Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Coptic Orthodox Divine Liturgy

One of our readers sent in the following video which shows the "Coptic Orthodox English Liturgy... celebrated by Fr. Mauritius Anba Bishoy at the Heavenly Cathedral Sharm El-sheikh, Egypt." The liturgy was filmed for and by Aghaby Christian TV on September 2009 -- and hence the microphones you will note throughout.

Here is the first video of ten that are available. It is a good (and perhaps rare) opportunity to see these particular liturgical rites from that part of the world and in English, and will likely be of interest to those who are interested in comparative liturgics.

Beneath the video itself is a description of what you are witnessing in the open minutes of the video.

Choosing the Lamb

The Bread:

The bread is round, in the shape of a circle, having no beginning and no end to symbolize the eternity of our Lord. It is stamped in the center with a large cross representing Jesus surrounded by twelve small crosses representing the 12 disciples. Around the crosses appears the stamp of the Trisagion: "Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal."

The bread is pierced in five places around the central crosses in reference to the 3 nails that hold Jesus on the cross, the crown of thorns and the spear that pierced His side. The bread is made from pure wheat, leavened but unsalted, because Jesus Christ is the salt of the world. The leaven symbolizes our Sins which the Lord Jesus Christ bore for us. The bread must be freshly baked.

The Wine:

The wine must be grape wine, pure and red in color. the priest must smell the wine to see that it has not soured. The wine is mixed with water as The mixture of the blood and water poured out of Jesus side when He was on the cross.

The Rite of Choosing the Lamb

This rite speaks of the salvation events united together as if they were one event and beyond the limits of time. Through this rite, the Spirit of the Lord leads us to a journey with Christ;

When the priests wrap the Lamb in a white linen napkin (veil), the Church follows Christ to the manager of Bethlehem contemplating His incarnation. When The priest lifts the Lamb covered with the linen napkin and process around the altar, we are lead to the temple watching Simon the elder carrying the child Jesus.

When The priest puts the Lamb upon his hand and anoint it with water, we follow Him to the Jordan and recognize Him the Lamb of God, Who carries the sins of the world.

Covering the Offertory with the Aprosparine lead us to contemplate His death on the cross.

During choosing the lamb, The priest lays his hands on the oblations in the shape of the cross as the priest of the old testament, who lays his hand on the sacrifice while the sinner confesses his sins. This declares that Jesus Christ, The Lamb of God has carried our sins on His shoulders. For this reason, the Congregation sings; "Lord have mercy", at the time of choosing the lamb.

After the creed the people sing :"Lord Have mercy" 41 times seeking the mercy and forgiveness of our Lord. The number 41 reminds us of the 39 lashes from a whip that Jesus received before His Crucifixion the crown of thorns and the spear which pierced His side, when He was on the cross

The Priest blesses the bread and wine three times, making the sign of the cross. The Priest prays inaudibly:

"In the name of the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit, the One God. Blessed be God the Father, Almighty. Blessed be His Only-Begotten Son. Blessed be the Holy Spirit, Amen.

The Priest smells the wine to see that it has not soured and offers it to and the deacons of the altar. Each one of them smells it and if it is alright he says, 'Good and Honored.'"

The Priest chooses the best loaf among the bread offered and kisses it. This chosen bread will become the Holy Body of Christ. Thus, it is called the Lamb. The Priest wipes the chosen bread ; the Lamb. He wets his thumb with wine and blesses the chosen bread, making the sign of the cross on it, by his wet thumb.

The Priest enters the sanctuary. The deacon carrying the bottle of water pours some into The Priest's right hand. The Priest passes it gently over the chosen lamb symbolizing the baptism of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The Priest wraps the Lamb in one of the napkins. The Priest prays for all those who requested, himself, his family, his spiritual children, the sick, the traveling, those who are in distress, those who have died, the safety of the Church, the Pope, etc.

The Congregations sings 41 times:

"Lord have mercy."

The Procession of the Lamb

The Priest holds the chosen bread ; the Lamb which is wrapped in a linen napkin together with a cross and lifts it over his head as Simon the elder, who carried the Child Jesus, did.

The deacon holds the bottle of wine with a napkin in his right hand, a lighted candle in his left hand and his arms over each other in the shape of the cross. He lifts both over his head and stands behind The Priest. This shows that through the Blood of

Jesus Christ light came into this world. The procession takes place around the altar.

For more: Divine Liturgy of the Coptic Orthodox Church

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