Liturgy of St Serapion

I was wandering if anyone knew where I could get a hold of the Liturgy of St Serapion?

God Bless


  • hehe. you listened to Albair's lecture didn't you.
  • The Sacramentary of Sarapion of Thmuis, which contains, in addition to the Eucharistic prayers, prayers for Baptism, ordination, unction, and burial, has been published in multiple places, including:

    John Wordsworth (1899), Bishop Sarapion's Prayer Book

    Lucien Deiss, Springtime of the Liturgy

    Jasper & Cuming, Prayers of the Eucharist: Early and Reformed

    F.E. Brightman, "The Sacramentary of Serapion of Thmuis" in Journal of Theological Studies

    As Albair said in his lecture, it is another example of the pure Alexandrian (not Coptic) liturgical tradition. This basically just means that the litanies come before the epiclesis, not after. It also shares a lot of terminology and phrases with the Anaphora attributed to St. Mark.

    Please note that Albair's lecture posted recently on the Coptic Heritage website, while it shows an admirable effort at educating our youth in the history and meaning of the liturgy, is unfortunately full of historical inaccuracies, and even some theological mistakes. I am glad this lecture is bringing to people's attention some of the treasures of the Alexandrian liturgical tradition that have been studied and debated for decades in academia, but that does not come without a price.

    Do not take everything Albair said in that recording for granted.
  • Ramez,

    can you shed some light on these inaccuracies and discrepancies?
  • [quote author=Amoussa01 link=topic=14746.msg166672#msg166672 date=1386273452]

    can you shed some light on these inaccuracies and discrepancies?

    I second that specially for the historical references. 
  • Here are the issues that I found with Albair's lecture, divided to theology first, and history second. Of course, for all of us, the theological aspects of any issue under consideration are of much more importance, whereas historical aspects are only of importance in so far as it relates to our theology, faith, and life in Christ. For reference to others who may stumble upon this discussion, here is a link to the lecture mentioned:


    1- Perhaps the biggest concern I have is with a final remark made towards the end by way of spiritual advice. The advice was given to avoid socialization after receiving the Eucharist, or else one presumably will lose all the benefit of having prayed the liturgy and partaken of the mysteries. I have indeed come across such sentiments expressed in some of the writings of the Desert Fathers in the Apophthegmata Patrum. Perhaps this advice ultimately comes from a monastic type of spirituality, in which case no one can blame any one individual. Monasticism has had a strong influence - both positive and negative -  in many areas of Church life, not just in the Coptic Church but in all traditional churches. Be that as it may, often times errors are propagated as a result of misappropriating the spirituality contained in some monastic writings. Regardless of how such a mentality can be appropriate in a monastic setting, or whether we can even trust writings that are that extreme, it is simply destructive to encourage this kind of anti-communal spirit under normal (non-monastic) circumstances. To do so would be to introduce a rift between what we profess and pray for in the Divine Liturgy and what we actively teach our youth and set for them as ideals in spiritual practice. Can we pray "to become one body and one spirit and have a share and an inheritance with all the saints" (Liturgy of St. Basil), if in practice we preach shunning the communal life as a natural and desirable expression of having become one body and one spirit? No. What does that make of the early Church's historical witness, where the Eucharistic celebration was followed by an Agape meal? Or, what does that mean for church servants and clergy, who are practically constrained to engage in various services after the Eucharist? Are they to abstain from the Eucharist on days where they will have to socialize? I realize that by socialization the speaker perhaps meant unedifying, chit-chat that usually follows any Liturgy, the coffee hour if you will. I however see this trivial sounding coffee hour as indeed necessary and beautiful, as long as it remains within the bounds of propriety and respect.

    2- Earlier in the lecture, Albair addresses the common question of why services are long in the Coptic church. The response given was that the Coptic church believes in reliving the life of Christ event by event; we do not simply have communion, but we experience the entire life of Christ in the services. While this is a well-intentioned attempt at giving a spiritual reason for an answer, it is a bit naive to ignore the more realistic answers that can be given. Liturgy is long in all Orthodox traditions by comparison to more modern worship in the Protestant world. This is because 1- Traditional churches are more conservative, exercising very little conscious changes in the services received from previous generations, so 2- Changes accumulate over older layers, instead of supplanting them, as a general rule and finally 3- With such a long historical trajectory, and an emphasis on Orthodoxy being a "liturgical faith", Liturgy becomes a vehicle for Faith, acquiring layers and layers of prayers as a testimony to the various controversies experienced by the Church throughout history. We do not simply pray the most basic of prayers that we believe "get the job done", but we use the opportunity to instruct the body of Christ in the depths of our faith through the prayers. To say that services are long in the Coptic Church because we live with Christ is inadequate at best because 1- It assumes that this is the case only in the Coptic church, one of many Orthodox liturgical churches. 2- It contradicts the fact mentioned earlier in the lecture that worship in Apostolic times was much shorter (Did the apostles not live every event in Christ's life when they assembled to break bread?)

    3- There were other comments made about the supposed uniqueness of the Coptic liturgy, such as that in the Coptic liturgy, the emphasis is not on remembering the past events of salvation, but on living with Christ and uniting with Christ through the prayers. I have a big problem with the exclusive language of these comments, which again undermine the experience and orthodoxy of other Orthodox churches. Perhaps this was unintended, but when we start speaking about theology, faith, and dogma, we are no longer speaking of a unique tradition with its unique hymns, music, or rites. We are here talking about the one and only Orthodox liturgical theology that is true whether you pray a Coptic liturgy, or a Syrian, Armenian, Greek, or Russian liturgy. This would have been a nice opportunity to open the eyes of our youth simply by a better choice of words, emphasizing that far from being unique in these things, our Coptic church is actually in full agreement and oneness of spirit with all the other Orthodox churches. We should be trying to bridge the gap whenever possible in people's minds regarding our relation to other churches, not further the schism by emphasizing our uniqueness when no such uniqueness exists.

    Historical Issues:

    I will quickly list the historical/technical issues I had with the lecture, so as not to delve into endless explanations of liturgical history. It would be much more efficient if those interested in the history of the liturgy to ask specific questions after reading my concise points:

    1- The Liturgy of St. Mark is not the oldest liturgy in the Church after that of St. James. There are other texts and anaphoras that are perhaps less known and are also quite as old, if not older. One problem with making statements of this kind is that it gives the impression that the entire liturgy, in a way we can recognize today, existed at such an early date. In fact, the oldest piece of evidence related to the Liturgy of Mark is the Strasbourg Papyrus supposedly from the 4th or 5th cent. This papyrus is not a complete text of the liturgy, but just the Preface (Meet and right) all the way to "From the rising of the sun to its setting, incense is offered to Your name", followed by some litanies...hardly a complete anaphora. For a complete text of Mark, you have perhaps Vat. Copt. 17 (13th cent.), or perhaps Messina gr. SS. Salv 177 from the 10th cent., although this is a Greek MS and is more of a Byzantine Mark than a Coptic Mark. It is shocking to consider the dates of these manuscripts. Note that no one is saying that liturgy of St. Mark is not ancient, perhaps even older than the 4th cent. But to assign it the position of the oldest liturgy ever after James only rests on the naive assumption that St. Mark literally wrote the anaphora we now have in our books.

    2- That is basically my next point. We cannot affirm whatsoever, given the evidence above, that St. Mark wrote this liturgy, let alone whether he wrote it before or after his gospel. We do know that Mark is traditionally known as the founder of Egyptian christianity, and that he of course handed down a certain way of breaking bread to his newly founded community in Alexandria. Beyond that, we cannot affirm.

    3- Since all our evidence of the liturgy text comes from the 4th or 5th cent, there is no way to know for certain what role, if any, St. Cyril of Alexandria played regarding this anaphora. The idea that St. Cyril added the deacons responses, to the best of my knowledge, is traced to the writing of Yuhanna Ibn Sebaa (14th cent.). He may have been repeating an oral tradition in circulation even before him, but we have no way of confirming this. However, rest assured, St. Cyril did not write the Great Thanksgiving Prayer (Truly it is meet and right...etc) as Albair claimed. This is in fact the core of the entire anaphora, and it is difficult to imagine what the text would have been, if anything, before Cyril, especially if we lean towards the earlier dating of the Strasbourg Papyrus which already contains it.

    4- Minor issue: The liturgies of St. Basil and St. Gregory are not "Byzantine" as he claimed. They are more properly called Antiochene. The Byzantine tradition itself, being a later tradition than the Antiochene and Alexandrian ones, is at its essence Antiochene with later developments. All these categorizations simply refer to where the litanies fall: Before the Epiclesis (Alexandrian), or after the Epiclesis (Antiochene). There is no Coptic vs. Byzantine, and these are wrong terms.

    5- Albair claimed that the Eucharistic liturgy used to be celebrated in the evening until the 5th cent. The evening celebration of the Eucharist is true, but the century is completely wrong. This change would have happened much earlier, and by the 5th cent we have enough testimonies from the Fathers of the 4th and 5th to know that liturgy by then was a day event. The reason given that the Roman empire was afraid at the time from revolutions is unsustainable, since by the 5th cent the Empire itself was Christian for over a century, and there was no fear whatsoever of Christian assemblies during the day.

    6- The Institution Narrative is not identical to any one Biblical narrative. In fact, no where in the gospels does it say that Jesus "tasted" from the cup before giving it to the disciples. This is a Coptic peculiarity, and it has profound theological implications that I cannot explain here.

    7- Albair claimed that Matins Raising of Incense is necessary before having a Divine Liturgy, while Vespers is not. I am aware of such a distinction, or where he got this information from. Vespers and Matins are both part of what is called the Daily Cycle (together with the other hours of the Agpeya and the Midnight Praise). You can theoretically have a liturgy without Vespers or Matins and it would not violate anything integral to the Eucharist itself. In fact, for centuries, Matins was prayed at the customary time of early in the morning, even if a Liturgy was celebrated hours later at 3pm, as in the case during Lent.

    8- Although Albair does not mention his source, the idea that a Jewish morning Eucharist was added to an evening pagan Eucharist to make the claim that the Offertory rite is an entire Eucharistic service in itself is something advanced by Fr. Matthew the Poor in his book The Eucharist: The Supper of the Lord. It is an interesting theory, but one that is not advanced by anyone besides Fr. Matta to my knowledge. It all rests on an interpretation of the acts performed during the offertory by the priest as actively representing what Christ did at the last supper, and not on any concrete evidence. We know at least that Justin Martyr (3rd cent.), although not describing liturgy in Egypt, refers to a Sunday liturgy having readings, then offering to the altar, then the Eucharistic prayer. That's as early as the 3rd century, and he is not describing a separate morning and evening Eucharists, one practical and the other descriptive. One must be careful in repeating the words of authors who, while they are holy and very spiritual, did not have the proper training to make such claims.

    I hope this is not too long to read, and even more so, I hope it is not taken as an attack on an individual, but a necessary corrective.
  • Mina - Yes I did listen to it...hehe

    Ramez - Legendary as always and thanks a ton, may God Bless your efforts

    God Bless
  • Ramez is a boss
  • I will attempt to answer/clarify some of the issues Ramez raised. Before I do so, please keep in mind that this lecture is not intended to be for academic research, so I didn’t provide sources or explained in details a many of the points made in the lecture; also, the purpose of the lecture, which the servants of the meeting asked me to help them with, which is connect the youth to the Coptic Church since they are starting to drift away.
    Now to the points raised by Ramez. The first category, he calls Theological, but I prefer to say Spiritual, since Theology is a very generic term that could be used for most of the Church topics; and it could also refer to specific issues with the nature of God and Jesus and all the arguments related to Salvation, which is not the case here, and might be misinterpreted by some people.
    1- As I mentioned in the lecture, this is personal exercises that I found helpful to me, but might not be for others. I think, given the status of the audience, they advices might be good for them. If they don’t then try other things. For any spiritual or even physical exercise, you have to change the routine in based on your current state so you may grow; then change the exercise. I felt this is a good exercise for the youth I was talking to. Maybe when we reach certain level of spirituality, this exercise won’t be applicable anymore and we will have to move on to another one.
    2- There are different reasons for long liturgies, some of them, as Ramez mentioned, addition of prayers without removing repetitions. However, this is not true in many cases, since starting from the 15th century, more and more prayers started to be prayed inaudibly to shorten the service. Some rites are overlapping and prayed in parallel. More reasons would be: the Egyptian tradition of elongating the vowels, which makes one sentence takes 10 minutes. Another reason would be the concept of “preparation”, which is huge in our Church, and other Orthodox Churches. What is relevant to this lecture is the second point, which is preparing each soul to unite with Jesus, not only physically, but also spiritually and emotionally.
    3- This is not the context, since this lecture was given to Coptic Orthodox youth and the purpose of it is to keep them in the Church and not to go to others, which some of them already started to do so. Given this context, you cannot tell them that all Orthodox Churches do the same thing so go wherever. Just a reminder, this was not a lecture in a university or for scholarly purposes, but simply to help the Coptic youth connect to the Coptic Church.
    1- Many, many sources mention that the Liturgy of Saint Mark is the second oldest one after the one for Saint James. Whether that is an Oral tradition or an oral prayers or written, but the idea is the same. Saint Mark taught the First Christians of Egypt how to pray the liturgy. Whether it was written or written and lost or is there but not found so far, this doesn’t make much difference. Otherwise, what would you say about the New Testament? Do we have the original epistles or Saint Paul or the original gospels? Does this mean that they were not written in the first century?
    2- Same as previous point.
    3- New studies analyzing the liturgy of Saint Mark make these claims. They analyzed the style of writing and theological terminologies and came up with these theories. I didn’t make the comparison myself, but I didn’t make it up . Some scholars studied this and I read it and wanted to share it with the youth.
    4- I understand that, but again to the youth, Antiochene and Byzantine are the same, and won’t make difference in the point I was trying to make. Maybe I should been more clear about it. In fact, some scholars categorize the Liturgy of Saint Basil as Antiochene and the liturgy of Saint Gregory as Byzantine. Also, place of the litanies is not the only difference between the two traditions, there is also the number of Epiclesis, and who is the Person(s) “Hypostasis” sanctifying the material, and other small prayers here and there.
    5- Although the Roman Empire was Christian a century before completely stopping the Evening Liturgies, any change in the church takes very long time. Actually, the Evening Liturgies starting to be rarely prayed from maybe the 3rd century, but was completely finished in the 5th century.
    6- I know that “tasted” is a Coptic tradition, but I also know that they got it from the Passover and the Habbora traditions. In all cases, this was not the point here; the point was that this part explains what happened in the Last Supper verses, in the Evening Liturgies, that would not be the case.
    7- This is the current rite, the old rite was Vespers and Prime prayed every day and liturgies on Sundays (and in the monastery of St. Makkar Saturday evening and Sunday morning). Then they started to pray liturgies on Fridays and then Wednesdays, and now any day of the week. Again, the current rite is that Vespers is not mandatory for praying the liturgy but Prime is.
    8- Not only abouna Matta, there are other scholars that reached the same conclusions including father Athanasius and father Basillios. Yes the Offertory exists in other Churches, but as merely Offertory, not a complete Evening Liturgy. The Evening Liturgy that was named Offertory “to be the same as other churches” is what I was referring to.
    Thanks for the good discussion.
  • Hi Albair. It is really nice to see you here. I hope you can contribute more in the future.

    I think you made it quite clear that the intention of your talk was directed to a certain group of people to address a specific problem. Of course, anyone can say something and it can be interpreted differently without a long explanation, which defeats the purpose of your talk.

    However, there are few things that should be recognized.
    1. The level and standard of liturgical and theological discussions and/or articles among the Copts is dismal at best. It is time that Copts speak and discuss liturgical language with a certain degree of aptitude. That is if you quote a father, get the reference. If you have a theory, support it with a plethora of evidence. If you state something happened in the 15th century, show manuscript evidence that we can check. Things like "X is Y because that's our Coptic tradition" or "so and so said so" or "the Liturgy of St Mark was written by St Mark" is not acceptable. Most Copts have never seen a manuscript and cannot name the most famous manuscript collections (like Codex Alexandrianus, Codex Sianiticus, the Hamouli collection, BnP, Vienna, etc). The fact that we shy away from theology and relabel it as spiritual illustrates an uneasiness to discuss liturgics, linguistics, anthropology, and science in general. This happens across the board. It's my earnest hope that Copts in general will start to work on improving discussion.

    2. Next I would like to discuss monastic vs. communal spirituality. In monastic circles, communal interaction is always associated with distraction and sin. But in communal circles, interaction is a most noble goal. Therein lies the problem. We have grown to associate spirituality within a monastic setting and adjudicate that there is no spirituality in communal interaction. This is a common social misconception among the Copts. There is spirituality in both monastic and communal activities. To separate spirituality from communal activities is wrong and unbiblical. Otherwise, Christ would never have had disciples. Spiritual exercises, like refraining from talk after communion AND the agape mean, if done correctly, should not promote one activity over the other. That is why Ramez commented on the danger of shunning communal interaction. His comments seem to address the bigger issue of social and liturgical interaction, not necessarily how you intended to discuss spiritual exercises.

    3. The differences and understanding of specific liturgical terms should be maintained. It is more important to show what is meant by Byzantine and Antiochian liturgy than to say there is no difference in the audience's mind. It is also most important to support these definitions with reproducible evidence.

    4. I don't think it is appropriate or right to say, "since this lecture was given to Coptic Orthodox youth and the purpose of it is to keep them in the Church and not to go to others, which some of them already started to do so. Given this context, you cannot tell them that all Orthodox Churches do the same thing so go wherever. " While no one can claim all Orthodox Churches do the same thing, it is not proper to claim one Orthodox Church is superior than all the others. If they go to a Syrian or an Antiochian or an Eastern Orthodox Church, they are still getting Orthodoxy. Now of course, since we are not in communion with the Eastern Orthodox Churches, there is a concern. But they are still Orthodox. They can go wherever Christ is in His Church. And we know Christ is with the Orthodox Church. Of course, if they are leaving the Coptic Church going to Protestant Churches because they are attracted to the superficiality of Protestantism, then there is a legitimate concern. But trying to correct a situation by degrading other Orthodox churches is nothing more than cultural egotism and pride. (and I'm sure you didn't see it that way). I'm sure many people will not agree with this. But we must be careful that we are not causing divisions in an attempt to unify the Coptic youth.

    I'm not going to discuss the historical aspects of liturgies since I know very little about it. I hope we can continue to learn and grow in Christ.

    Finally, I reiterate Albair that we want to see you here more often. Thank you for contributing to the discussion.
  • Not to divert the conversation, but is there an answer to the original question :). I am curious to read this Liturgy. Old (anything other than our current 3) liturgies amaze me

    Page 117 within the document's numbering

    Pray for me,
  • Thank you childoforthodoxy.

    Copticuser20, old liturgies amaze us all. But let's not forget there is a reason why we only have 3 liturgies in use. Not everything that is old or "on the other side of the green pasture" is suitable for the Coptic Church. As humans, we have an inherit fault to disregard the treasures we already have by looking at what others have. It gives the false impression that our 3 current liturgies are somehow inadequate. From the discussion by Ramez and Albair, we can see that our current liturgies have an incredible amount of wisdom and depth that we have not even begun to understand.

    I hope we take this opportunity to dig deeper into our current liturgies so that we pray with more depth in church and leave the other liturgies for theological discussions. Just my 2 cents.
  • I think Rem responded very well and summarized the main concerns in a very succinct way. Let me just add the following remarks.

    1- I understand that this lecture was done in a pastoral context, not a scholarly one. I am not advocating that a simple youth meeting be turned to a scholarly debate, showing manuscripts and discussing the state of the question in academia. However, there is also no reason to get into such technical questions that can only be treated adequately by showing sources.

    2- We should never be providing a half truth under any circumstance. Any college youth who has taken history courses will be able to digest basic historical background if presented well. To tell people something is Byzantine when the proper term is Antiochene because supposedly they don't know the difference is an insult to their intelligence. We can either not use such technical language at all - and I don't think the area of liturgical families is all too important in a pastoral context - or we can provide the proper terms even if they are not retained by the audience. Integrity is at stake here.

    3- I worry that making such grandiose un-backed statements such as "We have the oldest liturgy" may in fact do more harm than good for any youth with a college education and who is willing to think critically of what they are told about their church. It is very disappointing to see people regarded as scholars consciously presenting such Coptic-centered rhetoric to the youth in order to retain them in the pews. Why such a panic to keep anyone in the Coptic church? Do we really want the youth remaining because they were duped into thinking we are the oldest, most authentic, most unique expression of Orthodoxy available, or because they truly want to remain Coptic despite any real weaknesses our church has (liturgically, or otherwise)?

    In fact, let me ask this. Is not Orthodoxy about unity of faith and oneness of mind? If that is indeed so, and a speaker is truly proud of being part of this universal tradition (and not merely of being Coptic), then what would be a better advertizement for the Coptic church: Look at us, we are so unique and one of a kind that there is no comparison between us and the rest of Orthodoxy, or, our liturgical tradition is an expression of the same faith and the same mind of the Fathers expressed in all Orthodox worship despite differences in language and music?

    When we pray every liturgy for the peace of the One, Catholic Church, are we praying for all the Coptic parishes out there, or for all the Orthodox faithful in the whole world, despite their ethnic, cultural, ritual differences?

    Indeed, every local expression of Orthodoxy is unique in the small things, and one should be free to be attracted by these small things to any particular Orthodox church. But when we start speaking of liturgical theology we are no longer talking about small things, but the biggest things of all. In such cardinal issues, no one should ever want to be unique among the Orthodox.

    4- Finally, while it is generally true that the spiritual life is a training ground for the soul, and that what was beneficial for a soul in infancy will not necessarily be beneficial in adulthood, this is absolutely not the case in this example. I don't care how young or old someone is, but the Eucharist is the sacrament of communion. When the priest invokes on you the communion of the Holy Spirit both in the beginning of the anaphora (of Gregory) and in the final dismissal, he is not just repeating a formulaic expression mentioning the Trinity just because it is proper to do so. Rather, the Church is reminding us through the mouth of the priest that what we are receiving here at the altar of the Lord is both a gift and communion, communion with the head (Christ) and the body (everyone else), made operative by the Holy Spirit in all of us, adults and children alike. Can I then preach to people to isolate themselves in this way, especially when Sunday for most people  living in Western society is in fact the only day they can ever experience the fruits of such communion with the body of Christ? No we can't, despite how contrary this may seem to some of the well-intentioned monastic piety popular in our church.

    If I tell the youth that ideally they should not socialize after Communion, I am essentially sowing guilt in them whenever they do. In reality, we will guarantee that those few youths who are serious about living a Christianity that is not self-contradictory and ascetically oppressive will most definitely find another home for themselves, where they are assured that receiving communion is not antithetical to communion with fellow Christians.
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