Speaking of matters Coptic, I saw earlier the most magnificent Coptic Icon of Christ Pantokrator:
Many in the West tend to look at prayer life as a mental thing: we praise, we thank, we confess to, and we confide in God – with words. And yet, some kind of bodily movement always accompanies our prayers. Indeed, a great body of Christian wisdom has long known that while we think or pronounce our prayers, our bodies, too, are at work expressing and shaping our souls. In the Coptic tradition it is the Liturgy of the Hours and the Divine Liturgy that become the occasions of formal psycho-physical prayer. Liturgical postures and gestures involve the whole person, for Christian prayer is not merely a mental activity, but rather one that proclaims and seeks to realize the union of body and soul. It recognizes, through the liturgy, that such unity is how God intended to create and save the human person…
… One of the central features of prayer in the Coptic Church, particularly as it developed in monastic circles, is precisely that the body is continuously involved in various actions during prayer. Unceasing prayer has been a feature of Egyptian monasticism from its very beginnings…
Well worth reading on. To do so, click here.
An interesting documentary for your viewing.
A Coptic monument to survival, destroyed:
No one knows exactly when the Virgin Mary Church was built, but the fourth and fifth centuries are both possible options. In both cases, it was the time of the Byzantines. Egypt’s Coptic Church—to which this church in modern-day Delga belonged—had refused to bow to imperial power and Rome’s leadership over the nature of Christ. Constantinople was adamant it would force its will on the Copts. Two lines of popes claimed the Seat of Alexandria. One with imperial blessing sat in the open; the other, with his people’s support, often hid, moving from one church to the other. Virgin Mary Church’s altar outlasted the Byzantines. Arabs soon invaded in A.D. 641. Dynasties rose and fell, but the ancient building remained strong, a monument to its people’s survival.
Virgin Mary Church was built underground, a shelter from the prying eye. At its entrance were two ancient Roman columns and an iron door. Inside were three sanctuaries with four altars. Roman columns were engraved in the walls. As in many Coptic churches, historical artifacts overlapped earlier ones. The most ancient drawing to survive into the 21st century: a depiction, on a stone near the entrance, of two deer and holy bread. Layers and layers of history, a testament not only to the place’s ancient roots but also to its persistence. Like other Coptic churches, the ancient baptistery was on the western side, facing the altar in the east. Infants were symbolically transferred through baptism from the left to the right. The old icons were kept inside the church, the ancient manuscripts transferred to the Bishopric in modern times.
Once there were 23 other ancient churches next to it, all connected through secret passages. Only Virgin Mary Church remained. Decline and survival, loss and endurance, the twin faces of the story of the Copts who built it.
Why Virgin Mary Church endured until modern times is a mystery. Some churches in Cairo survived because Coptic popes made them their residence. Being built on a place Jesus and his mother had visited gave others in Egypt a claim to fame and a chance at survival, while in still others the miracles performed by the patron saint were a reason for pilgrims to visit and donate. Virgin Mary Church had none of these. For hundreds of years, its sole claim to miracles: a Roman column that, according to parishioners, produced oil once a year on Good Friday. The church was probably too small and too remote from the center of authority to merit notice. Its flock never abandoned it. Most of the Copts had converted to Islam over the centuries, but in Delga a critical mass remained that kept putting candles in front of the old icons.
Then, in 1829, a boy named Boulos Ghobrial was born in a village nearby. He was baptized in Virgin Mary Church’s ancient baptistery and taught to read and write in its small school. He would become St. Abram, the Bishop of Fayoum, a man of deep spirituality, who performed thousands of miracles and resembled his master in his poverty. He died in 1914, and the Holy Synod would declare him a saint in 1963. Many churches would be built under his name, and his residence in Fayoum would become a huge attraction to pilgrims. His birthplace would reap some of the benefits.
Two newer churches were built next to Virgin Mary Church: St. George, about 100 years ago, and the modern St. Abram. Other buildings were soon added. A church that was a shelter from persecution under the Byzantines became a shelter from increasing discrimination and banishment from the public space in modern times. A large meeting room was built, as were a theater and retreat house. In the open space, a soccer field. Church permits became harder to get in Egypt and the small complex served 30,000 Copts.
Miracles are rare in modern times. More common is hardship, and plenty befell the churches of Delga. St. George was attacked a number of times and its domes destroyed. An enthusiastic bishop built two minarets only to have the Egyptian police destroy them. More threatening than a persecuting state was the mob. The ancient churches were attacked several times in the past. On July 28, Molotov cocktails and stones were thrown. The churches survived that day.
But survival was not destined two weeks later. The army’s violent crackdown on Mohamed Morsi’s supporters in Cairo unleashed a wave of attacks on churches the like of which Copts had not seen in centuries, thus laying waste to examples of a unique byway in the history of architecture, religious structures that are a hybrid of Egyptian, Greco-Roman and Christian Byzantine styles. Dozens of churches were burned and destroyed in the largest attack on Coptic houses of worship since 1321. A complete tally is still to be written. But in its latest report, the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, Egypt’s best human-rights organization, documents a total of 47 churches attacked, of which 25 were burned, seven looted and destroyed, five partly damaged, and 10 attacked without sustaining heavy damage.
In this maelstrom, the ancient Virgin Mary Church was not spared. In a day of brutality, the people of Delga distinguished themselves. All three of Delga’s Coptic churches were destroyed. So were a Catholic and a Protestant church in the city. In place of Virgin Mary Church, the mob placed a sign: The Martyrs Mosque…
Rest in the Wall Street Journal here.
A Coptic Christian girl walking home from a Bible class at her church was shot and killed this week in Cairo by an unidentified gunman, human rights activists said today.
Amid a near-constant din of threats and scattered attacks against the Christian population in Egypt by militant political Islamists, the rights representatives said 10-year-old Jessica Boulous of the Ain Shams section of Cairo was killed early Tuesday evening (Aug. 6) while walking from the Ahmed Esmat Street Evangelical Church through a market to her home with her Sunday school teacher.
The teacher turned to buy an item at a market stall only to turn back and find Jessica lying in the dirt in a puddle of blood, rights activists said. A Muslim shopkeeper who knew Jessica saw her fall to the ground and ran to her side. He took off his shirt, wrapped it around her motionless body and rushed her to a hospital, but she was already dead.
A single bullet had passed through her chest and heart, killing her instantly, witnesses said.
Nasr Allah Zakaria, Jessica’s uncle, said the killing has devastated the girl’s family.
“I just can’t believe she is gone,” Zakaria said. “She was such a sweet little girl. She was like a daughter to me. I can’t believe she is gone”…
At the Gatestone Institute:
This anti-Christian fury has taken on genocidal proportions. “Allah willing, the day is coming when no Copt will ever again tread the ground of Egypt — and no churches. We will no longer allow churches to exist.”
Days ago, al-Qaeda’s Egyptian leader, Ayman Zawahiri, portrayed the overthrow of Muhammad Morsi and the Brotherhood as a “Crusader” campaign led by Coptic Pope Tawadros II who, according to Zawahiri and other terrorists, is trying to create a Coptic state in Egypt.
Since then, not only are Egypt’s Christians and churches now being attacked in ways unprecedented in the modern era, but new reports indicate that al-Qaeda’s black flag has been raised on some of them, specifically St. George Church in Sohag.
Considering that it was al-Qaeda linked terrorists who initiated one of the bloodiest church attacks in recent history, the 2010 Baghdad church attack in which nearly 60 Christians were slaughtered (click here for graphic images), al-Qaeda’s singling out Egypt’s Christians looks alarming.
The Islamic terrorist organization’s incitement against the Copts is just the latest emanating from Islamists — from the top of the Brotherhood leadership to the bottom of the “Muslim street” — and is creating something of an “open season” on Egypt’s Christians…
The article’s view is that the primary response of Christians to the problem of jihadism should not be political, but rather inter-personal, through local, loving witness and the support of that witness in historic Christian communities such as the Copts of Egypt.
You can give it a read over at Coptic Orphans here.