Umbrellas in the Liturgy

edited December 1969 in Coptic Orthodox Church

someone asked me today why when the Gospel is being read, and during other parts of the Liturgy, there is an umbrella.

I was planning to answer them, but noticed that i do not actually know the reason, but just accept it as part of the liturgy.

Can someone tell me the reason, so i can give my friend a more informed answer next time i see them.  :-\

in Christ,


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  • this was a mixed liturgy between Oriental Orthodox Churches with HGB Angelos. Other orthodox churchs do this "umbrella" tradition...but not our coptic church. do you have a video copy of this liturgy...i would love to watch it
  • sorry Minagir, I do not have a copy of the liturgy, but do have videos of the ethiopian drumming and the procession.


    Thank you for answering this, do you know why they use it? or the Symbolism?

    I saw that HE Metropolitan Seraphim of Glastonbury uses one sometimes, so i thought this came from the Coptic tradition.

  • Even though there are more meanings than my reply, the use of umbrella when the Gospel is read or during other parts of the Liturgy (When the Deacon comes out from the Holly of Hollies with a procession Cross, When Arc of the Covenant is out on the churches annual holiday) is to show respect to the Gospel, the Cross…, and also to remind us that [glow=red,2,300]the grace of God[/glow] that filled the Tent in the form of a cloud that used to be visible in the Holly of Hollies when God reviled Himself mentioned in the old Testament is still present now in our Church.  I can be corrected if I am wrong.

    Pray for me the sinner.   
  • Really Interesting Tewahedo, im guessing you belong to one of our sister churches who have this tradition! Very Deep stuff!

  • It is similar in concept to the Roman tradition of "ciborium".  We have it in different aspects in the Coptic Church, such as:  domes over the altar, the reader's shawl (shamla), the covers over the thrones of the bishops, etc.  I think it is to be looked as a "dome" or "cloud" rather than an "umbrella".

    In New Orleans when they have Mardi Gras, and there are jazz parades, they use umbrellas.  It is actually an extension of the Ethiopian Tradition, for which, unfortunately, there were slaves take from that country and brought to the United States.  You will notice that is used when they sing:  'When the saints come marching in...".  Believe it or not, the song has its origins in Ethiopian lore.

    There are different processions of solemnity, in the Ethiopian Tradition, that use the umbrellas, including the parade of the crowns of the ethiopian emperors, and crosses.
  • Correct me if i am wrong, i do believe it is an Ethiopian/Eritrean tradition. I attended the first opening mass of their new church in Sydney and they where holding umbrellas. I have to say it was one of the most amazing experiences, i really enjoyed it. We got to wear our tonya's and have communion as well which was plus.
    here are 2 links to the service. They are a bit short though sorry.

  • Yes, it is inclusive of the Eritrean Tradition.  I just used the word "Ethiopian" as encompassing.  I render this as a clarification.  Sorry, if there were any misunderstandings.
  • No need to be sorry mate i wasn't trying to correct anyone i was just sharing my experince.

  • Pi Onkh,

    Do you get to do much with the Ethiopians and Eritreans in Australia?

    I am fortunate to meet many of their priests every few months at the Council of Oriental Orthodox Churches, and they are all the most warm and friendly of people, very spiritual and gentle.

    Father Peter
  • Hello father Peter,
    we don't really have any events together. We were invited to a picnic they had (which one of our parish priests and a few youth attended), and to their first opening mass by an Ethiopian gentleman who attends  bible study at my local parish. They made us feel very welcome and they still often invite us to attend mass with them. I still see them at my church every now and then for baptisms ETC
    It would be good to try and do more activities together, however it's a little hard at the moment in the Sydney diocese. There was talks of having a combined youth meeting with the Armenian Orthodox and possibly other OO churhes but they were put on hold.
    Please pray for us

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