General Funeral Prayer Rite



  • I think it is all too easy to say that whenever we receive communion we must be joyful and praise God. Chanting Psalm 150 is not the only method of praising God and praying the 11th hour from the Pascha is still to be considered praise.

    As far as I see it the Coptic church has a balanced service with a liturgy with minor differences. The alternatives are to recognise it as a real feast and break our fast completely as the Syrians do or declare that we are stil in a period of morning with Christ as the Greeks do and pray a liturgy of Pre-sanctified gifts only which involves keeping the Body and Blood of Christ from Palm Sunday and not praying a full liturgy on Thursday.
  • I am not sure I understand Ophadece's objection to praying a regular communion rite on Great Thursday. Can someone please explain to me?
  • Posted on behalf of Remnkimi:
    I think what Opadece is trying to say is that our rites are derived from Jewish predecessors that invoke plain reading of scripture. He is giving the example of the prophecies. Traditionally scriptures, like the prophecies, was read without any musical adornment in nearly all pars of the liturgy except for the psalms. This holds true, currently, for Arabic and English readings of the Agpeya, the Pauline, the Catholic and the Acts. He believes this practice is supposed to continue to Holy Thursday and Bright Saturday. 

    The reason often cited for Holy Thursday communion prayed in a festive tune doesn't necessarily make sense because the remaining hours of Covenant Thursday are in the Pascha tune and the festive Liturgy is placed in the middle. They all should have also changed to festive, like the communion prayer or the Covenant Thursday liturgy should be separated out of the Pascha prayers completely. 

    In essence, what I think he is saying is that communion doesn't need hymns with extensive musical embellishments (like Psalm 150 with instruments). Rather the prophecies are read with minimal or no musical embellishment (not just Panoti Panoti, but the 11th hour Pascha prophecies on Thursday and the Resurrection feast prophecies during Bright Saturday communion after Panoti Panoti.) Nowadays however, people prefer musical adornment and that is why the simple, plain, non-embellished reading of the prophecies and the Word of God has been nearly abandoned from services like the Midnight praises and Vespers. The trend is now moving to Holy Thursday and Bright Saturday. 

    I hope I didn't misrepresent your thoughts Ophadece. Please confirm.
  • T@RamezM and @remenkimi,
    No, I'm not saying that covenant Thursday shouldn't be festive. I agree it should but in certain parts. This is a unique service, though festive we are not supposed to give a holy kiss, and likewise we aren't supposed to sing psalm 150. That's a unique service. In Her wise ritual establishment through the ages the Church taught me that Christ's body and blood weren't publicly announced to the universe. How? By closing the curtain on covenant Thursday communion. Now that's a wise practice to be upheld. Secondly every reading in the church including ajbeya psalms should be sung. Same goes for prophecies of the 11th hour of baskha of Thursday. But people object!
    Remenkimi did point out my intention well about embellishment and adornment, which for me are wrong..
  • Dear Ophadece,

    Forgive me, but I find some of your points very problematic. I will not comment on Remenkimi's interpretation of your thoughts since you have corrected it yourself.

    You mentioned that the Church has taught not to publicly announce the Body and Blood to the universe, and she does that by closing the curtain on Covenant Thursday communion. You are confusing here different eras in the Church's history, something that unfortunately is done often by many with only a basic understanding of history. You are right of course that in early centuries the Eucharist was veiled and guarded. This is usually described by the Latin term Disciplina Arcana or the hidden teaching. Catechumens were dismissed after the readings for this reason, and even their catechism instructions (such as survive from John Chrysostom, Ambrose of Milan, and most famously Cyril of Jerusalem) do not include anything about the Eucharist or Liturgy. However, since roughly the 6th or 7th century the situation has changed, and today the rank of catechumens in the proper sense has mostly disappeared. There is no need, meaning, or point today to veil the Body and Blood from anyone. From whom would these mysteries be veiled, really? The very people of God, the Body of Christ? The Holy Spirit descends at the invocation on both the people and the bread/wine (Cf. the prayer of Epiclesis in our liturgies) to transform both into the body of Christ. Can we come after that and argue that Christ's body need to be separated from His people, after He Himself has died on the cross to remove that wall of separation? Obviously not.

    Now, you mentioned that we are not supposed to sing Psalm 150. According to which rite? The earliest reference I know about the liturgy on Thursday is the canons of Pope Christodoulos (11th cent.), where he mentions: No kiss, no offering, and no absolution. He does not address communion, or indicate that Pascha hours are to be prayed instead. By the 14th century and later, we see in most sources that indeed we are not to sing Psalm 150 in communion, but read the prophecies. Clearly then, this practice developed at a time later than the 11th century. So what was the practice before then?

    Naturally, pascha hours were meant to be prayed at their natural times throughout the day and night, particularly in monasteries. Otherwise, they would not have been labeled with times (first, third, sixth hours...etc). We do have explanations of how this was done in many sources. Of course at some point this became difficult practically, especially in the cities. Why? Not because people suddenly became lazy as might be thought (man has always been lazy), but because the Paschal lectionary was first expanded by Pope Gabriel II and later by Bishop Peter of Behnesa expanding the prophecies to every single hour (prophecies were only done in select hours of the day). Later still, we have the introduction of expositions, and homilies..etc. So, in a nutshell, even praying the 11th hour during communion is itself a later development, since the most natural place for it would be at 5pm. The practice then was probably a practical measure, rather than any kind of theological liturgical principle, much like the general funeral is nowadays done immediately after liturgy, creating all this confusion about melodies...etc.

    All historical details aside, what is clear is that there is not a single monolithic history one can go to, but a continuum of practices that varied across various epochs, and even locally in the same era. So then, what do we do? The fundamental lesson from this is that we cannot take the easy route of finding a historical precedence and sticking to it. When the Church community refuses to think critically and buries its head in the sand of history, it ceases to be a living worshiping community, with living edifying practices. For example, the veiling of the mysteries made sense up to a certain era, but now with different circumstances it would be completely destructive of our ecclesiology. That is why we cannot - and I insist - we cannot simply look at old books printed in the early 20th century, or even manuscripts, and follow blindly. We have to engage more fully and theologically to examine and reform when needed. Most manuscripts and sources post-14th century indeed say to pray Pascha during communion, (or at least read prophecies, since some sources do not mention Thok Te Tigom...etc.) But that is not enough reason to follow them.

    So what is the fundamental issue here with reading prophecies during communion? The awaited Messiah is here, on the table and in our mouths. We sing all year long "We see you on the altar everyday and partake of Your body and blood". Do I then distract from this mystical presence by reading His words instead? Do we ignore the presence of the King Himself, and instead read His message to us, let alone an Old Testament message merely foreshadowing His coming? It is baffling that many people question the appropriateness of glorifying saints at this juncture in the service (although the saints are the practical unfolding of the grace of Christ's incarnation and salvation in history), but we have here voices calling for veiling the body and reading Old Testament prophecies instead. This is not directed at you necessarily, Ophadece, but just thought I'd address this issue in a more thorough way.
  • Ok @RamezM, I need a computer to reply. Again you misunderstood some things I said but most importantly I was only talking about covenant Thursday that God broke the body and blood amongst the disciples ONLY not the whole world. You are very well read and well educated, and mistook me to be on a level I'm not on. But I did mention before how I'm aware rituals changed over generations. My whole problem is why change it now willy nilly when there's a very good reason it evolved this way. Please give me another few hours to reply to all your points on a computer.
  • I second Ramez
  • edited April 2014


    Now I am on a computer, I can reply in more detail and write longer;
    although I have to be honest and say I am not sure if "longer" can be
    any different to what I contributed with before. 

    First of all, I totally agree with you, and I said it before, rituals
    kept changing through the ages. I have no qualm with the congregation and the
    Holy Synod to continue to appraise and critique any thing, and not just follow
    blindly. However, these things that you mentioned have taken place for ages and
    they have very good reason. 

    As you rightly said veiling the body and blood of Christ is unnecessary
    anymore. BUT, on the Covenant Thursday it adds a meaning that the whole
    universe wasn't aware of such a miracle happening (indeed, miracle is only a
    mere word that cannot express the mysterious beauty of such an event).
    Therefore God was with his disciples and a number of other followers, but who
    else learnt of that until AFTER resurrection and preaching? So it only has a
    meaning to be done on Covenant Thursday.

    As for Communion itself, you must be aware that strictly speaking we
    should partake of the Communion AFTER the Jewish day has finished (i.e. after
    five o'clock, hence the baskha eleventh hour of Thursday). Psalm 150 is only
    withheld on this occasion, and on Apocalypse Saturday liturgy, because we read
    prophecies, both from other prophets as well as David the prophet himself. I
    don't see how this is different at all than singing psalm 150 with tune! It is
    still a prophecy, isn't it? Or does psalm 150 declare that Christ ALREADY came?

    Lastly, stating that the church had different practices in the same era
    is quite true, but the majority of churches followed these pieces of rituals
    since before the 20th century. In fact what the Holy Synod did, with the
    authority and approval of pope Shenouda (in fact I think he ordered that
    himself) was the more divisive act. Some churches started to do their own thing
    after Palm Sunday in joyful tune, some in annual, some in edriby, and some a
    mixture of either! That is why I see no reason for changing things willy nilly
    as long as we have developed a very good notion, through the evolution of
    rituals and reasoning throughout the ages. 



  • Sorry for the first line, it's a copy and paste from a word document and I couldn't edit it out...
  • I also forgot to add another point. I don't mind, or rather I shouldn't have any qualms with rites changing, but to change things out of negligence rather than for a good reason, and then it becomes the norm isn't right. Banowdy banowdy is a really nice soothing and yet saddening hymn, I don't see why singing the prophecies of the eleventh hour of baskha is very different..
  • Dear Ophadece,

    1- One can stretch any practice to give it a spiritual meaning or meditation. Is the idea that the curtain is to be closed as a symbol of the intimate nature of the first Eucharist attested anywhere in our sources? I personally don't recall seeing this anywhere, but I must check first to confirm. Even if a book here or a source there made this connection, isolated symbols like this are not what ritual is about. Things have to fit in together into one unified and cohesive system, and have to be in the same Orthodox and patristic spirit of our Church. As a general rule of thumb, our rituals in their purest forms are not very keen on "acting" or recreating historical events. You don't see for example a manger scene in nativity, nor do we have any recreation of the Theophany in the service per se. That is why many, and rightly so, criticize the Resurrection "re-enactment" as untraditional in its form and idea..and that comes as no surprises since it is an adapted Byzantine rite that fits better in its own Byzantine environment but was adopted by us in the late 19th century.

    2- There is a difference between reading done for instruction and teaching (the liturgy of the Word, the prophecies of Lent and Holy Week) and the singing of psalm as a praise offered to God. One is done for the instruction of the people, another is a prayer like any other praise or prayer we offer as the Church but just happens to be Scriptural. So singing any psalm in communion (Ps. 150 or otherwise) is not comparable to reading prophecies.

    3- Finally, you bring a good point that "My God My God" is not particularly festive. First, I don't think communion rites need to be festive per se. The melody of Lenten "Ounishty" is not festive, and one of the most relevant and powerful hymns for communion in the Byzantine church is "Of Thy Mystical Supper" or "Tou Dhipnou" which we borrowed and for some reason sing after the Pauline. There is nothing festive about Tou Dipnou's words, but it is appropriate in content.

    At any rate, it turns out that Panouti Panouti is the rite as it became stable now. Looking at our oldest two Paschal lectionaries (St. Antony 260 Rituals 12th century, and British Library 5997 Add, 13th cent.), it turns out the first communion hymn for Bright Saturday was actually Psalm 67, "Let God arise and let His enemies be scattered" which is much more joyous, appropriate, and proclaims the Church's victory and joy. 
  • @RamezM, again I need a computer to reply. Your first two points contain incorrect arguments in my opinion, whatever that is worth! I'll reply later.. blessed Lazarus Saturday..
  • @RamezM,
    1- I am sorry that I cannot at all find where I got the notion that it was written somewhere Christ hadn't announced His Body and Blood breaking except in front of His disciples. But it does make sense, probably I learnt it in the church or Sunday school. If Body and Blood had been announced many more people would have believed that day, and this may have deferred the process of Crucifixion and Resurrection. I don't know; it may only subjectively make sense to me as I learnt this before, but surely if I do find a reference I will bring it back here. I find a great problem when you say that our rituals are not keen on "acting" or "recreating historical events". One major purpose of the rituals is to relive (in other words recreate historical events) the past history, acting as though it is happening in front of us, however hard that is. That's one of the major if not THE major purpose that people lost understanding of. This goes along the teaching of God in the Old Testament of teaching the Israelites to carry out the passover yearly, doing every thing as once has happened when God saved them from the Egyptians. Step by step, bit by bit, with minor exceptions (but I am not clued up on these in the Jewish religion). Why is it a problem for you that Communion is partaken behind closed curtains once every year. Why do some people have problems with cutting out parts of the Nicene Creed during the Holy fifties (actually starting from the Covenant Thursday)! I cannot comment on Resurrection re-enactment, as what you say makes sense and it seems to be based on another basis that you have more knowledge in. Yes, we learn things in our church by watching rituals playacted before our eyes. So yes, one thing can mean many things or different things even for different people. There is no harm in that. 
    2- Of course I am more than 1000% certain you don't mean what you said, because you know what I am going to say more than I do. I will just say it again for the sake of people who don't know, and will just consider what you said a nice ploy to get out of jail (I actually didn't mean to fell you in any pits.. hehe). In our Coptic church there is no such a thing as "reading". We sing, taking the Jewish custom as I said in my previous post. Now, do you really believe that Arabic reading during the Liturgy of the Word is done for instruction? Seriously? No. The Arabic-translating boffins who were keen on Arabicising the Liturgy (starting from the reading) thought in their genius that Coptic is read (i.e. sung) facing the altar. Why? Because the Copts that is the forefathers did everything anti-clockwise, and the system of writing of Coptic is like English (you can see where this is going, yeah?) so they sang Coptic facing the altar. Now the pro-Arabic boffins thought they would do the reverse, because Arabic system of writing is opposite the Coptic. The purpose was not instructionary or lectionary AT ALL. With negligence, and the passing of ages, and people not wishing to sing Coptic every time the Epistles and Acts are read, people started misunderstanding the purpose of the Orthodox teaching. Reading (or singing) the Epistles and Acts is praying, and is served by the system of Coptic letter, hence the deacon (anaghonstos) facing the altar, very befittingly. I guess with mixing with other churches like the Catholic, the Armenian, the Syrian, etc, people started thinking that it was lectionary. NO IT IS NOT. Hence, when the Coptic Orthodox church started spreading in Western countries, no one stopped to think that English, French, Italian, and a whole host of other languages, used in reading the Epistles and Acts (NOT SINGING THEM) would face the altar. They thought it was lectionary. That is wrong. So there is no such a thing as reading the prophecies during Communion. They are sung, and they are exactly like banowdy banowdy, or the more old-fashioned (I'd dare say) authentic psalm 67 as you said. 
    3- I won't comment on Tou dipnou as I am against such inclusions, but this is not for discussion with you knowing how much you are learned in the Greek language. As you rightly say, how do you treat Covenant Thursday as festive, or half-festive half-annual and include such a tune? That is beyond me. Anyway, ownishdy and bema'rowmi are not Psalm 150, but you definitely got the point of how the Psalm sounds during sad days (weekdays at least of the Lent besides Saturday and Sunday). I agree with point 3 on the whole. 
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