The Coptic Feasts
Moses' Law arranged seven major feasts (lev. 23), which had their rites
and sanctity, as a living part of the common worship. These feasts are: the Sabbath or
Saturday of every week, the first day of every month, the Seventh Year, the Year of
Jubilee, the Passover (Pasch), the feast of the weeks (Pentecost), the feast of
Tabernacles (feast of Harvest). After the Babylonian exile two feasts were added, i.e.,
the feast of Purim and the Feast of Dedication. The aim of these feasts was to revive the
spirit of joy and gladness in the believers' lives and to consecrate certain days for the
common worship in a holy convocation (assembly) (Exod 12:16; Lev. 23); and to remember
God's promises and actions with His people to renew the covenant with Him on both common
and personal levels. The feasts were a way leading to enjoy Christ, the continuous
"Feast" and the Source of eternal joy.
When the Word of God was incarnate and became man, He submitted to
the Law and attended and celebrated the feasts. However, He diverted the attention from
the symbol to reality, and from the outward appearances to the inner depths (John 2, 5, 6,
7, 12); to grant the joy of the feast through practicing the secret communion with God and
receiving His redeeming deeds.
Almost all the days are feasts to the Coptic Church. Although she is
known for bearing the cross, she is eager to have her children live, in the midst of
sufferings in spiritual gladness. She is capable, by the Lord's help, to raise them above
tribulations. In other words, the Coptic Church is continuously suffering and joyful at
the same time, her feasts are uninterrupted, and her hymns with a variety of melodies are
One of the main characteristics of the Coptic Church is
"joy," even in her ascetic life. St. John Cassian described the Egyptian monks
who spread from Alexandria to the southern borders of Thabied (Aswan) saying that the
voice of praise came out perpetually from the monasteries and caves, as if the whole land
of Egypt became a delightful paradise. He called the Egyptian monks heavenly terrestrials
or terrestrial angles.
St. Jerome informs us about an abbot called Apollo who was always
smiling. He attracted many to the ascetic life as a source of inward joy and heartfelt
satisfaction in our Lord Jesus. He often used to say: "Why do we struggle with an
unpleasant face?! Aren't we the heirs of the eternal life?! Leave the unpleasant and the
grieved faces to pagans, and weeping to the evil-doers. But it befits the righteous and
the saints to be joyful and pleasant since they enjoy the spiritual gifts."
This attitude is reflected upon church worship, her arts and
all her aspects of life, so that it seems that the church life is a continuous unceasing
feast. Pope Athanasius the Apostolic tells us in a paschal letter that "Christ"
is our feast. Although there are perpetual feasts the believer discovers that his feast is
in his innermost, i.e., in the dwelling of Christ the life-giving Lord in him.
The church relates and joins the feasts to the ascetic life. The
believers practice fasting, sometimes for almost two months (Great Lent) in preparation
for the feast, in order to realize that their joy is based on their communion with God and
not on the matter of eating, drinking and new clothes.
The Coptic feasts have deep and sweet hymns, and splendid
rites that inflame the spirit. Their aim is to offer the living heavenly and evangelic
thought and to expose the Holy Trinity and Their redeeming work in the life of the church,
in a way that is simple enough to be experienced by children, and: deep enough to quench
the thirst of theologians.
Feasts of the
seven Major Feasts of Our Lord
(Baramhat 29, c. April 7): In it we recall the
fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies, and the attainment which the men of God had
longed for across the ages, namely the coming of the Word of God incarnated in the
Virgin's womb (Matt. 13:17).
The Nativity of Christ (Christmas) on Kayhk 29, c. January 7: It
is preceded by a fast of 43 days. Its aim is to confirm the divine love, when God sent His
Only - begotten Son incarnate. Thus, He restored to humanity her honor, and sanctified our
daily life, offering His life as a Sacrifice on our behalf
The Epiphany or the Baptism of Christ
on Tobah 11, c.
January 19: It is connected with Christmas and the circumcision feasts. For on
the Word of God took what is ours (our humanity) and in the "circumcision" He
subjected Himself to the Law as He became one of us, but in the Epiphany He offered us
what is His own. By His incarnation He became a true man while He still being the
Only-begotten Son of God, and by baptism we became children of God in Him while we are
human being. In this feast, the liturgy of blessing the water is conducted, and
the priest blesses the people by the water on their foreheads and hands to commemorate
Palm Sunday: It is the Sunday which precedes Easter.
It has its characteristic joyful hymns (the Shannon - Hosanna (Matt. 21:9), and its
delightful rite. The church commemorates the entrance of our Lord Jesus into our inward
Jerusalem to establish His Kingdom in us and gather all in Him. Therefore a delighful is
procession or the redeemed believers, starts -God's plan for Christ's self-oblation. The
procession moves towards the nave of the church were it stands before the icons of St.
Mary, the Archangels, St. John the Baptist, the Apostles, the marthe ascetics etc... and
before the church doors and the baptismal basin, praising God who embraces all together in
His Son Jesus Christ. The procession ends by re-entering the sanctuary, for the of God of
the Old and New testaments meet with the heavenly in heaven (sanctuary) forever.
At the end of the liturgy of Eucharist, a general funeral service is
held over water, which is sprinkled on behalf of anyone who may die during the Holy week,
since the regular funeral prayers are not conducted during this week. By this rite, the
church stresses on her pre-occupation with the passion and crucifixion of Christ only. She
itrates on the marvelous events of this unique week with its glorious readings and rites
which concern our salvation.
(The Christian Pasch or Passover): It is preceded
by Great Lent (55 days) and is considered by the Coptic Church as the Feast." Its
delight continues for fifty days until the Pentecost. Easter is also essentially
celebrated on every Sunday by participating A sacrament of the Eucharist. For the church
wishes that all believers may enjoy the new risen life in Jesus Christ (Rom. 6:4).
Ascension: It is celebrated on the fortieth day after
Easter Is on a Thursday. In this feast we recall Him who raises and lifts us up to sit
with Him in heaven (Eph. 2:6).
Pentecost: It represents the birthday of the Christian
Church. Only-begotten Son paid the price for her salvation, He ascended heaven to prepare
a place for her. He sent His Holy Spirit in her, offering her existence, guidance,
sanctification and adornment as the Heavenly Bride. In this feast, the church chants hymns, being joyful
with the resurrection of Christ, His ascension and the dwelling of His Holy Spirit in her,
thus she connects the three feasts in one whole unity. On this day, the church conducts three sets of prayers,
called "Kneeling," during which incense and prayers are offered on behalf of the
sick, the travelers, the winds, and it gives special attention to the dormant, as a sign
of her enjoying the communion and unity with Christ that challenges even death.
seven Minor Feasts of Our Lord
The Circumcision of our Lord:
celebrated on the eighth day after Christmas (Tobah 6, c. 14 January), by which we
remember that the Word of God who gave us the Law, He Himself was subjected to this Law,
fulfilling it, to grant us the power to fulfill the Law in a spiritual manner. Thus we
enjoy the circumcision of spirit and that of heart (Col. 2:11), instead of the literal
circumcision of the flesh.
The Entrance of our Lord into the Temple
8, c. February 15): We remember that the Word of God became man and does not want us to be
careless about our lives, but to set our goals early since childhood. Thus we have to work
and fulfill our goals regardless of people related to us, in spite of our love and
obedience to them (Luke 2:24).
The Escape of the Holy family to Egypt
24, c. June 1): The Coptic Church is distinguished among all nations with this unique
divine work, by the coming of our Lord to Egypt among the Gentiles.
The First Miracle of our Lord Jesus at Cana
13, c. January 12): Our Lord changed the water into wine, as His first miracle, at the
wedding in Cana of Galilee, confirming His eagerness for our attaining the heavenly
wedding, and granting us the wine of His exceeding love.
The Transfiguration of Christ
c. August 19): The unity of the two testaments was manifested in this feast, for Moses and
Elijah assembled together with Peter, James and John. The glory of our Lord was revealed
to satisfy every soul who rises up with Him to the mountain of Tabor to enjoy the
brightness of His Glory.
Maundy Thursday: This is the Thursday of
the Holy week. In it we commemorate the establishment of the Sacrament of Eucharist by our
Lord Jesus, when He offered His Body and Blood as the living and effective Sacrifice,
capable of sanctifying our hearts, granting us the victorious and eternal life.
This is the only day of the Holy Week in which Sacrifice
of the Eucharist is offered, and the rite of washing the feet is practised in
commemoration of what Christ did for His disciples. On this day also an unusual procession takes place, starting
from the south of the church nave, during which a hymn of rebuking Jude the betrayal is
chanted as a warning to us not to fall like him.
This is the Sunday that
follows Easter; In it we bless those who believe without seeing so that all might live in
faith through the internal touch of the Savior's wounds (John 20:29).
The believers joyfully celebrate the commemoration of the
Annunciation, Nativity and Resurrection of Christ on the 29th of every Coptic month, the
commemoration of St. Mary on the 21st and the feast of Archangel Michael on the 12th
Every Sunday stands as a true Sabbath (rest), in which we find our rest
in the resurrection of Christ. There is no abstention from food on Sundays after the
celebration of the Eucharist, even during Great Lent.
of The Saints
There is almost a daily feast, so that the believers may live in
perpetual joy and in communion with the saints. In addition there are other special fasts
The Feasts of St. Mary: The Coptic Church venerates St.
Mary as the "Theotokos," i.e., the Mother of God, whom the Divine Grace chose to
bear the Word of God in her womb by the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:35). Since she is considered
to be the exemplary member in the church, and the interceding mother on behalf of her
spiritual children, she is exalted above heavenly and earthly creatures. Therefore, the
church does not cease glorifying (blessing) her, and celebrating her feasts in order that
we imitate her and ask her intercessions on our behalf Her main feasts are:
The annunciation of her birth
(Misra 7, c. August 13);
her Nativity (Paschans 1, c. May
her Presentation into the Temple
(Kyahk 3, c. December 12);
her Dormant (Tobah 2 1, c. January
the Assumption of her body (Paoni
21, c. June 28);
her apparition over the Church of
Zeitoon (Baramhat 24, c. April 2);
and the apparition of her body to the Apostles (Mesra 16, c. August 22).
The Apostles' Feast
(Abib 5, c. July 12): This is the
feast of martyrdom of the Apostles SS. Peter and Paul. It is preceded by a fasting period
which starts on the day following the Pentecost. In this feast, the liturgy of blessing
the water takes place, in which the priest washes the feet of his people (men and
children) commemorating what the Lord did for His disciples. Thus, the
priest remembers that he is a servant who washes the feet of the people of God and not a
man of authority.
The Nayrouz Feast ( st of Tout, c. September 11):
The word "Nayrouz" is persian, meaning "the beginning of the year."
The Egyptian calendar goes back to 4240 B.C. Copts restored the
calendar with the beginning of Diocletian's reign in A.D 284, to
commemorate the millions of Coptic martyrs. His reign is considered a golden era in which
the church offered true witnesses to Christ, when the souls of martyrs departed to
paradise and kept shining as living stars therein. This feast, with its joyful hymns, continues until
the feast of the Cross (Tout 17, c. 27 September). Thus the church
announces her joy and gladness with the martyrs through bearing the cross of our Lord
Jesus Christ. In other words, the sufferings and martyrdom were turned into a source of
The Two Feasts of the Cross: The first
feast is on Tout 17, (c. September 27). It
commemorates the dedication of the Church of the Holy Cross which was built by Queen
Helen, the mother of Emperor Constantine. The second feast, is on Barmahat 10 (c. March
19) and commemorates the discovery of the Holy Cross on the hands of the same empress in
A.D 326. During these two feasts the church conducts a
procession similar to that of Palm-Sunday and uses the same tone in chanting
(Shannon-Hosanna), to announce that the cause of her joy with the Cross is the openness of
the hearts (the inner Jerusalem) to receive the Savior as the King who reigns within us.