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Pentecost Sagda Prayers
  • Hi does anyone have an English translation of the Kneeling/Prostration prayers that include the bits that were removed? Ie. A version of the sagda prayers that matches the theology of the other Orthodox Churches?
  • I couldn't find an unmodified version of the prayers, but here is the decision from the synod that says what was removed. I would love if someone could post an unmodified version of the prayers too for the sake of comparison:

    In the meeting of 29/5/1999:

    The Holy Synod decided to remove the following three phrases from the Rite of the Kneeling Prayers, in the Third Litany:

    1) "and also You absolve it and take it to that place [Paradise]"
    2) "those who are in Hades now, we have the hope that You will absolve all those who are in various sufferings..."
    "for those who are dead do not praise You, and those who are in Hades
    do not confess You, but we the living" (implying that we intercede for
  • I have a pdf of a ppt home. Let me get back there to upload
  • Ekhrestos anesty
    @aiernovi and all,
    What's the problem of us interceding for those who died? I can't understand point number 3..
  • Indeed He is Risen.

    On a side note, there's a beautiful meditation on the Prostration prayers at Fr Steven Freeman's blog:

    I wonder what it means for us now that the prayers have been removed since 1999 :s ?
  • I hope it returns. It's really nothing but contemporary theological speculation that has no regard for tradition and Patristic in depth study.
  • Actually, I like the change. aiernovi didn't translate the sentence after the decisions:
    His Holiness [Pope Shenouda] commented on what was omitted in the third prayer of the Sagda saying that the transforming/moving from Hades to Paradise is not possible after the completion of the redemption and after those who were transferred by Jesus Christ Himself. Even at that time, transferring was only possible for the saints of the Old Testament and not for anyone in the New Testament.

    So it's not about intercessions to the dead it's about saying that those who are in Hades may, by prayers, be transformed to Paradise. Which is totally incorrect.

    and as promised...sagda pptpdf is attached. 
  • Thank you so much minatasgeel :)

    minasoliman I agree.

    "Love could not bear that..."


    "Today is the day of Resurrection...

    We celebrate the death of death, the destruction of hell, the beginning of eternal life. And leaping for joy, we celebrate the Cause, the only blessed and most glorious God of our fathers...

    Today the Master conquered hell and raised the prisoners from all the ages which it had held in bitter bondage..."
  • Ekhrestos anesty,
    Of course what aiernovi translated a part of the psalm so that's not what was taken out, or was it? Secondly is the redemption a continuous process or one of the past that ended? I believe it's the former. If someone dies and he has lived a corrupt life in our eyes, are we to judge? Also how come in commemoration we mention both saints from the old and new testaments? I mean how certain are we the ones we have hailed as saints have been redeemed by God? How much knowledge do we have? And therefore how much hope?
  • Like I said, contemporary theological speculation that has no regard for tradition and Patristic in depth study. With all due respect to HH, there is Patristic evidence that one can pray for those in Hades to go to Paradise. It would not exist in the Sagda for centuries if that wasn't the case. One had to ask the question why and how was in the Sagda. Probably because the Coptic Church did in fact believe prayers for those in Hades can have an effect on getting them to Paradise.
  • me, a very simple minded-person when it comes to theological and patristic studies, that sounds that Hades is a place similar to purgatory. Also, we were always taught that once one dies, he either goes to hades or paradise until judgement day. 
    What you are saying is kind of far from what we have been taught for sometime so it would be great if we can get some sources. you are just playing around with the word redemption which HHPS used. the Economy of Salvation was completed by Christ. WE ARE in a continuous form of return to God but not actual salvation where we were once in Hades and moved to Paradise.
    Also, we do not anything about those who died. We will always pray on them (except of course if they died in sin publicly) but nothing in a funeral prayers says that we if they are in Hades, please take them up to heaven. Let's concentrate on the words of the prayer that are omitted instead of just throwing words just for the sake of argument.....
  • The idea of purgatory is that the fire is redemptive; the fearful expectations of hades are self-inflicted and there is nothing redeeming about them.

    The whole point of the prayers of the Church is that somehow there is a way what through intercession a soul which would ordinarily might have been lost could find grace in God's eyes.  The fear and terror of the individual in hades is real but its not final; not until the judgement where God will decide once and for all.

    There is a story that Fr Bishoy from CYC tells that illustrates this very well.  

    There was a brash youth who was handsome and wealthy and all the women he knew wanted to marry him.  Fr Bishoy went to visit him one day and talked with him about God.  The young man was too enamoured with how much he was enjoying life to pay any attention to what Fr Bishoy was saying.  Fr Bishoy pressed him and said, "what if God were to take you now while you're young?" The young man said, "easy, I would repent then and there."  So Fr Bishoy figured the young man was too self assured and left him to his own devices.

    Anyhow a time passed and a man came one day to Fr Bishoy and said "Father, do you remember me?" He looked at the man and didn't really remember who he was.  He said "I'm the man that you came to and warned me about repentance and the spiritual life but i didn't listen."  Fr Bishoy strained and then had a vague recollection of the discussion and the young man went to tell his story.

    He said he was having an operation one day and some sort of a complication occurred and his heart stopped.  The man then felt himself coming out of his body and he felt himself flying up into the sky with great speed.  He said that he flew up until the earth looked so small and distant.  The he went into a place that was deep, dark and fearful. It was full of people and their faces were ugly with an unimaginable ugliness.  There were sounds of fear, crying and weeping ringing through this dark dark place.  It struck the man what had happened to him and the place that he now was and he started to implore God to remember the good things he had done. Sadly there were very few of those as the youth had realised that he deserved to be where he was. He then turned to the only thing that he could think of and asked God to remember, even if works weren't any good, the prayers of his parents; he then implored God again and asked him to remember the prayers of His mother the Virgin and it was then that a voice said to him "Ok, I will give you one more chance."

    He then felt himself speeding back into his body and he awoke.  Since then he was a man of virtue who had a family but that experience so badly torments him to this day that he is terrified of darkness and cannot sleep in any room without a child's night light.

    This story shows that a man's fate when he descends to the deep dark place (sheol or hades) cannot be changed from within, they have done all that they have done.  The only thing which can now influence their destiny is the prayers of those outside, particularly those of the saints.  

    It is the experience of the Church that our prayers do indeed influence the fate of souls in the prison and there are stories like this where souls were either given another chance or were transferring into life because of the mercies of God finding an opportunity in the intercession of the saints.  If the final judgement has not happened then we should trust the mercy of God that by combining our prayers with those of the saints there may be some who may have erred at the last moment while perhaps leading a virtuous life that God may pardon on our account.  This is why these prayers are some important and should be remembered by the Church at every moment.
  • Ekhrestos anesty
    I sense that I've annoyed you greatly. I'm sorry. If you're annoyed take a break from my posts. I'm not playing with words for the sake of the argument. I'm more in the position of @minasoliman..
  • @minatasgeel the pdf doesn't include the missing bits :S Based on @aiernovi's note maybe the parts are:

    Byzantine Prayers

    Coptic Prayers

    You measure out the years for the living and set times of death, bringing down to Hades and raising up, fettering in weakness and liberating in power; You provide aptly for the present and fittingly dispose what is to come, restoring those who are wounded by the sting of death with the hope of resurrection.

    You give existence to man and he lives and You bring death upon him with Your dominion.

    (1)"and also You absolve it and take it to that place [Paradise]"

    You overcame the sting of death that it may not have power over the believers nor on those who look forward to the resurrection of the dead.



    On this universal and salutary feast, deign to accept petitions

    for those imprisoned in Hades, thus giving us great hope, and relief to the departed from their grievous distress and Your comfort.

    We supplicate to You to accept our prayers on this sacred Day.

    (2)"for those who are in Hades now, we have the hope that You will absolve all those who are in various sufferings...”

    Grant perfection to us and repose to those who commended their souls into Your hands.



    ...counting them worthy of peace and repose; 

    for the dead do not praise You, Lord, nor do those in Hades dare to offer You glory, but it is we the living 

    who bless and entreat You and offer You propitiatory prayers and sacrifices for their souls.

    Make them worthy of peaceful rest and of forgiveness of sins

    (3)"for those who are dead do not praise You, and those who are in Hades do not confess You, but we the living…"

    praise You and thank You and offer You these prayers and these sacrifices for the sake of our souls.
  • Does anyone have a translated version of the pre-1999 version that we can compare against?
  • @cyril I'd say just looking at the Byzantine renderings that your guesstimation would be pretty much spot on...
  • There also seems to be an extended version that may have been truncated. 

    In the St Mary Kitchener's publication ( ):

    It mentions a continuation of the prayer found in a manuscript by Oswald H. E. Burmester (The office of Genuflection, Le Muséon 47, 1934).
    This extended section continues the Third Prostration prayer with:

    "Thou Master, in truth, art the Great Mystery, and the
    Creator of all, the Solver of Thy transient created things, and Who afterwards
    gatherest them together, Who art their rest unto the ages. Thee we serve and... "

    This extended manuscript also maps up with the Byzantine version:

    "Truly great is Your mystery, Master and Maker of all, of the
    temporary separation of Your creatures, to be united again in everlasting rest.... "

    It makes me wonder if there were two edits done :S One to make the prayer shorter and the second to "correct" the theology of the liturgical prayers.

  • Thanks @CopticSoldier. Maybe someone has access to a pre-1999 version (or maybe even a pre-1950 version) to see what was actually prayed before the changes were made.
  • I didn't read the St Mary Kitchener one properly, it seems that it has the original recension:

    Coptic (Burmester Manuscript)

    Coptic Prayers

    O Lord God, of Thy great mercy have compassion on Thy servants the living and the dead, O Creator; for Thou hast made them to exist from that which was not, and again Thou hast loosed them that Thou mayest transfer them hence; Who dost give an existence to man that he may live, and dost bring upon him death; Who didst cripple the sting of Death, that he might not have authority over those who believe in Him and hope in the Resurrection.

    You give existence to man and he lives and You bring death upon him with Your dominion.

    (1)"and also You absolve it and take it to that place [Paradise]"

    You overcame the sting of death that it may not have power over the believers nor on those who look forward to the resurrection of the dead.

    Coptic (Burmester Manuscript)

    Coptic Prayers

    We beseech Thee to receive our prayer on this holy day which is the fulfilment of all things for our sake and

    for the sake of those who are in Amenti(Hades), for we have great hope concerning the release of all those who are in every kind of suffering and those who have delivered their souls into Thine Hand.

    We supplicate to You to accept our prayers on this sacred Day. 

    (2)"for those who are in Hades now, we have the hope that You will absolve all those who are in various sufferings...”

    Grant perfection to us and repose to those who commended their souls into Your hands.

    Coptic (Burmester Manuscript)

    Coptic Prayers

    Cause their souls to dwell in the tabernacles of light and make them worthy of forgiveness and peace. For the dead shall not praise Thee, O Lord, neither shall those in Amenti (Hades) openly confess Thee, but we who are alive shall bless Thee, and supplicate Thee, and offer unto Thee these prayers and these sacrifices on behalf of their souls.

    May their souls abide in the shadow of light. Make them worthy of peaceful rest and of forgiveness of sins

    (3)"for those who are dead do not praise You, and those who are in Hades do not confess You, but we the living…"

    praise You and thank You and offer You these prayers and these sacrifices for the sake of our souls.

  • Would still like to see an edition of the sagda in the Liturgical Books that were used in the Church before the change to see if the extended prayer mentioned by Burmester was in use.
  • Happy Feast everyone!

    Also some excerpts from the Funeral prayers. They are so hopeful and loving...

    From the Prayers for the departed in the Funeral: "For there is no death for Your servants, but a departure. Even if any negligence or heedlessness has overtaken them as men, since they were clothed in flesh and dwelt in this world, O God, as the Good One and Lover of Mankind, graciously accord, O Lord, Your servants the orthodox Christians, who are in the whole world, from the east to the west and from the north to the south, each one according to his name and each one according to her name, O Lord repose and forgive them. For no one is pure and without blemish even though his life on earth is a single day.

    As for those, O Lord, whose souls You have taken, repose them, and may they be worthy of the kingdom of the heavens. As for us all, grant us our Christian perfection that would be pleasing unto You, and give them, and us, a share and an inheritance with all Your saints."

    Prayer for Departed Men: "And if he committed any sin toward You, like the rest of mankind, forgive and pardon him. Abolish the remainder of his punishment, for You have created man for life and not death. Repose him in that place, and we also who are here, have mercy upon us. Make us worthy to worship You without interruption."

    Prayer for Departed Women: "..but You have forgiven that sin through your Only-begotten Son, Who was incarnated in the womb of a Virgin mother; He abolished the curse of our being cast down for judgment; He renewed our nature. We humble ourselves before You for Your servant (N.), who has passed away and has returned to the earth, her original place, while her soul has returned to You. We entreat You, O Philanthropic One, the compassionate at all times, to have mercy on her, repose her soul, and forgive her all her sins and disregard them, for You have not created humans for curses but for blessings."

  • I still don't see any issues with the texts you posted. It's all about praying for the soul of the person at the time of their departure. Nothing speaks about those who are in Hades
  • Hi @minatasgeel Happy Feast.

    Could it not be inferred that the prayers are for those in hades too?
  • @cyril....well. We can't say we are asking for those in Hades because we simply DO NOT KNOW. we do not know if those are in hades or in paradise because we are not the judge.
  • I will post something by St. Cyril of Jerusalem, in his Mystagogical Catechesis:

    9. Then we commemorate also those who have fallen asleep before us, first Patriarchs, Prophets, Apostles, Martyrs, that at their prayers and intercessions God would receive our petition. Then on behalf also of the Holy Fathers and Bishops who have fallen asleep before us, and in a word of all who in past years have fallen asleep among us, believing that it will be a very great benefit to the souls , for whom the supplication is put up, while that holy and most awful sacrifice is set forth.

    10. And I wish to persuade you by an illustration. For I know that many say, what is a soul profited, which departs from this world either with sins, or without sins, if it be commemorated in the prayer? For if a king were to banish certain who had given him offense, and then those who belong to them should weave a crown and offer it to him on behalf of those under punishment, would he not grant a remission of their penalties? In the same way we, when we offer to Him our supplications for those who have fallen asleep, though they be sinners, weave no crown, but offer up Christ sacrificed for our sins , propitiating our merciful God for them as well as for ourselves.

    11. Then, after these things, we say that Prayer which the Saviour delivered to His own disciples, with a pure conscience entitling God our Father, and saying, Our Father, which art in heaven. O most surpassing loving-kindness of God! On them who revolted from Him and were in the very extreme of misery has He bestowed such a complete forgiveness of evil deeds, and so great participation of grace, as that they should even call Him Father. Our Father, which art in heaven; and they also are a heaven who bear the image of the heavenly (1 Corinthians 15:49), in whom is God, dwelling and walking in them (2 Corinthians 6:16).

    Therefore, by the witness of St. Cyril of Jerusalem, the time when the priest puts incense as we are commemorating the names of the departed, we are also commemorating the names of any departed, even if they died in sin, so that by our sacrifices, on their behalf, the Lord may forgive their sins.  This is the point of the Sagda prayers before it was changed.  May God reward and bless HH Pope Shenouda, for he was a great man, but we need to realize that HH was not right in all things.  Let's go back to patristics. If the text removed by the Synod existed in the liturgy for centuries, then the removal simply tells us we know better theology than the Church fathers.  What we were taught in Sunday School means that St. Cyril of Jerusalem was wrong.

    I'll dig more resources later, but here's an article that explains the "prayers for the dead":

  • Mina,
    Thank you very much for your comments. I hope we can engage in a fruitful discussion since prayer for the dead seems to be a controversial topic and clarification (or at least dialogue) is needed.

    Using the quote from St John Chrysostom that you provided, it doesn't seem to me that St John is necessarily contradicting the opposing argument. There is a difference from remission or absolving sin and transferring someone out of Hades to Paradise. Using St John's example, even if some people weaved a crown for the king on behalf of the person banished by the king, and the king absolves his penalties, it doesn't necessarily mean the king will allow him back into the kingdom. What if the king declared a law that there is no physical way for someone inside the kingdom who is banished to return? It doesn't mean that the person outside, who has their sins forgiven, can go back in even if the king has turned away his anger. If the banished person does return to the kingdom, then it either means (1) the king is schizophrenic and/or (2) his law forbidding return to the kingdom was meaningless from the beginning.

    This is how I understand the scripture passages on Hades. Using a more modern example, image Hades is a prison where there will never, ever, ever be the ability to escape. Suppose a person is convicted of sin and sentenced to this prison. Even if the judge who sentenced a person to this prison has compassion and forgives him of wrong doing, it doesn't necessarily mean the man is allowed to leave and come back to society (especially if he physically can't leave). Christ told us in the parable of Lazarus "between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’" Luke 16:26. 

    Look also at 1 Peter 3:18-22. "For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit. After being made alive, he went and made proclamation to the imprisoned spirits  to those who were disobedient long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a clear conscience toward God.It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand—with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him."  When Christ was made alive in the Spirit and went to Hades, to the imprisoned spirits, did he remove them from Hades? No He went to declare to those who were disobedient in the days of Noah that the Arc was salvation because it was baptism. 
  • Praying for the dead and offering sacrifices on behalf of the dead for the remission of sins or purification are obviously allowable. It is the idea that one can transfer out of Hades that is a problem. Heaven, Hades, and earth are all going to pass away in the final judgment. See 2 Peter 3. However, knowing that Hades will be destroyed doesn't mean Hades is a weak holding place and it has no importance. The same is true of sinning. If prayers for the dead and sacrifices annul the sin of the one in Hades as it does while one is alive, what is the point of suffering and steadfastness? In Ezekiel 18, God says that the righteous lives, the one who sins dies. "The righteousness of the righteous will be credited to them, and the wickedness of the wicked will be charged against them...But if a wicked person turns away from all the sins they have committed and keeps all my decrees and does what is just and right, that person will surely live; they will not die. None of the offenses they have committed will be remembered against them." This is all well and good when one is alive. But one who has died in sins does not have the benefit of annulling sins and returning to the place of living. That is why St Peter, speaking of the day of the Lord, says "Therefore, dear friends, since you have been forewarned, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of the lawless and fall from your secure position." Why forewarn someone that lawless people will be carried away and fall from a secure position if a posthumous sacrifice will annul that lawlessness and restore that person to his secure position? This is the problem with purgatory. It's one thing to believe in posthumous purification, it's another thing to believe that this purification has the ability to transfer you from an inescapable prison to paradise. 

    By the way, that article is filled with assumptions and erroneous logic. 

    In this framework, I think we can reconcile the patristic writings on prayers for the dead and recent changes in the Genuflection rite of the Coptic Church. 

  • I know it's been a while. I'm collecting a short florilegium with some commentary from me, hopefully by Monday. To summarize, I don't think the afterlife beliefs should be dogmatized, but we should respect whatever tradition that has been passed to us. In the end, what is the most clear ideas about the afterlife is "neither eye has seen, nor eat heard, nor heart can contemplate." The ultimate spiritual maturity is that such ideas of the afterlife do not matter, but that you live your spiritual life only for the sake of loving Christ.
  • +

    Mina - please forward to me when done, not just the condensed version.

    pray for me, please,
  • Sorry for the length it took for me to post this and for the length of this article, but to avoid posting this in what could possibly be 10-20 posts, I just created a Word version and posted it on my google drive:

    So, the uncondensed version is for everyone to see ;)

    But to be fair, I'll give an abstract:

    This is to give a florilegium of the idea that there it is possible to transfer some souls from Hades to Paradise.  Quotes come from the Acts of Perpetua and Felicitas, the Acts of Paul and Tekla, Tertullian, St. Clement of Alexandria, St. Basil the Great, St. Gregory of Nyssa, St. Augustine, St. Macarius the Great, and various post-Chalcedonian Coptic sources, such as St. Shenoute the Archmandrite, Aba St. Cyrus by Pambo, and St. Pistentius.  In short, I demonstrate I hold no dogmatic feeling to what happens in the afterlife, but to make the point that the earlier quote I provided by St. Cyril of Jerusalem cannot be reconciled with HH Pope Shenouda III, but that neither views are heretical.  I address Luke 16 and 1 Peter 3 and I even talk about a parable in Matthew 18 to add to the discussion.  In short, I am not pleased with the removal of part of the Sagda prayers and that any tradition of the Afterlife given to us, even if contradictory, should not be changed, altered, or condemned.

    God bless.

  • +

    Dear Mina,

    God bless your efforts. Thank you for your work in this, really. I pray that we don't dogmatise things that are not dogma and allow that there are things we simply do not know or understand. 

    Pray for me,
  • Father bless!

    Thank you! Keep me in your prayers as well!

  • Sorry, forgot to add a small part before I uploaded's the updated link:

  • Wow thank you Mina. This is really well done. Here's another link to your document
  • Mina, 

    I wanted to thank you for your post. I believe there is some room for discussion but I don't want this to turn into a discussion where people take sides based on who is more convincing, rather on the content of the argument. And I don't want to give the idea to others that we are diametrical opponents. I have always viewed your knowledge and posts here and other places with the utmost respect.  It is for these reasons I am reluctant to continue a discussion. But I think we can continue a fruitful discussion, as long as it doesn't become a pseudo-intellectual, rhetorical boxing match. 

    I will need some time to find some resources. 
  • Dear Rem,

    Forgive me if I seemed like I was being intimidating in any way. I only wrote in anticipation of anyone thinking I am endorsing heresy and in opposition to HH Pope Shenouda, and I've seen this happen to people who do try to have an honest discussion. That is why I reacted the way I did. Recently, HE Metropolitan Bishoy wrote an article about how St. Isaac the Syrian is not a saint in the Coptic Church, that he was a Nestorian heretic and a universalist and should not be trusted when compared with the theology of HH Pope Shenouda. I really do get very worried that Pope Shenouda is used as a measuring stick of Orthodoxy, and I wish people can realize that even our beloved Popes can make mistakes.
  • HE Metropolitan Bishoy's comments, and I have not read the article myself, is an example of intellectual, rhetorical boxing. It attacks a person (in this case St Isaac the Syrian) "rather the content of the argument". Now, HE Met Bishoy's article may very well have arguments showing St Isaac the Syrian is nestorian. In this case, your assessment of HE Met Bishoy's article is at fault. Regardless, it is this reactive response to another person's argument that I am trying to avoid. 

    Pope Shenouda is actually a good measuring stick of Orthodoxy. The same is true for Pope Kyrillos VI. People disagreed with both patriarchs for many reasons. Neither were infallible. But they are still living symbols of Orthodoxy and the Orthodox faith. How people have been misguided in their simple adherence of fallible men is not reason to claim these patriarchs were not legitimate measuring weights of Orthodoxy.
  • That's the point, neither were infallible. But that's not been the behavior of other Copts. When I said "measuring stick", I mean the fullness of all dogmas rest in what they wrote or said.
  • Random quote (food for thought about the Church of the East):

    "If by the term ‘Nestorianism’ we are to understand the teaching against which Cyril of Alexandria fought — that is, the teaching about the two different persons in the Son of God which led to the recognition of ‘two sons’— then this doctrine was alien to the east-syrian tradition. Yet east-syrian theologians did speak of two qnome-hypostases in connection with the incarnate Son of God, and the Church of Persia, having not recognized the chalcedonian doctrine of ‘one hypostasis in two natures’, found itself in verbal opposition to the byzantine Church. From the fifth to the eighth centuries, writers of the Church of the East continued to use the christological terminology of Theodore of Mopsuestia and Diodore, and in the Greek-speaking East this was generally identified as 'nestorian'. The Church of the East continued to commemorate Theodore and Diodore after they had been anathematized in Byzantium, and it included the name of Nestorius on the diptychs long after he had been condemned. All of this testifies that the Church of Persia, though not ‘nestorian’ in a strict doctrinal sense, adhered to the theological and christological thought which was rather close to that of Nestorius.

    By the end of the seventh century, political circumstances effectively cut the Church of the East off from the byzantine world, which thus became largely irrelevant to it. This further isolation did not, however, lead to any decline in theology and the spiritual life. On the contrary, in the seventh and the eighth centuries the Church of the East reached the highest flowering of its theology: at this time lived and worked such writers as Martyrius-Sahdona, Dadisho', Symeon the Graceful, Joseph Hazzaya, and John of Dalyatha. All of them were primarily mystical writers and did not occupy themselves with christological questions. Little known outside the east-syrian tradition, they constituted what one may call ‘the golden age of syriac Christian literature’. The only representative of this ‘golden age’ to become known throughout the world was Isaac of Nineveh."

    by Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev. “The Spiritual World of Isaac the Syrian” (Kentucky: Cistercian Publications, 2000) 24-25.

    and also nice interview by one of the most renowned Syriac scholars: 

  • Mina & Remnkemi

    Here's a classic meme :P

  • +

    Rem and Mina - thank you for this exchange, actually. It frustrates me to no end when people are not seeking "what is the truth" about a particular subject, or addressing the content directly…we have a cult of persona in every extreme. We should never be afraid of the Truth. I love reading both of your posts even when I disagree! 

    pray for me,
  • Mina,
    I don't know if anyone or even any Christian Church has the fullness of all dogmas in their writings. The interview Cyril provided about Sebastian Brock shows that the Latin West has built a tradition of canon law, the Eastern Chalcedonians built a tradition of philosophical writings and the Syriac Orient built a tradition of theology in poetry. Personally, I think this view is oversimplified and inaccurate but it shows that no church had one tradition encompassing all dogmas, traditions, and philosophies of Orthodoxy. That's the beauty of Orthodoxy. It's bigger than we can describe it. 

    Either way, you're point is well taken and overall we agree.

    Peniot AP,
    If you disagree with something either of us write, why don't you enlighten us with your comments? Over the years, I know your posts have always illustrated "the truth". We love reading your posts too. Don't make it one-sided.

    Thank you for the references and the videos. You are really good at research and finding Orthodox writings. Please continue. 

    That being said, I am greatly upset at the "classic meme". I know you meant nothing malicious by posting this. But to me, such caricatures illustrate a disrespect to liturgical customs, philosophies, nuances and most of all clergy. This particular meme takes a 1000+ year tradition of simple Orthodoxy and turns it into some sort of superstitious idiocracy. It ignores Coptic hagiography that tells someone can be so simple, uneducated and be called St Paul the Simple. It ignores St Antony's story who was able to defeat educated and learned philosophers through simplicity by the power of the Holy Spirit. It ignores the piety of simple religion in James 1:27. And worse of all it, it memorializes this poor monk's moment of weakness where he exhibited anger and brands it as the poster image of Coptic behavior. To me, it is not the erroneous belief that some Copts treat our popes as infallible teachers that is unacceptable. It is the derogatory, condescending, and intentional judging of simple piety in the form of comedy (that we know the devil uses) that the person who created this meme (and those who agree with it) that I find inexcusable. The first shows weakness but piety. The latter shows a complete disregard for Christ's commandments. 

    I am sorry I went off on a tangent. I will try to respond to the sagda prayers as soon as I can.
  • Agape, all!

    Unlike the theologians whove responded here, I'm not as well versed in the issue. I would however like to stress a point that's been made time and again on this thread; that we cannot dogmatize what is dogma. If we do this, we end up engaged in some sort of witch hunt, where we do whatever we can to make a proponent of an opposing idea into an opponent. In such questions as pertain the afterlife, I have found it more harmful to debate than to let it go. When asked about universalism (as an example) or about the permanence of hell, my answer has always been, "I don't intend on being in hell if even for a moment." 

    As regards the question of measuring sticks of Orthodoxy, I must ask "What is Orthodoxy but Christianity." Orthodoxy is not a form of Christianity. It is Christianity. Thus the measuring stick of Orthodoxy is the measuring stick for Christianity. St. Paul tells us who the measuring stick of Christianity is when he says, "Fixing our eyes on Jesus; the pioneer and perfecter of faith." (Hebrews 12:2) The problem comes when we take our fathers and make them (in some way) equivalent to Jesus. Whether these fathers be contemporary, or ancient is not the questions. We must live the spirit of the fathers, and be unafraid to disagree with them. No man is perfect. Sadly, within our Coptic church, we have come to a point of idolatry (sorry for the harshness in how that sounds) of certain men. I saw a picture at around the time of the passing of HHPS3 that had me scratching my head. Someone had painted a picture of the good shepherd, but had painted HHPS3 holding the lamb rather than Christ. Now, I understand the intentions was great, and I certainly do not want to entertain an execution over a picture, but it is at least illustrative of this mentality that we have. 

    But this mentality goes further than our misunderstanding of just the papacy. Our ecclesiology is in absolute shambles! From the role of women, to the deaconate, to the priesthood, to the bishopric, and finding its ultimate confusion in the papacy. But if we take a step back, and re-source our ecclesiology to a truly biblical and patristic source, many of these issues will resolve themselves. The Pope will no longer be seen as a Dalai Lama or an oracle who comes in contact with Christ unlike the rest of us who commune in his flesh. The Bishop will be seen as a father rather than an administrator of activities. The priest will be seen as a member of his community who offers the sacrifice on behalf of, and with, the people. The deacons will be seen as servants rather than being left as some obsolete rank. 

    Rem, I must say that I disagree with your analysis of the meme. Firstly, just because the devil uses comedy, does not make it off limits The devil used the OT in his attempt to tempt XC. But the OT is not off limits. Oscar Wilde says, "If you want to tell people the truth, make them laugh. Otherwise, they'll kill you." So this meme is a comic way of pointing out a fault. And here is where I would disagree most. Simple Piety is not excuse for what confusion we are currently experiencing in our churches. Piety and Pietism are not friends. It is not piety to support the unlawful excommunication of a theologian without fault because "el baba al keda." This "piety" is what ruins a mans name and unjustly so. Piety does not fellow with injustice. Christ is pious and just. The piety of those simple men and women in our church is not shown when they unthinkingly obey orders that clearly contradict the spirit of the teaching of XC. Piety is not weak. Piety is not unjust. 


  • Ray, I so very much miss having you here. Welcome back Prodigal Son. I wanted to bbq the fatted calf for you but since we are fasting, would you settle for bbq salmon and swordfish steaks? 

    Regarding the picture of HHPS3 holding the lamb rather than Christ is reminiscent of Orthodox understanding of the priesthood. On the ordination of a bishop or priest, we read the parable of the Good Shepherd because the pope is the Good Shepherd who is an icon of Christ. We see Christ through the icon (even if the icon looks nothing like Christ). In the gospels, Christ tells us when you see a stranger or someone in prison, you see me and the Father. I think no one will look at a random stranger and say, "Look it's Christ. Or look it's God the Pantocrator." We see a beggar, a criminal, a stranger; something that doesn't look like Christ. In the same way, we see a picture of Pope Shenouda as the Good Shepherd who is a picture of Christ who is a picture of the Father. It does not mean we become idolators, treating Pope Shenouda as Christ, or confusing Christ for the Father. For sure, some people in simple ignorance have intentionally blurred the icon and confused the message. It may even be intentional evil. But I would not conclude that those who mistaken or misunderstand our theology of iconography are evil idolators or something like that.

    This leads me to the meme. If I mislead anyone to think simple ignorance is an excuse for masked injustice, then I apologize. All I wanted to show is that our whole culture has gone to the extreme of dismissing piety in all forms, branding it as superstition or ignorance. But hagiography and liturgical language does not agree with this. God hid mysteries from the wise and revealed it to little children (Reconciliation prayer of St John). This piety is something for us to strive for. 

    The use of condescending, satirical, and judgmental comedy is not the same as manipulating the OT for ulterior, demonic motive. You and Wilde are correct. You can speak the truth through comedy. But when comedy becomes a medium for judging and contempt, then at best the truth is hidden in the comedy and at worst, the truth becomes no different than a lie. Honestly, when you see a meme like that, do you think "Stupid simple people who contradict their belief of infallibility with their practice/behavior and look foolish" or do you think "Am I one of those people who hypocritically believe in infallibility who needs to repent"? The first one is judgmental. The second leads to repentance and life. My point is the comedy of the meme did not yield unmistakeable truth or repentance. It resulted in judging and it was fun, at least for me. Comedy as a medium for God's truth can work but it is more often than not walking a fine line into the devil's domain. 

    I have no idea what you mean by "el baba al keda." But I assume what you are describing is not simple Christian piety but political following. The two are not the same. And it is not fair to say because people have a high view of Pope Shenouda or any bishop who has/have made unfavorable political decision, then these people are misplacing their loyalty. Just like the icon, it is in simple piety to follow a bishop that they are actively living out their loyalty to Christ. Now if the bishop is at fault for something, their piety is still counted for righteousness because they are doing it for Christ. I can compare this to 1 Corinthians 7:14-16. "For the unfaithful bishop has been sanctified through his flock, and the unfaithful flock has been sanctified through her believing bishop. Otherwise we the children would be unclean, but as it is, we are holy... God has called us to live in peace. How do you know, flock, whether you will save your bishop? Or, how do you know, bishop, whether you will save your flock?" (I hope you can see that I am not quoting St Paul verbatim in order to illustrate my point.) Again, I reiterate. No one is excusing injustice in the name of piety. "The spirit and teaching of XC" (why not just write out Christ?), is not found only in those who have the courage to disobey what they perceive as wrong orders, or those who have advanced training and higher education in theology. 

    It is also found in those who become fools for Christ.  This following story will be repulsive to those who are not simple. (Also note, I don't have the story in front of me so I may get some details wrong.) Take for example a story from St John the Little. His father, Abba Ammones was sitting with some elders. Abba Ammones told them if you want to see perfection, look at John. (He was a novice at that time). Abba Ammones called John and said to him "Show these men perfection. Take off your clothes." So St John took off all his clothes and stood naked in front of the elders. One may call this pietism. One may conclude this is injustice of an elder abusing his power over a novice and committing sexual immorality. But the pious saint simply followed because he knew that he had nothing to hide from God and in a state of perfection Adam lived with God naked. 

    Piety is not idolatry. It is not an excuse for injustice. It is strength. It is love for Christ. 

  • Thanks Remnkemi.

    I remember when I first saw that meme online a few years back I thought wow that's a bit mean, but then it also had a playful critique. I don't think the meme is intended to offend...if you notice it's more focused on how people react or theologize in our Church today. I think when a Church is self-critical and willing to direct her thoughts deeper in the life of the Holy Trinity there's a beautiful witness of humility and love.

    There's a very profound essay by Yannaras on Pietism which challenges certain directions that popular piety can lead to:

    In regards to simplicity, its a good thing, but there's sometimes an anti-intellectual mode that raised when simplicity is positioned in opposition to the mind and heart. I'm not sure there's such a stark dichotomy...spiritual life does not necessarily mean a rejection of the mind or of learning. A simple taeta desires to know more about her beloved and if she were presented with some truth that she previously didn't know I would think she'd accept it even if were "beyond" her suffers much.

    There's also the potential for simple to mean "charismatic" and a way to avoid addressing the intellectual tradition of the Faith.

    Again simple is good (is. One must not just do mental gymnastics :p ) but simple should not cause superficial faith...

    Here's a video of a RC priest who expresses the kind of constructive criticism that we can pray and hope may be of benefit to our Orthodox Church:

    Fr Robert Barron, 7 Keys to the New Evangelization,
    (at 10min 15sec)
  • Cyril,
    Thank you for the references. You are really good at finding these things. I'm jealous of your abilities. They always make me think and reexamine my stand. 

    I know the meme was not meant to be offensive. But at best it is hypocritical. It is making fun of how (simple) people theologize in our Coptic church by theologizing against those who do not agree with its own theology. It associates a perceived negative and erroneous behavior (by using the picture of an angry monk) to the Coptic Church itself, not to individual Copts who blindly follow a patriarch. The Coptic Church itself commands each person to self-scrutiny in order to have a deeper reflection of the Trinity. So what exactly is this meme trying to say and what was the honest result? Constructive criticism for positive change through comedy or covert judgmental invalidation for a behavior that may be done out of simple piety?

    Regarding simple piety, it is clear from these two references that they are not talking about the same thing. The article Yannaras discusses piety as an intellectual reawakening against the Church, a type of "adogmaticism" found in the Protestant reformation. But this is opposite of what the Protestant missionaries of Egypt found. They found Copts following the Church, not fighting against the Church. They considered this piety as superstition, ignoring the dogma associated with pious intercession of the saints and pious faith in the sacraments. The Catholic video speaks of dumbing down the faith. This again is not the definition of piety.  Piety is the mystical experience of God that intellectualism can not explain. It is not anti-intellectualism. It is para-intellectualism and many have argued that it is a higher form of revelation. Remember the reconciliation prayer of St John. 

    Simple piety is not charismatic awakening either or an aversion of intellectualism. This is what anti-piety intellectuals have claimed. St Shenoute the Archimandrite was the prime example of godly piety. He was certainly the most charismatic figure of Upper Egypt and hd was not opposed to intellectualism. In fact, he is the perfect ancient counterpart of Shakespeare. He was able to make an imprint on the Coptic language that no one else has been able to do. He was a staunch supporter of St Cyril against Nestorius. Yet, modern intellectuals like Leopoldt state his christology was "christless". He is so often criticized for being weak in theology. Much like the meme, it criticizes anything that is not intellectual, yet fails to see the opposite is true because it associates charisma with anti-intellectualism.

    Finally, why does anyone think piety implies superficiality of faith? It is the opposite. It is complete and utter depth of faith that makes a pious person, like St John the Little or St Shenoute the Archimandrite, do the things they do. It is pious faith in Christ's promise of the Holy Spirit that gives these men the ability to perform miracles. It is obviously not intellect that does miracles. Unfortunately, memes like that and an anti-piety attitude, create a false dichotomy that perpetuate wrong definitions of piety, pietism, intellectualism and depth/superficiality of faith. 

    Finally, we call all agree to disagree on what the meme does or doesn't portray. We can disagree on definitions of piety and dogmatism and intellectualism. We can disagree on the efficacy of prayers of the dead or dogmitization of prayers of the dead. I think it is fair to say, whether you agree or not, we are all concerned with examining and revealing the truth of Christ. 
  • Hi Remnkemi, let us look to Christ our God who gives life to all.

    Thank you for these a wonderful observations and yes to behold, abide and live out our baptism in the Divine Life of Christ is our deepest longing and reality. May we resist rejection of the body and rejection of matters of the spirit, may we be neither anti-pious or anti-intellect but rather wholly Christian.

    Perhaps as a reminder for us to transcend categories here's a prayer by a near contemporary of Abba Shenoute:

    "As you have made me worthy to approach you and receive you—and see, my hands embrace you confidently—make me worthy, Lord, to eat you in a holy manner and to taste the food of your body as a taste of your life. Instead of the stomach, the body’s member, may the womb of my intellect and the hand of my mind receive you. May you be conceived in me as you were in the womb of the Virgin. There you appeared as an infant, and your hidden self was revealed to the world as corporeal fruit; may you also appear in me here and be revealed from me in fruits that are spiritual works and just labors pleasing to your will.

    And by your food may my desires be killed; and by the drinking of your cup may my passions be quenched. And instead of the members of my body, may my thoughts receive strength from the nourishment of your body. Like the manifest members of my body, may my hidden thoughts be engaged in exercise and in running and in works according to your living commands and your spiritual laws. From the food of your body and the drinking of your blood may I wax strong inwardly, and excel outwardly, and run diligently, and to attain to the full stature of an interior human being. May I become a perfect man, mature in the intelligence residing in all my spiritual members, my head being crowned with the crown of perfection of all of my behavior. May I be a royal diadem in your hands, as you promised me, O hidden God whose manifestness I embrace in the perfection of your body."

    St Philoxenus of Mabbug
  • +

    "Peniot AP,
    If you disagree with something either of us write, why don't you enlighten us with your comments? Over the years, I know your posts have always illustrated "the truth". We love reading your posts too. Don't make it one-sided."

    Rem! I meant generally, not about a particular topic. We've had discussions before we were able to agree to disagree, and that's what I'm getting at. Except for Dogma, I don't see a problem with us not having the same conclusion. Point in case was our discussions about election of the Pope. :)

    pray for me,
  • Peniot, 
    I know. We don't need to have the same conclusion. But it is spiritually beneficial (at least for myself) to hear and read your views and posts. 

  • Ray, I so very much miss having you here. Welcome back Prodigal Son. I wanted to bbq the fatted calf for you but since we are fasting, would you settle for bbq salmon and swordfish steaks? 

    Father, I am no longer worthy to be called your servant, but if you must bring out the fatted fish, mahi mahi would be preferable. 
  • I wanted to chime in to mention how Rem makes a good point on the meme, more so about the picture than the words (I have no problem with the words imo). I think we need to find out where the picture comes from in what context. I know that it is comparable to the EO memes of "Hyperdox Herman", but to my knowledge the picture of "HH" is of a person who is knowledgeable and accepting of the fact he is the face of these specific group of Orthodox jokes. I think the monk on the other hand (known in the ''meme-osphere as "Miaphysite Mina) is a monk who was interviewed and grieving on the conditions of his monastery. When it was made known exactly this detail, people somewhat felt a little guilty making jokes about this "MM". I guess one has to say, humor is great, and I'm admittedly quite liberal with it, but I think we have to be mindful of the sensitivities behind them as well. It's a clash of cultures I know, because in the American culture, there is a certain popularity of self-deprecating humor, which removes feelings of guilt when you find out that the person himself is involved in this humor and laughing with us rather than we "at him."

    With that said, why don't we continue with discussion of prayers for the departed and benefit from our disagreements with each other :)

Memorial for HH Pope Shenouda

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