It is evident from the foregoing “story” that the Coptic Church, is not a Church of the past alone, She is also a Church of the present: stretching across the generations from the moment St. Mark founded Her to the present day. She has conserved the Legacy bequeathed to Her most carefully; at the same time, encouraging the endeavors of the human mind in its search after Knowledge. This encouragement is clearly seen by the member of creative works still extant despite all the destructive forces. To prove this point, we will mention a few books from those little known ages termed “the dark”,.
One of the most touching flashes is given us in a few lines in a very dilapidated Arabic Ms. carefully preserved at the Bibliotheque National which is a remnant from the eighth century. These lines (in translation) say: “There was a believer who sat at the King’s table (Matawan last of the Ommayads) ; he was so favored by the. King as to be given the permission to visit the imprisoned pope and his fellow prisoners”. Who could have been this favored believer, and what caused him to attain such high favor is still unknown.
And while Ibn Tulun reigned (889 - 894 A. D.) , he interviewed, a hundred and thirty years old Coptic traveler who went as far as the mountains in the North of Ethiopia. During the interview, Ibn Tulun first asked about the places visited, and found that the centenarian had sailed the Indian Ocean and seen Ceylon. He then asked him about the secret' of his longevity. Smilingly, the seasoned traveler answered that he presumed it due to moderation and. temperance.
Another prominent personality at - the time is Ibn Katib’l Farghani. He built the mosque of Ibn Tulun still a standing witness to the skill of its architect. Before commencing the building, the governor wanted to be assured of its originality. Ibn Katib made for him a model in leather which he approved. This same architect built a palace for the governor in his new city, and erected an equeduct by which the Nile water could reach it. He is also the builder of the Nilometer still to be seen on the island of Rodah near Old Cairo.
During the thirteenth century, there were:
ABBA BOULOS EL BOUSHV, Bishop of Babylon (Old Cairo) ; he wrote,.
An epistle on “the Logical Proofs leading to the Knowledge of God”;
"The Teacher and the Student”, written in the form of question and answer;
“Man’s Freewill versus Destiny” in which he argued that man is free, otherwise how can God compensate him for the good and punish him for the evil he does. It should be noted that one of the most remarkable traits of the time is the great desire to probe into spiritual subjects as is evidenced by the amount of books and epistles still extant. More remarkable still is that these books show us the Muslims the constant questioners and the Copts the constant answerers. Abba Boulos is among the most outstanding answerers of the period.
THE MONK BOUTROS ES - SEDMENTI: concerning whom a Dutch Jesuit father — Van Ackberg — presented a thesis for which he got a doctorate. The Coptic monk has written fourteen books, thirteen of which are still in Ms. form. One, however, was published in Cairo in 1872 under the patronage of Abba Kyrillos V; it gives a lucid explanation of the prophecies and their fulfilment in the Incarnation of the Christ.
IBN KATIB KAISSAR: whose father was the private secretary of an Ayyubid prince. Ibn Katib preferred study and research to wordy honors. He lived in a monastery and gave us several books, one of which is a most skilful study of the Coptic grammar, and another is an endeavor to explain “the Book of the Revelation”.
IBN’L MAKEEN: another monk who legated to us four books, two of which are on history, one on landing the industrious and perseverant, while the fourth is a most erudite research on the Incarnation.
These writers, and others, together with a good number of medical doctors lived under the rule of the Ayyubids (noted for their benevolence) whose greatest figure is Salah ed - Din.
One great personality under the Mamlukes is IBN KABAR. He was private secretary to their most powerful Sultan — namely Beibars. He, then, resigned his post became the priest of the Church of our Lady (Al Mo’allakah). During his priesthood, he wrote:
A book on the freedom of man as against an inexorable fate;
An encyclopedia on ecclesiastical matters;
A book on “The Consubstantiality of the Trinity and the Incarnation ". He also helped the Sultan, whom he had served, to write a history book well - known to the West entitled" ‘Zibdo’l fikrati fi Tarikh’l Higrati”.
As for the Turkish rule (1517 - 1805 A. D.) , it was summed up in these terms: “From the time when the Turk assumed away in Egypt until the day he lost it, history and art, alike, cease”. Yet, despite the ruthless brutality of the Turk, the Coptic Church continued in Her incessant striving to guard the spiritual Legacy entrusted to Her. And the wonder of it, is the number of Mss. extant which come to us from this era: La Biblioth6que National de Paris, the Library of the British Museum, New York Public Library, and similar institutions in the world’s famous universities witness to this fact.
An outstanding personality worth mentioning, just as an example is Abu Dhakn’l Menoofi who legated to us a book on the history of the Copts, the Said (Upper Egypt) and Ethiopia. In his book, he describes the social customs and gives a comparison between the schools of the Copts and those of 'the Europeans. Over and above, he explains * the Orthodox Doctrine upheld by St. Mark’s Church.
An outstanding visitor to Egypt during the seventeenth century is a Dominican Father Vansleb. On his return, he wrote a history of the * Coptic Church which is a magnificent witness to Her Fathers, and Her firm resolve to uphold the integrity of Her Orthodox Faith. '.
In addition, the number of Statesmen in the eighteenth century is certainly amazing. To name but a few. we cite;
RIZK AGHA; minister of finance to Ali Bey al Kabir who succeeded in making Egypt independent of the Turks for seven years (1769 - 1776 A. D.) ;
MALATI: chief judge of the Committee formed by Bonaparte;
IBRAHIM EG - GOH ARI: minister of finance and assistant - governor to the two Mamluk princes Ibrahim Bey and Murad Bey. The well - known historian ad - Djabarti wrote a most flattering eulogy on him; his brother GIRGIS who lived through the Bonaparte expedition and served as Chief director of finance during the first years of Mohammad Ali Pasha’s rule.
In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the Copts shared with their Muslim compatriots the risks and vicissitudes of the three successive national revolutions: Arabi’s, Zaghlool’s and Nasser’s, side by side, they withstood the Khedive then the British until they succeeded together in' winning the independence of their beloved country. At present, they are not only cabinet ministers, but one of them — Foad Ghall is General of the Second Army.
It should be noted before dosing that the Coptic 'Church became a member of the World Council of Churches since 1948 in1954 Father Makari As - Suriani (now Bishop Samuel) , Father Saleeb Surial, and Prof. Dr. A. S. ‘Atteya attended its second General Assembly held at Evanston, Illinois, USA. Since then, She has sent Her deputies regularly to conferences and committee meetings. At the same time, She is member in the All Africa Conference of Churches and the Middle East Council of Churches. In addition, Her deputies have been delegated to attend the Christian Peace conferences.
Also, due to the large scale immigration movement to the U. S. A. , Europe and Australia, there are Coptic churches now in all these countries served by Coptic priests. While for France, Pope Shenouda III consecrated two bishops: Abba Marcus, and Abba Athanasius, his assistant. They were consecrated in the new grand Cathedral of St. Mark in Cairo, on the Day of Pentecost (1st of June 1974).
This contact of the Coptic Church with the outside world is no new thing’ to Her; it is but a resurgence. Because the Alexandrian Fathers carried the Good news to diverge lands. Pantaenus, Dean of the School of Alexandria was deputed (about 199 A. D.) by Abha Demetrius the Vinedresser to go to South India and Ceylon. Finding there the Church founded by St. Thomas the Doubter, he journeyed to the North of Yemen where he sowed the Seed. The same venerable Pope sent Origen to Arabia, to the North of Iraq and to Achaia.
St. Mark, himself, had • preached. the’ world in the Pentapolis (five cities in Libya which kept close contact with the Church of Alexandria. Many letters were exchanged between the bishops of these cities and the Successors of St. Mark. Of special interest are those exchanged between Bishop Synesius of Cyrenaica and Abba Theophilus — 23rd Pope of Alexandria, 384 - 412 A. D. , and maternal uncle to Abba Kyrillos I the Pillar of Faith. He was noted for his zeal in building churches. Among the edifices which he erected is the monastery of Al - Moharraq. The Popes of Alexandria continued ordaining bishops for the Pentapolis until the Turks conquered it and massacred all the Copts living there).
Also, in A. D. 326, Abba Athanasius the Apostolic consecrated the first Bishop for Ethiopia. Hr was entitled by the grateful Ethiopians “Bearer of Light”. The link between the two churches has continued across the ages.
During the sixth century, the monk Longinus carried the Good News to Nobia. His efforts bore such fruit as to necessitate the ordination of a bishop. Since then, the kings of Nubia become loyal subjects to the Successors of St. Mark. But here again, the ruthless Turk put an end to Christianity. Needless to say that both in the Pentapolis and Nubia, there were those who succeeded in finding refuge in Ethiopia and the Sudan where there are two Coptic bishops at present: one for Khartoum and its region, the other for Atbara and its provinces.
A point of interest to remark in passing: when scholars from different countries hastened to rescue Abu Sirnbel and other Pharaonic temples from the flooding of the High Dam, they discovered, inadvertently, a number of churches buried beneath the sands, some of which were in a fair state of preservation, and interestingly enough containing a number of documents which scholars are busy translating in order to publish them.
These efforts of the Coptic Church among Her neighbors are known and their history recorded. But other efforts have been expended: For example in Glastonbury (north of England) influences of Coptic sculptor and carving have been found, but how and by whom they were carried is. Unknown. The same is the case with Lyons, (in France) , for its coast of arms has a palm tree with a lion crouching under it — both emblems of St. Mark. Whereas there are three heads of Coptic martyrs on the banned of Furich.
On the other hand, seven Coptic are buried in the isle of Iona. (Ireland) ; while the word designating a monastery in that region is “desert”, for example desert Olidh means the monastery of Olidh.
In addition, there is a Coptic woman St. Verena who was born and bred in Qoos (Kena) in Upper Egypt, who was trained to be a nurse. She accompanied the Theban (Luxor) Legion to the region now Switzerland when they were called for Service by emperor Maximus (co - ruler with Diocletian). Finding Christians, he massacred them to the last man. And it is still unaccountable why he spared the nusses. Verena reasoned within herself that God must have a purpose in allowing her to come all that way. So she remained in the region of the present - day Geneva. She taught the people about the Christ, and also trained them to keep the hygienic method. When she died, she was buried under the altar of a church in the city| of Zurzach built in her name. Her icon pictures her standing holding a comb in one hand and a water jug in the other. She is still commemorated by the people whose ancestors she served.
The flashes show us that the Coptic Church was, from the beginning, oecumenically minded. The isolation resulting from Byzantine policy in A. D, 451 was no choice of Her.
Worded at Nicea (325 A. D.) Completed at Constantinople (381 A. D).
Verily we believe in One God, God the Father Almighty, Who hath created heaven and earth, that which is seen and that which is unseen.
We believe in One Lord Jesus the Christ, the Only - Begotten Son of God, Born of the Father before all ages; Light of Light; Very God of Very God; Begotten not created; Consubstantial with the Father; by Whom were all things made; Who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven; He was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and of the Virgin Mary; And He became man; and He was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate; He suffered and was buried; and the third day He rose again from the dead according to the Scriptures; He ascended up to the heavens; He sitteth at the right Hand of the Father; He will come again in His glory to judge the living and the dead; of Whose kingdom there shall be no end.
Yes, we believe in the Holy Spirit the Lord the Life giver Who proceeded from the Father. We worship and glorify Him with the Father and the Son; Who spoke by the prophets And in One Holy Universal Apostolic Church.
We acknowledge one Baptism for the remission of sins. We await the resurrection of the dead and the life in the world to come. Amen.
The introduction to the Greed, worded by Kyrillos I at Ephesus (431 A. D.).
We magnify thee, O Mother of the True Light, and we glorify Thee O Virgin Saint Mother - of - God. For thou hast borne unto us the Savior of all the world, He came and saved our souls.
Glory be to Thee O our Master and our King the Christ: the Honor of the Apostles, the Crown of the martyrs, the Joy of the righteous, the Stability of the Church, the Forgiveness of sins. We evangelize and preach the Holy Trinity One Godhead. We worship Him and glorify Him.
Lord have mercy. Lord have mercy. Lord bless us. Amen.
THE PRAYER OF THANKSGIVING
Let us. give thanks unto the Doer - of - good, God the Merciful, the Father of our Lord our God and our Savior Jesus the Christ. For He has covered us, supported us sustained us, and brought us unto this hour.
Him, also, Let us ask that He guard us this holy day and ail the days of our life in all peace —■ the Almighty the Lord our God.
O Master, Lord God, Almighty, the Father of our Lord, our God and our Savior Jesus the Christ, we thank Thee on every condition, for any condition, and in whatever condition. For Thou hast covered us, preserved, us, accepted us unto Thee, had compassion on us, sustained us and brought us unto this - hour.
Wherefore we pray and entreat Thy goodness, O Lover - of - mankind, grant unto us to complete this holy day, and all the days of our life in all peace with Thy fear, All envy, all temptation, all the working of Satan, the intrigue of wicked people, this rising up of enemies hidden and manifest Do Thou cast away from us (here he can mention any special project) and from all Thy people.
As for that which is good and useful do Thou grant unto us. For Thou art He Who gave us. Authority to trample on serpents and scorpions and every power of the enemy. And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from the evil one. By the Grace, the Tender mercies, and the Love - of mankind which belong to Thy Only - Begotten Son, our Lord, our God, and our Savior Jesus the Christ. He it is through Whom is due all glory, honor, dominion and worship, to Thee with Him and the Holy Spirit Life - giving and Consubstantial with Thee.
Now, at all times, and unto the ages of all ages. Amen.
THE PRAYER SAID AT THE END OF EVERY CANONICAL HOUR
Have mercy on us, O Lord, have mercy. O Thou Who, at every time and in all hours, in heaven and earth, art worshipped and glorified; Thou Christ our Good Savior Longsuffering Full of mercy Plenteous fin tenderness, Who loves the righteous and art merciful to sinners of whom I am chief; Who desires not the death of the sinner but rather that he return and live; Who called everyone unto salvation for the bliss to come.
Accept, our Lord, from us at this hour and all hours our supplications; make our life easy; direct us to behave in accordance with Thy commandments. Sanctify our spirits; purify our bodies; straighten our thoughts; cleanse our desires. Heal our sicknesses; forgive our sins; and save us from all evil sorrow and heartache. Surround us by Thy holy Angels that we be kept in their camp safe and guided, and may arrive at the unity of faith and the knowledge of Thy ^ory imperceptible and boundless.
For Thou art blessed unto eternity. Amen.