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Author Topic: Coptic Orthodoxy at Home  (Read 1152 times) Average Rating: 0
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mtmamma
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« on: April 10, 2011, 05:29:46 PM »

Wondering how Coptic Orthodoxy looks like in the home. Rituals, prayers, celebration of feast days etc.
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Andrew21091
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« Reply #1 on: April 10, 2011, 11:44:27 PM »

Check this video out:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1FEWldidLCM

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mtmamma
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« Reply #2 on: April 11, 2011, 01:10:07 AM »

Thank you.
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Jonathan
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« Reply #3 on: April 11, 2011, 07:11:28 AM »

The canonical hours (Agpeya) can be prayed at home alone, or as a family. The Psalmody (Vespers Praise, Midnight Praise, and Morning Doxology, aka tasbeha) can as well. The cycle of readings can be followed at home. A set of hymns in veneration of the saint of the day (aka tamageed) can also be prayed at home. The only parts of the liturgical day that cannot be private, and must be in the church as a community with a priest are the raising of evening and morning incense, and the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the faithful.

Recordings of the agpeya can be found at agpeya.org , and of the Sunday Annual Psalmody can be found at http://www.stantonymonastery.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=85:english-midnight-praise&catid=26:audio&Itemid=3

Before discussing what's done in the home, it's useful to have a brief outline of the full liturgical cycle of a day that can potentially be prayed in a church/monastery:

The general order of a non-fasting day is as follows:
-If prayed in the church, the 9th, 11th, and 12th hours are prayed together in the evening
-The Vespers Praise is prayed
-The Raising of Evening Incense is Prayed

-In the middle of the night, (or to make it easier, immediately after the evening Incense, or immediately before morning services) the Midnight hour of the Agpeya is prayed.
-The Midnight Praise is prayed

-In the morning the Prime hour is prayed from the Agpeya
-The Doxology of Prime is Prayed
-The Raising of Morning Incense is Prayed
-The 3rd and 6th hours of the Agpeya are prayed together
-The Liturgy of the Word, and the Liturgy of the Eucharist is prayed.

On days of fasting, the Liturgy is prayed later in the day to allow people to fast (i.e. consume nothing), since after receiving Communion no one  may fast (i.e. must break the fast with vegan food). As such the prayer of the 9th hour is moved to after the 6th hour, rather than with the evening hours to reflect the time of the Liturgy. On days of strict fasting, the Liturgy is later still, so the 11th and 12th hours are prayed with the rest, and it is illegal to raise the evening incense since that is when the Liturgy should be.

So, clearly there is enough there to fill an entire day, which is not what is intended for laity to do.

Generally, one takes a rule or prayer from their father in confession, and follows it in obedience, neither neglecting it, nor adding to it (though their maybe some flexibility to the rule as needed to accomodate wordily obligations)

A typical starting point for such a rule would be to pray Prime in the morning, and Compline (the 12th hour) in the evening. But rather than praying the whole thing, which can easily take 15-20 min if done at a prayerful pace, someone will be started out with only the introductory prayers, then after that rule is established one can ask their Father in confession for more, who will typically add a few of the Psalms, and later the Gospel and litanies, and so on, until a point appropriate for that person is reached. Typically praying 3-6 of the Psalms and most of the rest of the hour, which can be done in 5-10 min. Many people work up to praying all of Prime and Compline, with many also adding Sext (noon).

It is central to Orthodox spirituality to do such things with gentle progress, and not to make jumps. Satan will tempt people and tell them that they can do more, and their Father in confession doesn't realize what they're capable of. Then people take their rule, not from the preist, but from satan, and lose the blessing of obedience, and find themselves burning out and being inconsistent in prayer, sometimes doing much, sometimes not wanting to any. It is better to do the amount prescribed in obedience. The same applies to fasting. One cannot defeat self-will by doing what one wishes.

Here is a set of sermons on Orthodox spirituality that cover these things in detail: http://www.stmaryscopticorthodox.ca/media_sermons/spirituality/spirituality.html
Or in book form:
http://www.stmaryscopticorthodox.ca/content/books/spirituality.pdf

Another great introduction to Orthodox spirituality is "The Way of the Ascetics" http://www.amazon.com/Way-Ascetics-Ancient-Tradition-Discipline/dp/0881410497

Some families will pray the Midnight Praise together occasionally. The Doxology of Prime is a great place to start with getting to know that, since it's tune is fairly simple, and it is short.

Many families read and discuss the Bible briefly before evening prayer together. Normally people read the Gospel and litanies in tune, with the rest said, and often with the Psalms prayed silently. It is nice though to take turns with everyone chanting a psalm, or to simply read a few of the psalms together. Best to keep things simply to start though. After that it is important to have time for prayer from the heart. Some families do this aloud, but most silently. It is a wonderful thing to stand together praying silently, and the fell united in prayer standing before God without speaking aloud and worrying over finding words in front of each other.

Having an icon corner is more of an Eastern Orthodox devotion, as far as I can tell, but many Copts have adopted it as a useful anchor to a family prayer life in the house. One thing to note though is that in the Coptic tradition, people never burn incense, only the priest does. It's nice to gradually gather a collection of icons of the feasts, and some meaningful saints and to put the icon of the season or day in a central position to be able to follow the seasons and high points of the calendar as a family, but that certainly isn't essential. Reading the synaxarion is another great way to keep in touch with the calendar, but it is not of great quality in terms of translation and editing.

When starting a rule of prayer, it is important to keep it personal. Praying together as a family is great of course, but in general experiences should not be shared with the world. What this means is that no one should know about your rule besides your father in confession. This avoids vainglory. It may seem like a strange detail at first, but if you go through some of the spirituality resources above they make clear why this is important.
« Last Edit: April 11, 2011, 07:13:41 AM by Jonathan » Logged
mtmamma
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« Reply #4 on: April 11, 2011, 03:22:11 PM »

Jonathon to my rescue again it seems.  Wink

Can you explain why only the priest burns incense?
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Jonathan
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« Reply #5 on: April 11, 2011, 03:33:11 PM »

Sure, but first I want to make it clear that I'm not trying to argue against the Eastern Orthodox practice, just to answer from the point of view of the Coptic tradition.

In Num 16:1-35 we see an incident where a group of people felt that they should be able to perform priestly functions since all of the people of Israel are holy before the Lord. When they offered incense, the earth swallowed them and they went alive into the pit.

In the New Testament, the concept that all Christians are priests is important. We're all to offer the sacrifice of our lives, consecrated to the Lord. But it's also still important to make the distinction between that and the priesthood of the bishop and his presbyters. For this reason, following the example of the incident recounted in Num, the offering of incense, as a priestly function, is reserved for the priests. The distinction is still the same as in the Old Testament. Similarly, priest are (at least in theory), never self called. A person cannot decide they want to be a priest, they have to be called by the church (and theoretically by God), as Aaron was.
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Salpy
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« Reply #6 on: April 11, 2011, 07:54:43 PM »

In the Armenian tradition, not only priests, but also deacons, cense the church.  Armenian laypersons also are allowed to burn incense in their homes, as well as at the graves of loved ones.  It's a very common custom.

I'm wondering now about the Ethiopian and Syriac Orthodox.  I seem to recall seeing Ethiopian deacons using censors, but it's been a while since I have been in a Syriac Orthodox church.  I also wonder if their laypersons use incense in their homes.
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mtmamma
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« Reply #7 on: April 12, 2011, 12:27:17 AM »

Thank you, Jonathon.

Yes Salpy I would be interested in whether or not the other OO churches have the same custom. I love learning new things.

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Jonathan
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« Reply #8 on: April 12, 2011, 08:13:26 AM »

I don't even know if Coptic deacons cense, since they are almost extinct, and most things that chanters and readers are deacons when they're not... I somehow think they do.
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mtmamma
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« Reply #9 on: April 13, 2011, 11:12:52 PM »

I was one of those people. Undecided

The bishop was at our church this weekend, I am wondering what is the name for the priest that accompanies him?
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mtmamma
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« Reply #10 on: April 13, 2011, 11:14:51 PM »

Is their a place I can find the blessing over the meal and bedtime prayers for children?
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Alveus Lacuna
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« Reply #11 on: April 13, 2011, 11:44:10 PM »

Jonathan -

I just thought you might want to know that there are restrictions regarding censing in the EO Church to keep a certain priestly distinction. No one but a priest or bishop can swing a censor. Deacons are allowed to during services, but only when a priest is present and he is helping him serve. Of course, I'm not sure if priest or bishops are supposed to swing censers outside of the context of liturgical prayers.
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Jonathan
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« Reply #12 on: April 13, 2011, 11:56:06 PM »

Sorry, of course you would have that impression since most of them think they are deacons, and even those who know better would still introduce themselves as deacons since that's what people expect. It is a very serious thing to be a deacon. Deacons wear black like priests, assist in giving Communion, and are not allowed to hold secular employment, or to marry after their ordination. For various reasons, deacons have become very uncommon. In the LA clergy directory there are four archdeacons and one deacon listed. We have none in Canada. In their absence, subdeacons (also quite rare), readers, and chanters have been permitted to say the liturgical responses of the deacon, and so have over time been confused with deacons.

Every bishop I've seen has either been alone, or has been accompanied by a 'deacon' (i.e. a reader). The only thing I can think of is if a bishop has a priest who is their secretary, sorry.

There are really no standard prayers for these things. One Agpeya has a prayer for meals at the back:
Quote
Blessed are Thou O Lord, Who nourishes us from our birth, and grants us Thy good things and prepares food for all people for the eyes of all hope in Thee for Thou givest them their food in due season. Thou openest Thy hand and satisfy every living creature by Thy goodness. Thine is the glory, the praise and the blessing. We give thanks to thee for all that Thou hast provided us as food which is set upon this table for feeding our bodies. Make it healing for our bodies. Our Father...

It sounds like it is inspired by the part in the 7 short prayers immediately following the prayer for the season, plus the prayer that Roman Catholics typically say before meals. I have only ever seen people pray in an unstructured way before meals. My preist usually says something like "We thank you Lord for such and such occasion, please bless it as appropriate to the occasion, and bless this food as thou didst bless the 5 loaves and the two fishes, may this meal be nourishment for our souls and for our bodies, and hear us when we say together with all thanksgiving, our Father...". Many end with "through the intercessions of the holy Theotokos St. Mary, an appropriate saint for the location or person, hear us when we say with all thanksgiving, our Father..."

For bedtime, I'm not aware of anything, but the whole twelfth hour of the Agpeya (Compline) is the prayer for sleeping (the introduction is "Lord have mercy, Lord have mercy, the prayer of the blessed sleep we offer unto Christ our King and our God. We will hope in Him that He will forgive us our sins. Of the Psalms of our teacher..."). If you wanted a small part to take from that to use with children, the absolution would probably be most suited:

Quote
Lord, all things in which we have sinned against Thee this day, whether in deed, or in word, or in thought, or by all senses, do Thou pardon and forgive us, for the sake of Thine Holy Name, as a Good One and as a Lover of mankind. And grant unto us, O God, a peaceful night, and this sleep pure. And send to us an angel of peace to keep us from every evil, every calamity and every temptation of the enemy.  By the grace, compassion...

There is also "Graciously accord, O Lord, to keep us this night without sin..." earlier in that hour.
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Jonathan
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« Reply #13 on: April 13, 2011, 11:59:50 PM »

Jonathan -

I just thought you might want to know that there are restrictions regarding censing in the EO Church to keep a certain priestly distinction. No one but a priest or bishop can swing a censor. Deacons are allowed to during services, but only when a priest is present and he is helping him serve. Of course, I'm not sure if priest or bishops are supposed to swing censers outside of the context of liturgical prayers.

Yes, I am aware of this. Again, I was not trying to criticize or debate the EO practice, only to explain the Coptic practice since I think that it is best to enter fully into one tradition rather than to mix. It's great to benefit and incorporate things from other traditions, but the EO practice of laity offering incense with a hand censor is not compatible with the Coptic practice of laity never offering incense. I don't mean to argue if one is right or wrong, it's just a small detail, but most resources online for icon corners and such are from an EO perspective, so I just mentioned this difference for the sake of consistency with the tradition.
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