The Coptic Orthodox Church

The Coptic Church was founded by Saint Mark the Evangelist around 43 A.D.  in the city of Alexandria. The Coptic Church complies with the Nicene Creed. At the council of Nicea in 325 A.D., Saint Athanasius (296-373 A.D.), the twentieth Pope of the Coptic Church, defended the Doctrine of the Lord Jesus Christ’s Divinity. Thus, Saint Athanasius earned the title of “Father of Orthodoxy” and Saint Athanasius “The Apostolic.”

While some might consider what the term “Coptic” means, the term actually originated from the Greek term “Aigyptos”, which means “Egyptian”. In the seventeenth century, the Arabs, who came to Egypt, called the Egyptians “qibt”, which meant both “Egyptians” and “Christians”.

Another essential term to be considered is “Orthodoxy”, which refers to the preservation of the “Original Faith” by Coptic people. The Copts kept their faith unspotted against the many attacks they faced through the ages, and the Copts defended their faith of the Old Creed.

The main belief of the Coptic Church is that of the Holy Trinity: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, are equal to each other in one unity, and the Lord Jesus Christ is the only Saviour of the world. Fewer changes have taken place in the Coptic Church’s position on rituals, doctrine aspects, and the succession of the Coptic Patriarchs (as well as Bishops, priests and Deacons continued to this day).

The time of the Apostolic Age is the time in which the Apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ lived and preached Christianity and the Christian faith. It is around 70 years and it is extended from the foundation of the Church on the day of Pentecost on 30 AD to the St. John the Apostle, 100 AD. This is an essential time because it involved the separation from Judaism and the origin of the Christian Church. In addition, the Apostolic Age is the Age of the Holy Spirit. During the Apostolic Age, Christianity spread and the Christian faith spread  to almost every part of the world in a short period of time. This was done by the Mysterious Godly Work. Thus, this Age could represent a model for Christians to preach, teach, and serve, and the Apostles were inspired by the Holy Spirit and supported by the power of the New Creation in baptism. Definitely this was an incentive for good deeds.

Dogmas are not just theological concepts concerning God, man, eternal life, but rather they are daily experiences that each of us, as members of the church, has to live. They represent our faith and our communion with God the Father in Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Word of God, by His Holy Spirit. Thus, dogmas are what is believed, taught, confessed and practiced. As St. Paul says: “That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you” (1 Jn 1:3).

Martyrdom is the story of Christianity since its birth and this is how the Holy Bible spread all over the world by the blood of martyrs.

The Seven Sacraments of the Church are the channels by which we receive the graces and blessings of the Holy Spirit. These sacraments include the sacrament of Priesthood, the sacrament of Baptism, the sacrament of Confirmation, the Sacrament of the Eucharist, the sacrament of Repentance and Confession, the sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick, and the Sacrament of Matrimony.

As the Lord promised, the Holy Spirit existed in the church since the day of the Pentecost. The Lord said: “I will pray to the Father, and He will you another Comforter, that He may abide with you forever, even the Spirit of Truth when the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him, but you know Him for He dwells with you, and will be in you.” (John 14:16,17)

The Holy Spirit works in the church through the Sacraments, giving us His gifts, blessings and comfort, and teaches us and guides us to the way of truth. “But the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.” (John 14:26)

(By H.G. Bishop Mettaous, Bishop and Abbot of St. Mary Monastery, El-Sorian)

The word or term “tradition” comes from the Latin word traditio. In theological terms it means any teaching or practice which has been transmitted from generation to generation throughout the life of the Church.

The Coptic Church believes that there is a direct link between the Coptic Church Fathers, the holy Apostles and the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. The Church Fathers preserved the faith that was submitted by our Lord Jesus Christ to His holy Apostles and they did not change it throughout the generations of Coptic Christianity.

Asceticism, in the Coptic Church is a practical response to divine love of Our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself on our behalf and we in turn long to give ourselves to Him as a sacrifice for God’s sake. Believers, especially monks, have one purpose; to attain the inner heavenly Kingdom as a pledge to their hope for eternal life and meeting with God. These attitudes are mentioned in the Holy Bible:

“For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul?…” (Mt 16:26)

“…Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor…and come, follow Me.” (Lk 18:22)

“But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.” (1 Cor 9:27)

In Egypt, all monastic forms started in the fourth century to reattract the heart of the Church to the inner life, after the country had accepted Christianity and the Emperor had opened his door to bishops and priest.

St. Antony, the father of monks, was the first Christian to live a life of consecrated solitude. As a hermit in the desert, he lived a long and saintly life that influenced countless people both in his time and for generations thereafter, even to this day.

The Coptic monasticism is considered the most profound spiritual revival that ever happened in all the history of the Church. It attracted people from all over the world to practice the angelic life in Egypt.

One of the remarkable aspects of the Coptic Orthodox Church today is the continual increase of those who are eager to join the monastic life. At present, in Egypt, there are eleven monasteries scattered in the diverse desert regions and six convents within the cities.

He Saints are dear brothers who have struggled like us and have departed to Paradise. They are not dead, but are sleeping, as our Lord said (Jn 11:11) and as St. Paul called them (1 Thess 4:13).

They departed from earth, but did not leave the church; their love toward their brothers did not cease by their departure and dwelling in Paradise. The death of their bodies does not sever the bond of mutual love between them and us; on the contrary it increases in depth and strength. Their prayers for the salvation of the entire world never cease. They pray for us, and we venerate them as they are our holy and dear friends.

We venerate the icons of saints and put them on the iconostasis. Church walls and doors are hung with icons, also our homes, etc., as a sign of our communion with them in the Lord Jesus Christ.