Coptic Rites and Sacraments

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Coptic rites

The Coptic year (starting 11th or 12th September) contains several fasting seasons.

(a)    The first fasting season lasts 43 days, before the Birth (Mas in the Pharaonic language) of Christ which comes to be known as: Christ Mas.

As Moses fasted 40 days on the Mountain of Sinai in order to be able to see the glory of God, we fast the same to be able to see the glory of the Incarnated God in Jesus Christ.

(b)   The second fasting period is 3 days of the people of Nineveh, in repentance to avoid God’s anger. This is documented in the Bible in the book of Jonah.


(c)    The third fasting season is the Great Lent which contains:

a.      Preparation week

b.      40 days which our Lord fasted

c.       The Holy Week

All this is for us to share the passion of our Lord Jesus Christ in order to share His glory (Rom 8:17).

(d)   The fourth fasting period is the Apostolic fast, which starts after the Pentecost Day, and ends with the martyrdom day (July 12) of Saint Peter and Saint Paul the Apostles, to support the servants of our Lord Jesus Christ.

(e)   The fifth fasting period is 2 weeks in August (7th – 22nd August) which end with the Feast of the Apparition of the angels carrying up the body of Saint Mary after her dormition. As our Lord Jesus Christ took His human nature from Saint Mary the Theotokos, we request her supplication and support for all monks, nuns and all virgins as she is the Ever-Virgin (before, during, and after giving birth to our Lord).

In each fasting season, there are special specific hymns, reflecting the Theological and Spiritual meaning of the season; also there are specific rites in the prayers, meals, usage of Palm tree branches or special fruits or vegetables. All these specific rites root and bring to life the theological concept of Christianity for all ages and cultures of Christians everywhere.

The Coptic rites illustrate and present the natural actual relation between nature and the human being, as well as time and eternity, limited and unlimited, in worshiping our God.

The Seven Mysteries (Sacraments)

The seven mysteries are very important for the Coptic faith and spirituality.

+ The Mystery of Baptism. We could not be Christian without faith and baptism in which we are born again in a new pure nature. Baptism must be carried out by a Priest and immersion 3 times in water (like our Lord Jesus Christ), to receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit as children of God.

+ The Mystery of Confirmation by unction with the Holy Mayroon. To receive more gifts of the Holy Spirit, of righteousness and enlightenment.

+ The Mystery of the Eucharist. As much as we partake of Holy Communion, as much as we are united in our Lord Jesus Christ.

+ The Mystery of Repentance and Confession. Through which we get absolution, purification, and growth in spiritual life.

+ The Mystery of the Unction of the Sick. For healing our bodies, after healing our souls, as the apostles did (James 5:14,15).

+ The Mystery of Marriage. Our Lord Jesus Christ said from the

beginning, God created man and woman (Mathew 19:4) and brought Eve to Adam in the Paradise by Himself. Similarly the Priest brings the fiancee to the fiance in the Church. Then, after prayer, they become one and are no longer two, by the gift of the Holy Spirit.  The Mystery of Marriage is important for the growth of the community of the Church which is considered the body of our Lord Jesus Christ. As the unity between the husband and his wife is realised by God, nobody can seperate them (Mathew 19:6 and Mark 10:9). According to the Coptic rites, there is no divorce except in the case of adultery or death.

+ The Mystery of Priesthood. The mystery of Priesthood is important to fulfil all seven mysteries for the members of the Church.

There are 3 ranks of priesthood including s

everal degrees:

1.      The rank of Deacon, meaning servant. To help the other ranks, inside and outside the church, like Saint Stephen the Archdeacon.

    It contains the sub categories of:

1)      Candle-lighter (Churchkeeper)

2)      Singer

3)      Reader

4)      Deaconess

5)      Sub-deacon

6)      Deacon

7)      Arch-deacon


2.      The rank of Priest.

1)      Priest

2)      Economos (Hegumen)

3)      ChorEpiscopos


3.      The rank of Bishop.

1)      Archbishop (Metropolitan)

2)      Patriarch

3) Pope (only for Alexandria and Rome)

All degrees of priests and bishops are chosen by election, and they must be accepted by the Church and the members of the diocese or church.

Priests can be monks (celibate) or married. The ranks of ChorEpiscopos and all ranks of Bishops must be monks (celibate).

Women play a very important role in the church. They may be:

1)      Nuns - for prayer at nunneries, helping the priests in Baptisms, preparing the priesthood clothes, clothes for Baptistry, church textiles, cleaning of the church, and serving the Bishop.

2)      Teachers - in Sunday school, kindergartens, seminaries etc.

3)      Deaconesses and widows - as nurses in hospitals, or for the sick and disabled people in their homes, helping in elderly houses, orphanages, with widows, in girls workshops etc.

As related by His Eminence Metropolitan Dr. Anba Abraham. All rights reserved.