Liturgy of the Faithful – Part 2

Hey everyone!

We are just about finished with the Liturgy, great job! We went over the rest of the Liturgy of the Faithful up until the Fraction, which we will go over next time.

We covered the following sections:

  • The Seven Short Litanies
  • The Commemoration of the Saints
  • The Diptych (Prayer for the Departed)

A “litany” is a prayer. The seven short litanies are seven prayer for specific things, prayers on the following things:

  1. Peace for individuals and the Church as a whole
  2. Fathers 
  3. Clergy
  4. Mercy
  5. Place
  6. Seasons 
  7. Oblations (sacrifices)

Why do we start praying now for all the things that we need? We pray because Christ is now truly with us, on the altar in front of us. It is important for us to be praying not just for ourselves but for others and our world. Without peace, there would be no love or happiness. Without our church Fathers and Clergy, we would have no Communion, Liturgy, or direction in our spiritual lives. Moreover, praying for mercy upon us and others, the place we live in, the weather and crops, as well as the sacrifices we offer (both of the bread and wine as well as our physical selves to God) are so important. We take these things for granted. We also pray for the salvation of the people in our town and really the whole world.

The next section is the Commemoration of the Saints. This is a long section where we mention a lot of saints’ names, and it sometimes can seem a little boring. That might be because we’re not seeing it the right way. Somebody asked me once why I smile during the Commemoration of the Saints. This is because we know that these very saints that we are mentioning are actually with us in this moment and are praying with us and for us. These great giants in Christianity, like the apostles, St. Mary, the archangels, the Church Fathers like St. John Chrysostom, St. Cyril, St. Basil, etc. All of these people are really with us. I always wondered what it would be like to meet them in person, but I know what it’s like now because I meet them every Sunday! We talked about everyone’s patron saints during our last lesson. Think about who your patron saint is…your patron saint is actually standing with you and praying for you, right at your side. The priest puts a spoonful of incense in the censer at the beginning of the Commemoration of the Saints, which reminds us of our prayers being lifted up with the incense to the saints.

The last section we went over was the Diptych, or the Prayer for the Departed. We pray for people who have passed away at every Liturgy. It is actually very important that we pray for these people, even when they have passed away. The process from dying to going to Paradise has a lot of unknowns, and the least we can do is pray for our loved ones as they transition over. But we do not stop praying for them right after they pass away; we keep praying for them throughout our own lives on earth because we continue to give them love, comfort, and ask God to forgive them their sins as we lead up to the Judgment Day. Praying for our loved ones who have passed away is one of the most important things we can do and should never be neglected.

Coptic Letters

We went over 3 more Coptic letters this time! We learned Seema, Tav, and Epsilon:

That’s all! Remember, we will be testing for the Psalm of the Month on February 5th! You can find the psalm in last session’s post!

Love,

Jasneet + Juju ❤

Liturgy of The Faithful – Part I

In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple. Above it stood seraphim; each one had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one cried to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; The whole earth is full of His glory!”

And the posts of the door were shaken by the voice of him who cried out, and the house was filled with smoke. So I said: “Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, The Lord of hosts.”

Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a live coal which he had taken with the tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth with it, and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your iniquity is taken away, and your sin purged.”

Isaiah 6:1-7

Hi everyone! We’ve been making great progress in getting through the liturgy, with its hymns and rites. This post will have information from both lessons from December 18th and January 8th.

Are you ready for your journey to Heaven?

Let’s keep going with covering the liturgy then! The Liturgy of the Faithful actually starts after the Orthodox Creed, despite what may be seen on the Coptic Reader app. We wrapped up the Liturgy of the Word with the 3 Long Litanies, where we pray for peace, the Fathers of our Church, and for ourselves and others in our congregation.

  • The Orthodox Creed: We then say the Orthodox Creed OUT LOUD! This should never be said quietly and shyly. It is a statement of our faith. We recite the creed strongly and out loud because we are confirming our strong faith in our Lord Jesus Christ!
  • Pre-Anaphora Washing of Hands: While we recite the Creed, the priest washes his hands with water, asking God to grant him internal purification to undertake the mystery that is about to happen in the Liturgy (transformation of the bread and wine to the Body and Blood of Christ). He also does this to “wash” his hands from the guilt of giving Communion to anyone who has not prepared adequately for this. Basically, at this point in the Liturgy with the absolution and prayers and personal fasting, the people are preparing themselves for receiving something VERY holy (Communion). The priest also did his job by absolving us as well. At this point, if anyone takes Communion without really preparing for it and didn’t tell the priest, it is not the priest’s fault at all in giving them Communion.
  • Prayer of Reconciliation: One question we had during our session was what the word “reconciliation” means. This word in the dictionary means “the restoration of friendly relations.” For us, it’s even more than that. It’s not just superficial “friendly” interactions, but pure love. Part of preparing for receiving Communion is to reconcile with everyone as we come together as one Body and receive the Holy Mystery. Jesus Himself made a point on how important it is to be at peace with others:

Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.

Matthew 5:23-24

Being at peace with each and every person is one of the most important things to God, because this is true love, and God Himself is love. Therefore it is absolutely necessary if we are wanting to have a relationship with God and be closer to Him. Every single person is precious to God, and we see them as our brothers and sisters. So if we are holding something against another person or mistreating them, talking about them behind their backs, then you’re technically not allowed to take Communion! Sometimes fights and arguments happen, but if you have not put the effort to make it right, then we cannot come to God’s altar. No matter who they are, we forgive them because God forgives us! God asks us to reconcile and forgive that person before approaching Him. This prayer is that chance for us to reconcile. It is built in to the Liturgy so you have a moment to be able to forgive whomever you need to forgive.

When we approach another person during this time, we say “Christ in our midst”. The person on the receiving end then is supposed to say “He is and always will be”.

Just before this prayer, the priest holds up a veil from corner to corner, drops one corner, and the veil partially falls. This represents the middle wall, or the wall of separation between God and man, which is now torn down through the cross of Jesus.

  • Anaphora: The next part is called the Anaphora, which also means “lifting up” in Greek. This is when we are lifted up to Heaven. We continue showing the life of Jesus on earth with our liturgical rites and enter into the resurrection. The priest, with a deacon’s help, slowly wave the propharine above their heads. While removing it, the voice of it rattling in the church represents the earthquake that happened at the time of Jesus’ death on the cross (Matthew 27:51). The lifting of the prospharine acts as an announcing of the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. The prospharine also represents the stone that was removed from the tomb of Jesus. By the power of the Lord’s resurrection, the church is lifted up and arrives at the heavenly throne. We declare that our hearts are with Christ as the priest says “lift up your hearts”, and we reply with “we have them with the Lord!” We are no longer focussing on this earth, and all our attention is to God as we are standing before His throne, quite literally! This is not figurative or imaginary, but our Church teaches us that it is a fact that we are in heaven. Right now, we are standing with thousands and thousands of angels, and are praising God with all of the saints. They are actually with us in those moments!
  • Sanctus: Since we are actually standing in front of the throne of God, we cannot help but declare just how holy He is. When we are in His presence after death, we will be so overwhelmed by his holiness that we could not help to fall at His feet. But what is so beautiful about this is that God didn’t leave the holiness to Himself, but out of His love has shared this with us. The priest takes hold of a cross while his hand is covered with a veil and makes three signs of the cross, first on himself (the one who needs the most sanctification), then deacons, then to the congregation. This hand is the one that was touching the chalice, indicating that we are sanctified through Christ’s blood. We sing “holy, holy, holy”, just as the angels do in Isaiah’s vision (see the quote at the top of the page), and so does the priest. We also say it is “meet and right” to thank God. This basically means that it is appropriate and the right thing to do!
  • Institution Narrative: the priest recounts the whole story of creation and our need for salvation, as well as what God did to make this happen. Remember, the Church always taught its congregation theology and the tenets of our faith through its liturgy and prayers. It’s not a mystery, it’s all laid out in front of us and explained every Sunday. Recounting this story reminds us of our need for Christ in our lives as well as reminding us of His immense redemptive love and sacrifice for us. We are reminded that God gave us the opportunity to be renewed, transformed, with a fresh start every day. Otherwise, without Christ, we would be left to ourselves alone to save ourselves, which is nearly impossible to do. This story gives us hope, and for me, reminds me of how wonderful Communion is. Communion transforms and renews us, and it gives us strength to face life’s challenges. There is so much I can say about this, which might require another separate post sometime soon!
    • The priest takes his hands from underneath the veils and both purifies his hands with incense and puts it onto the altar. The incense is the life of Christ and the altar is the cross. The priest then holds he bread with his left hand, looks up, and blesses it three times with the cross.
    • Then he starts to divide the bread into a third and two-thirds from above without separating the pieces. The number three here represents the Trinity. The one third that is not separate from the other 2 represents Christ, since He was never separated from the Trinity. This was a part of the Liturgy as a response to heresies that claimed that Jesus was not a part of the Trinity.
    • Then the priest puts a finger on the edge of the chalice and makes it around counterclockwise 3 times. This represents the blood of Christ is for our salvation. In the Old Testament, the priest would spread the blood of the animal sacrifice in a circle around the temple. Our priest circles counterclockwise around the chalice to represent the children of God (us) living a life against the ways of this world.
    • He then moves the chalice West to East, representing strangers to God (West) then becoming true children of God (East). He then moves it from left to right, indicating our transition from being rejected (left) to accepted (right)
  • Epiclesis: this is the most important part of the Liturgy, and its climax. At this point, the bread and wine become the holy Body and Blood of Christ. The Epiclesis is a prayer that the priest prays for the Holy Spirit to descend onto the altar and perform the great transformation. We bow and pray with the priest with reverence for this holy moment.

After this part of the Liturgy, you will notice that the priest never crosses anything anymore nor does he even touch the cross. Why is that? Normally during any prayer, the person of the highest rank present in the church is the one who blesses everyone with the sign of the cross. If it’s not a priest, it will be a bishop that is present of the Patriarch even. But at this point, now that Christ, who is the highest rank of all, is now truly in our midst as the Body and Blood, He is the only One who blesses and sanctifies all!

Coptic Letters – We learned a total of 6 letters in the last two sessions! You’re making really great progress!

Psalm: Finally, we are memorizing another psalm! The one we will memorize is Psalm 30, and testing is on 2/5/20! You can also memorize the bonus verse for extra points!

Psalm 30 – recited when putting on vestments

I will extol You, O Lord, for You have lifted me up,

And have not let my foes rejoice over me.

2 O Lord my God, I cried out to You,

And You healed me.

3 O Lord, You brought my soul up from the grave;

You have kept me alive, that I should not go down to the pit.

4 Sing praise to the Lord, you saints of His,

And give thanks at the remembrance of His holy name.

5 For His anger is but for a moment,

His favor is for life;

Weeping may endure for a night,

But joy comes in the morning.

6 Now in my prosperity I said,

“I shall never be moved.”

7 Lord, by Your favor You have made my mountain stand strong;

You hid Your face, and I was troubled.

8 I cried out to You, O Lord;

And to the Lord I made supplication:

9 “What profit is there in my blood,

When I go down to the pit?

Will the dust praise You?

Will it declare Your truth?

10 Hear, O Lord, and have mercy on me;

Lord, be my helper!”

11 You have turned for me my mourning into dancing;

You have put off my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness,

12 To the end that my glory may sing praise to You and not be silent.

O Lord my God, I will give thanks to You forever.

Psalm 5:7 –  recited when entering the church (BONUS!)

But as for me, I will come into Your house in the multitude of Your mercy;

In fear of You I will worship toward Your holy temple. 

That was so much! We’ve gone through a lot which is great!! We will see you next time on January 22nd!

Love,

Jasneet + Juju ❤

The Liturgy of the Word – Part II

We learned just a few things this time, mostly on liturgical rites and a few spiritual points. We also started to sing one of the most well-known hymns in our liturgy – “taishori” or “this censer”!

Liturgical Rites – Much of the Liturgy of the Word is about readings, and we do certain things during the readings.

There are lots of reasons for the readings. It used to be that certain epistles were read to the congregation of a particular church that they were addressed to (such as St. Paul to the Corinthian church). Also, people didn’t always have Bibles like we do these days. In the early days, the only way people would know the Gospel accounts is through reciting it to the congregation. That is how they learned about Jesus and His divinity. In fact, the Liturgy of the Word is sometimes called the Liturgy of the Catechumens (catechumens are people who are learning about the faith but not baptized yet), because this is where most of the teaching was done. Historically, after the Liturgy of the Word, the catechumens would leave and the faithful would remain to continue on with the liturgy and receive communion. Today, we allow everyone to be with us throughout the entire liturgy.

Today, we have 5 different readings every liturgy:

  1. Pauline Epistle
  2. Catholic Epistle
  3. Praxis/Acts
  4. Synaxarion (lives of the saints)
  5. Psalm and Gospel

Pauline Epistle – These are readings from the letters St. Paul wrote to specific churches. During this reading, the priest puts 5 spoonfuls of incense in the censer (represents the 5 major priests of the Old Testament), and he goes around the whole church with the censer. Why? Because he is representing St. Paul traveling to very far lands to preach the gospel. He starts from the left of the church to the right, and also waves the censer at certain points from left to right. The left represents the darkness and those of us in it, and the right represents the light and righteousness. God has brought us from the darkness to light. On a similar note, the priest prays for wisdom during this time.

Catholic Epistle – These readings are from the books by St. James, St. John, St. Peter, and St. Jude. The word “catholic” has always originally meant “universal”. The reason why this is called the Catholic Epistle is because the writings from the above-mentioned saints were written to all Christians, not just to Christians in specific churches. The priest offers incense over the altar itself, asking God to forgive all of our sins (he prays for us!), and he usually stays within the altar as the disciples themselves stayed in Jerusalem as instructed by Jesus before they received the Holy Spirit on Pentecost.

Praxis – The Praxis is actually the Greek term for Acts. We read from the book of Acts, which speaks of the journeys of the apostles and their experiences after Pentecost with preaching the gospel and showing them the great truth of Christ and receiving salvation. In fact, the term “gospel” actually means “good news”! After Pentecost, the disciples and apostles went to several places in the world to spread this good news. During this reading, the priest offers incense with the censer around the altar 3 times then only in front of the gate of the altar. He does not go all around the church like he did during the Pauline epistle. This is because the apostles did not go as far of a distance as St. Paul did. He also censes from right to left, and you might wonder why it’s the opposite as above. That’s because this time it represents the fact that they preached the gospel to the Jews first (right) who were really the people who knew God the best out of anyone, but because they rejected it, the apostles then proceeded to preach the gospel to the Gentiles (left) who were truly in the darkness of knowledge of God.

Synaxarion – This is a reading of the saints we commemorate on that particular day. It’s read right after Acts, since it’s a continuation of the Acts. Did you know that the Acts is the only book in the New Testament that does not finish with “Amen”? This is because the Acts has never ended, in fact we continue to live the life of professing Christians who want to show the light and be the light to others. Usually we read about a saint who was martyred or died on that day, which is their feast day. And the day of their death is considered a feast day because they have gone to our original home, which is with God. Reading about saints is really great also, because it reminds you that they were people too just like us, and just as they made it, we can make it too! We read these readings all throughout the year except for the Holy 50 Days (which is a time period of 50 days after Easter/Feast of the Resurrection).

Psalm and Gospel – Whenever the gospel is read, we all stand up in great reverence. The reason is because the gospel is the word of God, and who is the true Word of God, the logos? It is Jesus! The gospel is given high importance because it has revealed the truth of God to us, just as Jesus has. When we hear the gospel read, we are hearing Jesus speak to us directly. There is a little gospel in a golden case that is carried during the liturgy by deacons, and it looks like this:

Image result for coptic church gospel box

This gospel box is carried sometimes with a cross laying over it side-ways. This is because the gospel represents Christ and the cross is being carried by Christ. Also, during the gospel reading, the box is placed on the podium because Jesus is now fulfilling the role of teacher and teaching us through the reading that day. After the reading, it is placed onto the altar, as Jesus fulfilled the role of the true Sacrifice. The point is that Christ is always visible; He has made God tangible and visible to us.

Spiritual points – This is a good transition to the spiritual points, so that we can apply what we’ve learned above to our lives! The word of God through the Bible is truly that: words that God speak to us. Whenever you’re wondering “where is God?” or “why can’t I hear Him?”, read the Bible! He so very often uses the Bible to directly speak to us. When we go to church, pay attention to the readings! You are getting a direct message from God every single time you go to liturgy! They aren’t random at all, but all the readings are pre-selected for every day, depending on the time of year. The readings also all correspond usually to a common theme or two. However, it will only be effective if you listen for it. Jesus said something that we always say in preparation for the gospel:

“many prophets and righteous men have desired to see the things which you see and have not seen them, or hear the things which you hear but have not heard them. But blessed are your eyes for they see and your ears for they hear” Matthew 13:17-18

You truly do hear and see very wonderful things that many people cannot say that they can outside of knowing Christ. God directly speaks to you in a special way during every liturgy. In fact, you have ways for God to speak to you every day; there are liturgical readings every day, and we also have the Agpeya in which we can even read and pray from 7 times in a day. Our Orthodox Church gives us all the tools! If you make a point to listen carefully and prepare your heart for receiving an important message, you will be blown away and your life will transform, I promise you! This actually happened to St. Anthony! He is the father of monasticism, the one who started it and established it. The reason why he became a monk is because he went to church one day and the gospel was of when Jesus told the rich man to sell all that he had:

“If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” Matthew 19:21

He was so moved by this, knowing this was a message from God to him, he went home and actually sold all he had and went into the desert. Today we have monks and nuns who follow this practice thanks to him!

Image result for st anthony coptic icon

The last thing we talked about was the Orthodox Creed.

The Creed is a statement of faith. This was developed during the first ecumenical council (or gathering of all the churches by their representatives) called the Council of Nicea. The Council of Nicea was in 325 AD, and the gathering occurred in order to address a heresy (idea or belief that is against the original teachings) in the church by someone named Arius. Arius was a priest of one of the churches in Alexandria who was telling people that Christ was not God. King Constantine had to call everyone together so that they could all sort out this issue. Out of that council came our official statement of faith, which is the Orthodox Creed that we recite at the very end of the Liturgy of the Word, leading into the next phase of the liturgy. When we say the creed, we must say so loudly and with confidence! It is not something to be said very softly and very fast. We are joyfully and prayerfully declaring glory of God and what we believe in. It is our entire faith in one prayer.

Hymns – The hymn “Taishori” or “This Censer” is a hymn that we sing at the very beginning of the Liturgy of the Word. Just like lots of hymns in the Coptic Church, this hymn teaches us the theology of our church. If you pay attention to many hymns, you will learn a LOT of theology, lots of things that we believe in, and what different things mean. If you’ve ever wondered what any of the things we do mean, LISTEN! It’s all there! In fact, in the early days, this is how the Church used to teach the people.

This hymn is found in the Southern Diocese 1st Grade packet, page 5

Many hymns have two parts, with the second part explaining the first. Taishori has a second half to it, called “Teeshori”, which actually explains what this whole censer thing is all about. It’s sung only during certain times of the year (fasting days of the week which are Wednesdays and Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays of Lent, and the Feast of the Cross). Otherwise, we since Taishori at every other Liturgy. Just for your reference, here are the lyrics of Teeshori:

The golden censer is the
Virgin, her aroma is our
Savior. She gave birth to
Him; He saved us and
forgave us our sins.

See? This is exactly what we taught you about the censer last week! But we’ve been teaching everyone in the church through this hymn for thousands of years!

The recording of this hymn is on our SoundCloud: https://soundcloud.com/user-457437655/girls-choir-track-1-tai-shori

Psalms – Also remember, we will be working on Psalm 30 as noted below. This is the psalm we read when putting on our vestments.

I will extol You, O Lord, for You have lifted me up,
And have not let my foes rejoice over me.
O Lord my God, I cried out to You,
And You healed me.
O Lord, You brought my soul up from the grave;
You have kept me alive, that I should not go down to the pit.

Sing praise to the Lord, you saints of His,
And give thanks at the remembrance of His holy name.
For His anger is but for a moment,
His favor is for life;
Weeping may endure for a night,
But joy comes in the morning.

Now in my prosperity I said,
“I shall never be moved.”
Lord, by Your favor You have made my mountain stand strong;
You hid Your face, and I was troubled.

I cried out to You, O Lord;
And to the Lord I made supplication:
“What profit is there in my blood,
When I go down to the pit?
Will the dust praise You?
Will it declare Your truth?
10 Hear, O Lord, and have mercy on me;
Lord, be my helper!”

11 You have turned for me my mourning into dancing;
You have put off my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness,
12 To the end that my glory may sing praise to You and not be silent.
O Lord my God, I will give thanks to You forever.

For bonus points, memorize the following verse from psalm 5! This one is said when entering the church.

But as for me, I will come into Your house in the multitude of Your mercy;
In fear of You I will worship toward Your holy temple. (Psalm 5:7)

The due date for having this memorized is 12/18/19, which is our last session of the semester before winter break!

There will be no lessons the week of Thanksgiving! The next lesson will be on December 4th. We will see you next time!

Love,

Jasneet + Juju ❤

Lesson 3: Liturgy of the Word part I

Great job everyone! We got through the beginning of the Liturgy of the Word, just before the readings. We’ve been covering a lot of material. As we go along, make sure to write down any questions you might have, and we can possibly have a Q&A session at some point to address them!

Here is a recap of our lesson:

Hymns – This time we went over the Hymn of the Intercessions. We sing this hymn as we ask the saints to intercede for us. What does “intercede” really mean? It means “intervene”, or having another person going to request something for you. Just as we ask our friends to pray for us, the saints are also our friends who pray for us as well. We do not pray TO the saints as if they are God, as some people may believe. We pray WITH the saints and request them to pray for us as we also pray for ourselves and others.

Praying for forgiveness of our sins is all about healing and preparation. Remember, in kyrie eleison, the word eleison comes from the Greek root eleios which means “oil”, and we use oil traditionally for healing. When we come to liturgy, we are asking God to bind our wounds and to heal us. Also this is part of preparing for the receiving of Communion, which is also for healing and eternal life. Any time we have, let’s say, a special guest come to our home, we always prepare our house, make it extra clean and presentable, and maybe plan our time with something fun or exciting. The same is with God, as we look with anticipation towards receiving Christ into the home of our hearts, we prepare and make everything look as pretty as possible as we receive such a special guest, and this Guest not only heals you but transforms you entirely. It’s all about how much we love God! And He shows us His overflowing love with offering His Body and Blood to us.

As we sing this hymn, the priest will walk around the church with the censer (we explain the censer below). The smoke that goes up lifts our prayers and requests to the saints up to the heavens. The priest should be praying for each one of us as he goes around the church!

This Hymn is found in the 1st Grade packet that you received on the first day, page 5. Here is an online link to the page: http://www.suscopts.org/ssc/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/01st_Grade_Hymns_curriculum_2016.pdf

Look out for the hymn recording on SoundCloud soon!

Psalm 30 (or 29 in the Orthodox Study Bible) – This will be the next psalm we memorize. This one is said as we are putting on our vestments in the morning just before we start the Liturgy.

I will extol You, O Lord, for You have lifted me up,
And have not let my foes rejoice over me.
O Lord my God, I cried out to You,
And You healed me.
O Lord, You brought my soul up from the grave;
You have kept me alive, that I should not go down to the pit.

Sing praise to the Lord, you saints of His,
And give thanks at the remembrance of His holy name.
For His anger is but for a moment,
His favor is for life;
Weeping may endure for a night,
But joy comes in the morning.

Now in my prosperity I said,
“I shall never be moved.”
Lord, by Your favor You have made my mountain stand strong;
You hid Your face, and I was troubled.

I cried out to You, O Lord;
And to the Lord I made supplication:
“What profit is there in my blood,
When I go down to the pit?
Will the dust praise You?
Will it declare Your truth?
10 Hear, O Lord, and have mercy on me;
Lord, be my helper!”

11 You have turned for me my mourning into dancing;
You have put off my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness,
12 To the end that my glory may sing praise to You and not be silent.
O Lord my God, I will give thanks to You forever.

We can start with verses 1-6 (the first 14 lines) for next time. We will memorize the rest of it for the lesson after that.

For bonus points, memorize the following verse from psalm 5! This one is said when entering the church.

But as for me, I will come into Your house in the multitude of Your mercy;
In fear of You I will worship toward Your holy temple. (Psalm 5:7)

Coptic letters – We’re going to keep rolling and learn 3 more letters! You’ve learned 9 letters now, which is AWESOME! We learned Zeta, Eeta, and Theta:

We used the words above for our memory words, except for Theta we learned theos which means “God”.

Liturgical rites – We learned about a few facts and spiritual topics about the Liturgy. We learned about absolution and forgiveness of sins, the Censer, and the Body of Christ:

  • Absolution/forgiveness of sins
    • The priest prays an “absolution” prayer for all of us participating in the Liturgy. The absolution is a prayer for forgiveness of sins or any mistakes or flaws we may make. Remember the prayer that the priest prays for you at the end of confession? That’s also an absolution! He does this at many times and occasions, during the Liturgy, confession, baptism, etc. Basically, God by His grace is providing the healing of us all, the restoration of ourselves into what we were all originally intended to be as children of the King of the Universe. When we prepare ourselves to receive communion, we are preparing for Christ to offer Himself to us all for healing, renewal, and eternal life. This means we are letting go of our past, turning away from any negative things that do not lead us to our goal which is Christ, and having a fresh start to life once again. This involves us thinking of the things we don’t feel so proud of doing, anything that misses the mark towards Christ as our goal, and ask that God purify us and keep us on track towards Him. We confess our sins to God during this part and the priest offers this grace from God to all of us. Remember, God is not a scary judge who we beg for mercy and forgiveness, but God is a merciful God whose goal is to restore and renew us with healing and transformation.
  • The Body of Christ
    • When we pray in the Liturgy, we are praying with everyone across time and space. We are not only praying with your friends standing next to you on either side, but you are also joined by the angels, the saints, martyrs, everyone! We pray with them and ask them to pray for us, just as we pray for others. And this is all as we journey to heaven during the Liturgy. We ask the saints to intercede for us, because we are right there with them! We later will reconcile with everyone as we are worshipping with them prior to receiving communion, we commemorate the saints since they are right there with us, we sing about the angels standing before God and worshipping Him because we are standing right with them worshipping Him as well. Get the picture? It’s not all imaginary or playing pretend, it’s REAL! Think about it, every time you’re in Liturgy, you are literally in heaven with everyone celebrating the Feast of the Lamb together!
  • The Censer
    • A Censer is a metallic object that we use to burn incense in. Incense has been used for thousands of years by lots of cultures/religions, and our roots date back to the Old Testament when the priests would offer incense just as we do today in the temple. We have continued this tradition and have applied not only Old Testament ideas but also Christian ideas and concepts with its use. Pay attention, because much of the purpose and spiritual contemplations on things in church, including the censer, are mentioned in hymns that we sing all the time (i.e. “Taishori”, which we will learn next time). In fact, it was through hymns and the Liturgy that the people learned theology in the Orthodox Church; you can learn it too! Everything we do has a purpose and a deep meaning behind it, and it’s easy to explore and know why!
    • The censer mostly represents St. Mary, and the incense/coal inside is Christ in her womb. St. Mary is sometimes also called theotokos, which means “God-bearer”, and similarly the censer bears the coal and incense within it. Remember Exodus chapter 3 when Moses meets God speaking from the burning bush? The bush that was “burning with fire, but the bush was not consumed” (Exodus 3:2)? Christ is the fire that is not consumed, within the womb of St. Mary, and often-times you will see icons with St. Mary with Jesus in the burning bush itself. Similarly, the incense is burning but is “not consumed”. Incense is also considered a form of sacrifice to God in the Old Testament, and Jesus was the ultimate sacrifice for our human race.

Well, that’s a wrap! Our next lesson will be 11/13 at 6:30 PM.

Remember to memorize the first 14 lines (verses 1-6) of psalm 30 as above, and memorize Psalm 5:7 for bonus points by the end of the month!

See you next time!

Love, in Christ,

Jasneet + Juju ❤

Lesson 2 – Offering of the Lamb part II

We had another really awesome lesson just the other day! We learned a lot, and everyone is really catching on with literally everything. We are again pretty blown away and proud of you all, keep it up!

We finished the Offering of the Lamb section of the Liturgy this last session. Do you remember the 4 parts of the Liturgy?

  1. The Offering of the Lamb
  2. The Liturgy of the Word
  3. The Liturgy of the Faithful
  4. Distribution

Here is a recap of our lesson yesterday:

Hymns – we learned the hymn “This is the Day which the Lord has made”, which is also called “Alleluia Fai Pe Pi” in Coptic. We sing this towards the end of the Offering of the Lamb, reminding us to be thankful for the day and to REJOICE! We also ask God to save us, forgive us our sins, and renew us as we rejoice that we are able to attend this day and receive Communion, which in and of itself is transformative.

This Hymn is found in the 1st Grade packet that you received on the first day, page 4. Here is an online link to the page: http://www.suscopts.org/ssc/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/01st_Grade_Hymns_curriculum_2016.pdf

And here is a link to our SoundCloud recording: https://soundcloud.com/user-457437655/girls-choir-track-2-alleluia-fai-pe-pi

Psalm 122 – We memorized the first half of this psalm, and for next time, we decided we will have the second half memorized as well. Here it is:

5 For thrones are set there for judgment,
The thrones of the house of David.

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:
“May they prosper who love you.
Peace be within your walls,
Prosperity within your palaces.”
For the sake of my brethren and companions,
I will now say, “Peace be within you.”
Because of the house of the Lord our God
I will seek your good.

Here is the full psalm 122! Do you have it memorized yet?

I was glad when they said to me,
“Let us go into the house of the Lord.”
Our feet have been standing
Within your gates, O Jerusalem!

Jerusalem is built
As a city that is compact together,
Where the tribes go up,
The tribes of the Lord,
[a]To the Testimony of Israel,
To give thanks to the name of the Lord.
For thrones are set there for judgment,
The thrones of the house of David.

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:
“May they prosper who love you.
Peace be within your walls,
Prosperity within your palaces.”
For the sake of my brethren and companions,
I will now say, “Peace be within you.”
Because of the house of the Lord our God
I will seek your good.

Remember, this is recited on our way to church. We come to Liturgy with PREPARATION! We prepare our minds, hearts, all that is outward and inward before receiving Holy Communion.

We will work on having this entirely memorized by the next time we meet. If EVERYONE has the psalm memorized then we will take you out to ICE CREAM after the lesson!! Again, everyone has to have it memorized. Help each other out, practice with each other, etc, so you we can all have a good time after practice!

Coptic letters – We memorized 3 more letters! We also memorized a few memory words. Remember, we will memorize both the letters and the memory words for each letter!

Dalda –

Coptic Dalda-maj.svg
Coptic Dalda-min.svg

This letter has 2 pronounciations: “th” just like the English word “this”. The Coptic memory word we learned was “thoroon” which means “gift”. The second way of saying it is “d” like “David” (our second memory word), and is usually pronounced this way for names mostly.

Ei –

Coptic Ei-maj.svg
Coptic Ei-min.svg

This letter is pronounced like “ai” as in “rain” or “pen”. We learned the Coptic word “En” which means “monkey”!

Soo –

Coptic Sou.svg

Remember, this letter is actually just a number. It represents the number 6. It’s not used to make any words. In Coptic, the letters are used both as letters and as numbers; the number system is based on the alphabet itself. Each letter represents a number, and since Soo is the 6th letter of the alphabet, it stands for the number 6 as well. Got it? Good!

Liturgical rites – We learned about 2 spiritual topics during our last session together:

  • Thanksgiving Prayer
    • Almost every time we pray, either together in church or even in our own personal prayers in the Agpeya, we always start with the Thanksgiving Prayer. Why is that? The Church in its wisdom has taught us through this the importance of thanking God and being grateful daily. The world around us is only catching up to this recently, with gratitude journals found everywhere as a help or cure for someone’s anxiety or depression, and counselors advising their patients to exercise gratefulness daily also with mindfulness techniques. But we have always known for thousands of years to be grateful daily for everything in our lives, no matter how tough things may be. Maybe you’re dealing with difficulties at school, work, or home. You may even be having great things happen in your life lately. In every case, we in our Church thank God “for every condition, in every condition”, because not only should we be thankful, but it also grounds us and changes our perspective on life, even if you’re going through a lot of terrible things in life.
  • The Lord’s Prayer
    • Another prayer we pray every day and, what feels like ALL THE TIME! If the Church has us do something very frequently, there’s usually a good, beneficial reason behind it. Jesus taught His disciples how to pray with this as a template. It is found both in the Gospels of Matthew (6:9-13) and Luke (11:2-4). Pay attention to the ORDER of things as well as the MEANING line-by-line:
      • Our Father who art in Heaven – God gives us the ability to call Him “dad”. This is huge, because before Christ and in many other faiths, the relationship with God is a bit more formal. I can definitely go over this with you all one day, and can even have a dedicated session on world religions. Either way, this is really special. Through Christ, we have our identity as a child of God in the Kingdom of Heaven restored, and God is not someone whose name we cannot even utter (as in the Old Testament), but is someone we can very confidently call very endearingly our “dad”.
      • Hallowed be thy name – We always start by praising God. Why? Because He is AWESOME! He deserves all praise and honor as He is so holy. It also falls along the lines of being grateful always. We start our prayers with praising Him and remembering His holiness, reminding us of being thankful for all that He does in our lives, and being strengthened by knowing how mighty He is. He can conquer all of our problems.
      • Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven – as we keep our focus on Christ and the Kingdom, we cannot wait for the time that He is coming again. In Revelation, St. John also ends the book by saying “Amen. Even so, Come, Lord Jesus!” (Revelation 22:20) However His Kingdom can be present within our daily life today as well, both “on earth as it is in heaven.” We ask for God’s will be done in our lives now and thereafter, as God knows much more than we do about what is best in our lives.
      • Give us this day our daily bread – If you noticed, this is the first part of the prayer that we are actually asking God for something, after thanking and praising God. This does not necessarily mean for God to give us food every day, but the meaning is much more than that. We ask God to give us what we need for each day in order to conquer the day. Just as God gave the Israelites in the desert manna every day, enough to sustain them for that day only (Exodus 16), God gives us what we need day-by-day. The Church teaches us to focus on our day, the here and now, and to not worry about tomorrow.
      • Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us – this is probably the hardest part to say, since many of us have gone through conflicts and it’s hard to always forgive people. Remember, when you’re saying this, you are saying to God to forgive you just like you are forgiving others. If you find yourself not forgiving others, God will also not forgive you, as He said in the Gospels (Matthew 6:14-15). Use this as a reminder to yourself to forgive others. Remember, forgiveness does not mean forgetting, but it does mean not holding anything against another person anymore.
      • Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one – Every day is a struggle against the enemy and any temptation that comes in our way. It is a daily carrying of the cross with Christ. But Jesus helps us along the way, and not only delivers us from the evil one when we let Him, but also through this process He renews us and makes us whole. Remember that there are going to be things that will trip you up, or at least attempt to, all the time every day. Keep your eyes open, continue the struggle, and walk with Christ: Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. 
        • Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world. But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you. (1 Peter 5: 8-10)
      • For thine is the Kingdom, the Power, and the Glory, forever, amen. – we close with adoration and praise, as always to bring everything full circle, to remind us to praise always as is due to Him, and to remind us about how mighty our God is!
  • There is SO much more we can talk about with the Lord’s Prayer. We have a link to a great podcast on this topic here, as well as a link to the book we had mentioned:

We also learned 2 facts about the Liturgy as well:

  • Prospharine – A Greek word for the large piece of linen that Abouna uses to cover the bread on the altar at the end of the Offering of the Lamb.
  • Prayer of Covering – prayer prayed by Abouna when we cover the altar with the prospharine. We are reminded of the burial of the Lord. He covered our sins in His death. The hiding of the offerings is like the hiding of Christ’s reality and His mystery of His redeeming work until the time of Resurrection (e.g. 2 disciples on the road to Emmaus). This prayer also declares that partaking in Communion is for healing and salvation of our souls, bodies, and spirits.

Wow, that was a lot, again! But we are making great headway and learning tons!

Remember:

  • Memorize ALL of Psalm 122 for ICE CREAM after! Everyone has to have it memorized!
  • Practice the hymn above!
  • Again, acts of kindness, focussing in class, etc can win you points for prizes throughout the year!

See you next time!

Love, in Christ,

Juju + Jasneet ❤

Resources:

SUS Copts Hymns curriculum 1st grade: http://www.suscopts.org/ssc/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/01st_Grade_Hymns_curriculum_2016.pdf

SoundCloud recording of “Alleluia Fai Pe Pi”: https://soundcloud.com/user-457437655/girls-choir-track-2-alleluia-fai-pe-pi

Meet and Right Podcast episode on the Lord’s Prayer: http://www.coptichymnsinenglish.com/meetandright/ourfather-28g9p

The Lord’s Prayer by St. Cyril of Alexandria: https://www.amazon.com/Lords-Prayer-St-Cyril-Alexandria/dp/194066196X/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=lord%27s+prayer+st+cyril&qid=1571506704&sr=8-1

Girls’ Choir Details/Practice Dates

For all those who are wondering when the practices will be, as well as any additional important information, it is all outlined below! Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions at all!

Welcome to the Girls’ Choir! We are so happy to have you, and so excited to get started! It has been a dream of H.G. Saraphim to start a choir for women to participate in the liturgy more and have a group of individuals that will be an inspiring example to all women in the Church. The goals of our Girls’ Choir will be the following:

  1. To teach the liturgical hymns and responses, as well as lead the congregation with the deacons
  2. To learn more about the church rites and Orthodox theology
  3. To learn Coptic, and be able to sing hymns in Coptic as well as English
  4. To create an opportunity for those women who want to participate more in the liturgy
  5. To facilitate an environment of unity for our whole church 

We will be meeting every other Wednesday of the month, 6:30 PM – 8:30 PM. We will NOT meet on holidays. The following are the dates we will meet for the rest of the year:

First Semester Second Semester

Week 1 (10/2) 

Week 2 (10/16)

Week 3 (10/30)

Week 4 (11/13)

THANKSGIVING (no practice 11/27)

Week 5 (12/4)

Week 6 (12/18)

WINTER BREAK (no practice 12/25, 1/1)

Week 7 (1/8)

Week 8 (1/22)

Week 9 (2/5)

Week 10 (2/19)

Week 11 (3/4)

Week 12 (3/18)

Week 13 (4/1) 

HOLY WEEK (no practice 4/15)

Week 14 (4/29)

Week 15 (5/13)

Week 16 (5/27)

Week 17 (6/10)

Week 18 (6/24) 

Every week, we hope to accomplish the following tasks:

  • Pray Agpeya, making it a routine part of our spiritual lives
  • Memorize a Psalm of the Month 
  • Start learning Coptic letters and forming words in context of hymns
  • Learn liturgical rites and explanation of why we do what we do during the liturgy
  • Learn the liturgical responses and hymns, starting from the beginning of the liturgy and will complete the liturgy by the end of the year 

Other items: 

  • Prizes and incentives
  • Hymns retreat at the end of the year (God Willing) 
  • Recordings available on SoundCloud 
  • Other resources to be available on the church website

If you have any further questions and concerns, please contact Juliana Bibawy (st.barbara20@gmail.com) and Jasneet Devgun (jasneetdevgun09@gmail.com) as your primary contacts

Lesson 1

Welcome to the Girls’ Choir!! 

We had an AWESOME first lesson where we learned tons, from Coptic letters to psalms and liturgical rites. What an awesome start to our journey. We are SO proud of our all-star choir members!

Remember…we are a FAMILY! We are all in this together, and we support each other. We are better together, and when we put our talents together, we can do great things.

Here is a recap of what we learned: 

Psalm 122 – in the Coptic Church tradition, this psalm is recited when we are making our way to Liturgy. It’s nice to get our mind focussed and prepared for the great Mysteries that God is going to provide for us. Remember, it’s all about MINDSET. Focus and preparation get you the most out of anything in life, including our spiritual lives.

We memorized the first 10 lines of psalm 122 (verses 1-4):

I was glad when they said to me,
“Let us go into the house of the Lord.”
Our feet have been standing
Within your gates, O Jerusalem!

Jerusalem is built
As a city that is compact together,
Where the tribes go up,
The tribes of the Lord,
To the Testimony of Israel,
To give thanks to the name of the Lord.

Next week, we will be memorizing the next set. Get ready!

Coptic letters – We also learned the first 3 letters of the Coptic alphabet. We will be doing 3 letters at a time. This week we learned:

Alpha – 

Coptic Alpha-maj.svg
Coptic Alpha-min.svg

As in “ameen

Vita

Coptic Beta-maj.svg
Coptic Beta-min.svg

This one has 2 pronounciations: “v” in “avva” if it’s in the middle of the word, and “b” as in “ethoab” when at the end

Ghamma – 

Coptic Gamma-maj.svg

Coptic Gamma-min.svg

This has 3 pronunciations (just when you thought it couldn’t get more crazy!): “G” as in “agios”, “gh” as in “Ghavri-eel” (Gabriel). Finally, there is “ng” when there are 2 ghamma’s together, like “angelos”

Liturgical Rites – We learned 2 important spiritual take-home points in this lesson.

  • The Liturgy is a journey to Heaven
    • Every time you set foot into a Liturgy, you’re setting foot into HeavenWhenever we are going to receive something really great, we usually prepare beforehand (e.g. graduation from school, going on a big vacation, getting married, etc). For example, you might find yourself packing your clothes and getting excited as well as preparing mentally for an awesome getaway vacation in the Summer after school is out. For receiving the Eucharist (communion) and being in Heaven with the saints, we also prepare. We put on the heavenly garments, leaving those of the world behind (white robes), and we prepare our minds and our hearts with prayer. Remember, you’re actually with God, with the saints (yes, those that we always talk about!), and you’re with the angels.
  • The true meaning of kyrie eleison
    • Elieson comes from the Greek eleos, which means “oil”In ancient times, and even now, we use oil for its healing properties. We ask God to heal us, since we ourselves are broken and weak and He binds our wounds and makes us whole
    • To find out more, listen to the episode on this from the Meet and Right podcast: http://www.coptichymnsinenglish.com/meetandright/lordhavemercy

We also learned a few interesting facts about the Liturgy:

  • The significance of the bread and the wine
    • Bread: The bread will become the Body of our Lord Jesus Christ during the Liturgy. This shapes (literally) the way we make the bread. In our tradition, we make the bread round, symbolizing the eternal nature of Christ (no beginning or end). It is leavened bread; leaven symbolizes our sin that Christ bears for us. There are 12 crosses for the 12 disciples, a Cross in the center with the Trisagion surrounding it (“Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal”). Finally, there are 5 pierces in the bread, symbolizing the 3 nails (2 for hands, 1 for feet on the cross), crown of thorns, and spear on the side.
    • Wine: The wine will become Jesus’ blood, which is life-giving as He shed this on the Cross. It is mixed with water, both because He did this at the Last Supper and also, when the spear pierced his side, both water and blood came out together.
  • When the priest selects the bread and approves the wine for use in the Liturgy (usually a deacon next to him will smell it to make sure it’s not sour!), we sing kyrie eleison 41 times, to represent the 39 lashes he received before being crucified, the crown of thorns, and the spear on the side. We ask God to heal us with the kyrie eleison when the priest selects the lamb (bread which will become the Body), as we remember that Jesus was the true Lamb who took on our sins.
  • After selected, the priest wraps it in linen, symbolizing His birth in Bethlehem as an infant wrapped in cloth. He then lifts up the Lamb in front of the congregation just as Simeon the Elder lifted Him up when brought into the temple (Luke 2:25-32, we say this in Agpeya 12th hour Gospel as well). He anoints it with water, symbolizing the baptism in the Jordan. He then covers it with the larger linen when we sing the hymn Sotees Ameen (“saved, amen”) symbolizing His crucifixion and death/burial

That’s about all we covered! It was a lot of good stuff!

Remember:

  • Memorize the Psalm of the Month (Psalm 122 for October) for prizes!
  • You can “win” and collect Coptic letter cards when doing well in the class or being seen doing an act of kindness and support

See you next time for more!

Lots of Love, in Christ,

Jasneet + Juju ❤

Resources: 

Southern Diocese Hymns Curriculum

Kindergarten – http://www.suscopts.org/ssc/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/00KG_Grade_Hymns_curriculum_2016.pdf

1st Grade –  http://www.suscopts.org/ssc/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/01st_Grade_Hymns_curriculum_2016.pdf

We have a SoundCloud!: https://soundcloud.com/user-457437655 

Liturgy of St. Basil outline and explanations: http://www.copticchurch.net/topics/liturgy/liturgy_of_st_basil.pdf

Meet and Right Podcast: http://www.coptichymnsinenglish.com/meetandright