becomes old and through the Spirit of God who renews her youth (Ps. 103:5).
The Coptic Church is rich with her evangelistic and ascetic life, her genuine patriotic inheritance, her heavenly worship, her spiritual rituals, her effective and living hymns, her beautiful icons, etc. She attracts the heart towards heaven without ignoring actual daily life. We can say that she is an apostolic, contemporary church that carries life and thought to the contemporary man without deviation. One finds in her life, sweetness and power of Spirit, with appreciation to and sanctification of arts, literature and human culture.
The Church is well known for her numerous saints: ascetics, clergymen and laymen. She offered many saints throughout ages and is still offering the same today. For she believes that practicing the sanctified life and communion with God, the Holy One, is prior to satisfying minds with solid mental studies.
His Holiness Pope Tawadros II was born Wagih Sobhy Baky Soliman on November 4th, 1952 in Mansoura. His father was an irrigation engineer and his family moved around during his childhood from Mansoura to Sohag and then to Damanhour.He received his bachelor’s degree in pharmacy in 1975 from Alexandria University and earned a fellowship for the World Health Organization from the British International Health Institute in England in 1985. He attended the Coptic Seminary and graduated in 1983. He then worked as a manager in a pharmaceutical company in Damanhour that was owned by the Ministry of Health.
His Holiness’s life has always revolved around church since his youth; he wished to live the life of monasticism. He entered the Monastery of St. Pishoy in Wadi Elnatroun on August 20th, 1986 and remained a brother for two years. He was ordained a monk on July 31, 1988 and after a year he was ordained a priest on December 23, 1989. Two months after, H.H. Pope Tawadros started serving with H.E. Metropolitan Pakhomius of Beheira on February 15th, 1990. He was ordained a bishop on June 15th, 1997 by H.H. the Late Pope Shenouda III as a General Bishop assisting H.E. Metropolitan Pakhomius. His Holiness focused on childhood whether it was in the country-wide children’s festival as well when he was in charge of the children’s committee in the Holy Synod. Before assuming the papacy, H.H. wrote twelve books.
His Holiness was enthroned as the 118th Pope of Alexandria and Pope of the See of St. Mark on November 18th, 2012 at the Cathedral of St. Reweiss in Abbassiya, Cairo. The enthronement was presided by H.E. Metropolitan Pakhomius of Beheira, other metropolitans and bishops of the Coptic church and was attended by many delegates of Christian Churches.
The Diocese was officially established in 2013 by His Holiness Pope Tawadros II. The foundation of the Diocese was planted in the mid-1970s when numerous Coptic families emigrated to the United States from Egypt under the leadership and guidance of His Holiness Pope Shenouda III, the time came in 2013 for the official establishment of a Diocese under the auspices of His Grace Bishop David.
His Grace Bishop David was consecrated in formal ceremonies taking place in Cairo, Egypt on November 16-17, 2013. Bishop David was formally enthroned on December 7, 2013 at the Coptic Orthodox Church of St. Abraam in Woodbury, Long Island in a ceremony that brought together thousands of the Coptic faithful, clergy, and dignitaries.
His Grace Bishop David was born on August 7, 1967 in Cairo, Egypt. In 1984, at the age of 17, he emigrated to Toronto, Canada with his family, where he attended York University. His Grace graduated from York with a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology in 1991.
In March 1992, His Grace joined St. Pishoy Monastery as a novice, and was ordained a monk on January 22, 1995. His Grace was ordained a priest on October 21, 1995 and served at the Diocese of Birmingham in the United Kingdom from November 1995 until November 1999. In November 1999, His Grace was ordained as a General Bishop by the Thrice-Blessed Pope Shenouda III of Blessed Memory. That month, His Grace was also appointed as the Patriarchal Exarch at the Archdiocese of North America in Cedar Grove, New Jersey and entrusted to oversee the papal residence and non-diocesan Coptic communities throughout North America. His Grace has since earned two Master’s Degrees, his first in Pastoral Counseling from Fordham University in New York in May 2010, and his most recent in Theological Studies from Holy Cross School of Theology in Boston in May 2013.
His Grace has represented the Coptic Orthodox Church in various conferences, including, most recently, the Assembly of the World Council of Churches in South Korea in October 2013. His Holiness Pope Tawadros II, with the Holy Synod of the Coptic Orthodox Church, consecrated His Grace as the first Shepherd and Diocesan Bishop of the newly formed Coptic Orthodox Diocese of New York and New England in formal ceremonies taking place in Cairo, Egypt on November 16-17, 2013.
Dear beloved members of the congregation of the Church of Virgin Mary & Archangel Michael of Hamden, CT.
Peace and grace to you,
We, the church clergy hope this letter finds you and your family well and in good health. Our church community has been through a lot over the last few months, and we are all looking forward to returning to a sense of normalcy. We know that all of you have been awaiting the resumption of services in our beloved church. While many things have changed, some things remain the same: our faith in Our Lord Jesus Christ, our firm belief in the sacrament of the Eucharist, and our undying love for one another. Many of you have been waiting for further details regarding the gradual resumption of liturgical services.
For your safety, H.G. Bishop David, in unison with the church priests of the Archdiocese in New Jersey and the New York and New England Diocese have asked each church to adhere strictly to the CDC recommendation, as well as regulations and guidelines of state and local authorities. We also continue to follow these agencies so that we are up to date with any changes that may be issued. Great care went into facilitating the opening of our church, including the time and frequency of the liturgy to ensure the safety of every single member of the congregation. God willing, when liturgies resume, you may see some changes as explained in the attached protocol which we kindly ask you to read and follow thoroughly. We look forward to celebrating the liturgy with you again and are happy to answer any questions you may have about the steps we take to keep you and your family safe. The circumstances under which we must celebrate for the foreseeable future are not ideal and are difficult to work around. But we trust in our Lord that “all things work together for good to those who love God” (Romans 8:28 NKJV).
We want to thank each one of you for your continuous prayers for our beloved church and our beloved shepherd H.G. Bishop David.
Please Proceed to Covid-19 Protocol
COVID-19 Pandemic Protocol for Resuming In-Person Church Services
Many of you have been waiting for further details regarding the gradual restarting of liturgical services. Please read the following in its entirety, which shall be in effect until July 30, 2020, unless otherwise extended by the H.G. Bishop David, in unison with the church priests of the Archdiocese in New Jersey and the Diocese of New York and New England.
Based on state law and local regulations and guidelines:
There will be a TOTAL of 10 persons inside the church building including children as well as one priest and two deacons. Consequently, there will be a MAXIMUM of 7 spots for the congregation.
Each spot is for an individual person, so, for example, a family of 5 would take up 5 spots.
All household members should remain home (and/or seek medical help) if any member is showing any “COVID related symptoms,” such as (cough, sore throat, shortness of breath, fever of 99 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, chills, muscle pain, fatigue, loss of smell/taste, diarrhea/Gastrointestinal symptoms, and/or has been in direct contact with another sick person exhibiting any of the above-mentioned symptoms within the last 2 weeks, whether confirmed COVID-19 or not);
Elderly (above 65 and above) and immunocompromised persons are advised to stay home and to make alternate arrangements to receive holy communion with the priest.
All persons in attendance must maintain a distance of at least 6 feet apart from one another.
All persons in attendance must wear a face mask each covering the mouth and nose at all times (unless otherwise instructed) and must sanitize their hands upon entry to the church.
In any setting where social distancing measures are difficult to maintain, more protective face coverings than cloth face coverings must be used.
A deacon will be at the door to screen the following, prior to congregants being admitted to the Church.
Confirming if the member is on the pre-assigned list to attend the respective Liturgy.
The temperature of each person will be checked prior to admittance along with answering a set of questions on the provided checklist.
If a congregant or any member of their household exhibits any COVID related symptoms, the entire household will not be admitted to Church.
To help prevent any potential cross-contamination, cell phones and other personal belongings, such as purses, bags, etc. should be left in the vehicles; and
Each church will designate a place outside the nave of the church for the congregants to leave their shoes.
2. Based on these limitations, we will begin to pray liturgies multiple times per week. Attendance will be based on the following system:
Families will be randomly selected to attend liturgy from the list of families who registered. No family will attend twice before all the registered families in that church get a turn to attend.
Registration to attend liturgies for the members of our church will be sent to you personally.
Prior to the day of each liturgy, there will be a confirmation of the ability of the assigned families to attend as well as a health screening through a brief questionnaire.
If you have been assigned to a particular date, you MUST be in church promptly by 8:30 AM (for example). The doors of the church will be locked promptly at 8:30 AM;
If you have been assigned to a particular date, you MUST attend on that date, or else you have taken away from someone else the opportunity to pray liturgy and receive communion. Should you miss your turn, you will have to wait until the entire congregation has had a chance to attend, and then you will have a chance to re-enter for Liturgy.
After the liturgy has concluded, everyone must promptly leave the premises. There will be no social gatherings or agape meals; and
All other building facilities will be off-limits.
The circumstances under which we must celebrate for the foreseeable future are not ideal and are difficult to work around. We ask each person's cooperation to allow this process to be safe, fair, and as smooth as possible.
Thank you, and may God bless you and your family.
As Orthodox Christians, we acknowledge that everything comes from God. All that we have, all that we hope to have, beginning with our very lives, is a gift from God. As a result, if God gave us a certain talent or gift, like the ability to learn and chant hymns in the church, it is important for us to use that gift for God’s glory. The same is true with our material possessions. Since God has blessed us with so much, we must confess that He is the true source of all our blessings by returning a portion of what He has given us back to Him so that it can be used for His purposes in the world. And just what are God’s purposes in the world? These are the maintenance of the church, the support of the service, and the helping of the poor.
When we give a portion of what God has given us back to Him, we bless and sanctify the remainder. By giving the 10%, we are blessing the remaining 90%. We are bringing our lives into harmony with God’s will. This is very similar to what we do when we fast. Whenever we fast, we sanctify our eating. We give up certain foods and we eat far less than normal, and in doing this, we sanctify what goes into our mouths. In the same way, when we pay the tithe of at least 10%, we sanctify our material possessions.
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