Coptic Orthodox Faith


Egyptian civilisation began more than three thousand years before Jesus Christ. God blessed Egypt from early times by saying, ‘‘Blessed is Egypt My people.’’     (Isaiah 19:25)

 God also said, ‘‘There will be an altar to the Lord in the midst of the land of Egypt.’’ (Isaiah 19:19) This prophecy was fulfilled through Christianity entering Egypt in the first century A.D. The holy family visited Egypt and blessed places which have become holy sites.

The Term “Copt”

The word ‘‘Copt’’ means Egyptian. It is derived from the Greek word ‘‘Aigyptos.’’ By removing the first and last two letters in the Greek word we have, ‘‘gypt’’, which has thus become the words ‘‘Egypt’’ and ‘‘Copt.’’ Later on in history the term ‘‘Copt’’ was used to refer to the Orthodox Christians of Egypt, who are commonly referred to as the modern descendants of the pharaohs.

 The Founder of the Church

The good news of Christianity arrived to Egypt through Saint Mark the apostle around 55 A.D. Hence the Coptic Orthodox Church is one of the oldest Christian churches in the world, spanning 20 centuries of history. Saint Mark was one of the four evangelists who wrote the oldest of the four Gospels ‘‘The Gospel According to Saint Mark.’’ On entering Alexandria, he broke his sandal strap and went to a cobbler to repair it. The cobbler accidentally pierced his hand and cried out, ‘‘O the one God.’’ Saint Mark rejoiced at hearing this expression and miraculously healed the man’s wound and began to preach to this cobbler Anianus about the one God. Anianus and his family were baptised and many others followed. The apostle appointed Anianus as bishop and ordained three priests and seven deacons to assist him. Saint Mark is regarded as the first of an unbroken chain of 118 popes. The current pope of the Coptic Orthodox Church is His Holiness Pope Tawadros II whose title is, ‘‘Pope of Alexandria and Patriarch of the See of Saint Mark.’’  

Church of Martyrs

After the martyrdom of Saint Mark in 68 A.D., the Coptic Orthodox Church enjoyed an almost unbroken peace until 202 A.D. From 202-642 A.D., namely during the Roman period, twenty one persecutions overtook her. The seventh persecution inflamed by emperor Diocletian; his reign (c. 284 A.D.-c. 305) is considered by the Copts as the age of persecution. 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 the calendar was 284 A.D., the year of the accession of Diocletian. The months used for this calendar are those inherited from the period of ancient Egypt. The Coptic calendar has 13 months, 12 of them are 30 days each and the 13th is 5 days (or 6 during a leap year). The Coptic New Year is celebrated annually on 11 September.

 Doctrine, Practice, and Spirituality

The Coptic Orthodox Church is a deeply spiritual and conservative church that has adhered to the doctrines and rites as handed down to her by the founding Fathers of the Church in the early centuries of Christianity. The following are the seven basic corners of the Coptic Orthodox Church doctrine and practice.

The Bible: The Holy Bible is the basic foundation of Coptic Orthodox faith and life and it is used frequently during communal prayers. Bible Study Groups are conducted in all churches, and every family and individual is encouraged to study it at home.

The Creed: In her liturgies sacraments, prayers and all other ministries, the Coptic Orthodox Church uses the Nicean Constantinoplean Creed. It best summarises her doctrine.

The Sacraments: A sacrament is an invisible grace given under a visible (material) sign. It should be administrated by a canonical priest. The Coptic Orthodox Church believes in seven sacraments and these are: Baptism, Chrismation (Confirmation), Repentance and Confession, Eucharist, Unction of the Sick, Matrimony and Priesthood.

The Virgin Mary: Saint Mary is called, ‘‘Theotokos’’ meaning Mother of God. The Coptic Orthodox Church believes in the perpetual virginity of Saint Mary, before, during, and after the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ. Like all other human beings, Saint Mary was born with the original sin (Ps. 51; Rom 5:12-19; 1 Cor. 15:22); but sanctified by the descent of the Holy Spirit in the incarnation of the Son of God.

Intercession: The church asks, not only for the intercession of Saint Mary, but also for that of the angels, apostles, saints and martyrs.

Fasting: Fasting for the Coptic Orthodox Church is a spiritual practice for the whole congregation, and it is not merely fasting from animal protein, but fasting helps one to conquer his bad habits and to express their love of God by trying to come closer to Him. 

Prayer: By means of public and private prayers, the church encourages her children to spend as much time with the Lord Christ as possible, and to deepen the relationship of love with Him. Several aspects of Coptic prayer are: Liturgy, Praises, Seven Canonical Hours, Passion Week, and Continual Prayer.