Gender Requirement or Preference for Making Holy Bread

Hello Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

I had a question regarding whether the fact males can only make the orban (holy bread) is mandated in the Coptic Church. Are there any Bible readings or Church passages that I can read upon this topic? 

Thank you all in advance.


  • The rule is, only "deacon ranks" are allow to do the orban that is presented of which the Lamb is chosen.  
  • @minatasgeel so epidiakon and higher? Or Oghnostos? Or just anyone ordained (eg, epsaltos and higher)?
  • edited October 2017
    Couldn’t consecrated (mukarasa) females also bake the prosphora?
  • @minasoliman...I am not actually sure. What i am saying is based on experience rather than a source. We never had a consecrated deaconess in church to be put in the position of them making the hamal. But we did have some old ladies at some point of time make the orban, not the hamal. Some kept telling me that this was because they were not-married...but i think that's just a misunderstanding of who is supposed to do the hamal and who can access Bethlehem and maybe help. 
  • This 'rule' is a made up useless idea.

    If, and we know this to be the case, the early church used to have those individuals offering the Bread and Wine and Oil (amongst other liturgical items) at the liturgy after having made them at home, then this cant have any historical basis.

    Personally, I abhor it and all the made up stuff we ascribe to it (like calling the place where korban is made to be 'Bethlehem').
  • @mrpete33...I think you're being too dismissive of these rules. But you know what, i'll actually spend time looking into it and get back to you. 
  • edited October 2017
    Isn't that why in the liturgy we "pray for these Holy and Precious Gifts, our Sacrifices, and those who have offered them" ?
  • God is good...i didn't have to look too far.

    Fr. Athanasius El-Makari has a book called "The Divine Liturgy: the Mystery of the Kingdom" (two parts). In the first part, page 180, section called "Baking the Orban and preparing it." The book is in arabic and there are too many footnotes that are instead of just translating, i'll summarize. 

    Abouna Athanasius says that the orban is made using an oven/bakery that is owned by the church that is called "The house of the orban" or as its famously known, "Bethlehem". The latter name he confirms it for the reason we all know--as Christ was born in Bethlehem of Judea to carry our sins, this Lamb/Prosphora (as the Greeks call it) is made in Bethlehem of the Church to be offered on the altar as Christs holy Body, to give salvation, forgiveness of sins, and eternal life to those who partake of It.

    - "The orban must be baked in the bakery of the church and cannot be baked by a woman. He who trespasses this [rule] let him be excommunicated (mahroum). And if any priest finds out [about breaking the rule] and does not disclose it to his bishop, then he is also a partaker in this sin" (Pope Cyril II Canons, 1078-1092 AD, Canon #13)....Abouna comments on this by saying that the rite of making the orban is part of the Divine liturgy and the Syriac church only allows presbyters, monks, and deacons to make it, while they also had an exception for an elderly women, pure and known for her good works to make it (Patriarch Ephraim II).

    - Abouna says that it's possible that the main reason for Pope Cyril's II canon is what was written in an earlier canon by Pope Christodolos (1047-1077 AD): "We permitted the believers to make the orban in their homes and to bring it to the church, according to each one's ability--to them will be wages and rewards according to their honesty. And it is to be made according to the known custom. Therefore, this will be a mercy unto the church to not increase its burdens" (Pope Christodolos Canons, #32).

    - Abouna also says that the priest was not allowed to leave the church to bake the orban, or to enter the bakery as it is not his job (Pope Athanasius Canons, #34). So the job of making the orban was given to a person who was called "Al-qayyem" or "Al-qawwam" (literally it has a couple of meaning but all are similar to straight" or "standing" or "leader"). Abouna said that "The Qayyem" of the church is responsible for cleaning it, ringing the bells, and making the orban...and other church related things (Youhanna Ebn Abee Zakaria Ebn Seba', 13th century).

    - Abouna also says that the ingredients that were used must be owned by the church or donated to the church by a believer...otherwise it will be "a unlawful orban." He said that this is a must since a non-believer cannot be gaining the heavenly reward as the priest says here: "Remember, O Lord, those who have brought unto You these gifts, those on whose behalf they have been brought, and those by whom they have been brought. Give them all the heavenly reward."

    Abouna gets into a lot more details but to conclude, this just confirms what we currently do in the church and it's not something that is just "a made up useless idea."
  • I’m confused about the canon of Pope Cyril II and how it was connected to Pope Christodolous’ canon. Was there something wrong before the ban against women baking? Was this the first time women were banned?
  • @minasoliman...I don't think Abouna Athanasius concentrated on the 'woman' part as much as he did on where is the orban was being made. I think this is so based on how much he wrote concerning 'lawful" or 'unlawful' orban based on how it's made later on in the section. Maybe Pope Christodolous’ canon gives away the idea that woman may have helped since it's being done at the believers homes...Pope Cyril II wanted to set the record straight.

    Also, that doesn't mean that women used to make the orban. In Pope Christodolous’ canon he says: "And it is to be made according to the known custom." I can only understand that the pope here confirms that it is to be made in the same way still, but the exception is just where it's made. 

    Oh, and one more thing, abouna says that Pope Cyril's canon may have also been to restore the original rite. So, the original rite was this, Pope Christodolous’ added an exception to it, but then Pope Cyril confirmed the original rite without considering the exception.
  • Interesting stuff...thank you!

    This would make for good future research to compare and contrast the ancient church practices along the line of Oriental Orthodoxy.
  • Interesting question. I wrote a few pages on this in my doctoral work on the prothesis rite in the Coptic Church. Allow me to summarize:

    - The Canon by Pope Christodoulus already indicates that baking the offering at home was already an extinct and unusual practice by his time (11th c.). The text says clearly "We have allowed..." implying a deliberate change from the status quo. I think this shows that by his time the normal custom was for the offering to be baked in the church.

    - The fact that the very next pope, Cyril II, would issue a canon explicitly contradicting his predecessor shows that the latter's canon was perceived as unusual. I argue that given the dire circumstances in Egypt and in the community especially at the time (during the rule of Al-Hakim bi Amr Allah), Christodoulus was probably taking a pastoral measure in order to elicit the help of the community, at a time when churches may not always be equipped or financially capable of making the bread. Once things calmed down by the time of Cyril II, it was natural for norms to be re-instituted.

    - By the 13th century the tradition of baking the bread at church and by men only had become normative, even becoming an "identity marker" between Copts and other "heretical" groups. The 13th century anonymous work Tartib al-Kahanut (note that it is NOT written by the 10th-century Sawirus ibn al-Muqaffa as Fr. Athanasius often claims), lists the baking of the bread by women as one of a number of ritual deviations committed by the Melkites, besides their dogmatic problems (two natures...etc.). Clearly by his time the baking of bread by women was considered so unthinkable that it was a clear marker of "ritual heresy".
  • Awesome stuff are a gem
  • Ramen, that seems like it was something that developed not necessarily something that was already there then?
  • A canon in the 10th century does not exactly argue for any real historical basis. All it argues for is that the 10th century Coptic Church in its own socio-cultural context decided to arbitrarily forbid the making of the Offering at home and/or by women. This does not reflect some eternal 'truth' that women should not be making the same offering which will enter into their bodies in order to enact a unity with Christ within each and every single one of us and them.

    Arbitrary canons and opinion should be treated as exactly that. Otherwise one could simply go and quote mine all the random canons that have ever been published and apply them to circumstances and times they were never meant to be applied to.

    This is certainly a made-up 'tradition' (I even hesitate to call it a tradition).

  • should put some time into understanding how canon law works...

    What you would like to call 'tradition' or 'Tradition' or 'acceptable' or not is totally arbitrary because you do not have any authority...neither do I or RamezM or minasoliman....that's why instead of explaining why things are or were according to our own opinions or understanding, we consider what currently governs us as the Orthodox Church as a basis....and that is canon law. 
  • edited October 2017
    Its interesting that you think I need to understand canon law and what "governs" the Orthodox Church. Which canons do you refer to? Any canons? All canons? Only canons of the Alexandrian patriarch even though the Church surely consists of all her patriarchs (atleast prior to schism and separation)?

    Like Canon 15 of Nicaea?

    "On account of the great
    disturbance and discords that occur, it is decreed that the custom
    prevailing in certain places contrary to the Canon, must wholly be done
    away; so that neither bishop, presbyter, nor deacon shall pass from
    city to city.  And if any one, after this decree of the holy and
    great Synod, shall attempt any such thing, or continue in any such
    course, his proceedings shall be utterly void, and he shall be restored
    to the Church for which he was ordained bishop or presbyter."
    - It seems to me that many bishops, priests and deacons pass from city to city. In fact it seems that nearly 40% of the bishops ordained dont even have a city, also violating this canon.

    Or perhaps Canon 15 of the local council of Gangra
    "If anyone shall forsake his own
    children and shall not nurture them, nor so far as in him lies, rear
    them in becoming piety, but shall neglect them, under pretence of
    asceticism, let him be anathema."
    - Yup, there goes half the saints in the Synexarium

    Maybe Canon 10 of the Canons of the Apostles?
    "All those of the faithful that enter into the holy church of God, and hear the sacred Scriptures, but do not stay during prayer and the holy communion, must be suspended, as causing disorder
    in the church"
    - Yep, there goes half our churches.

    Or perhaps the 14th canon of the local council of Ancyra?
    "A priest who is an abstainer from flesh, let him merely taste it and so let him abstain [thereafter]. But if he will not taste even the vegetables cooked with the meat, let him be deposed"
    - Sorry for any of you who have vegetarian priests.

    Canons are not monotonous, static laws laid down for all eternity, much less the canons of one individual in the church's life. The canons function to bring out and highlight the life of the Church. As the life of the Church moves forward, so does our understanding and use of the canons. We simply do not adhere to every single canon ever put out (or else one should memorize the Rudder and its cataloguing of the canons). We also cannot simply pick and choose and decide which canons we think apply today and keep doing them "for the sake of doing them".

    Its undeniable that people used to bake the offering at home and that task likely came down to the women,
    " Although there were certainly many
    bakers in the towns and cities, bread-making was still often a domestic
    task undertaken by women (see Pliny,
    Nat. 18. 27), with considerable
    regional variety" from
    McGowan, Andrew Brian. Ascetic eucharists: food and drink in early Christian ritual meals. Oxford, UK: Clarendon Press, 1999. p38.

    Maybe you should do a little reading on the canons and their provisional (rather than binding) role in the life of the Church.


  • Oh. So you're taking the stance of "lets not follow this rule just because we are not following this other one"...I get you...
  • .... Thank you for your well thought reply.

    I see you are taking the approach of just not replying to legitimate propositions and are just comfortable doing whatever it may be that YOU see fit.

  • It's honestly something I've noticed too. How is it decided which canons are the most important to follow?
  • The Holy Synod decides, but in the meantime, the Holy Synod may need good research on these issues.

    Also, for this subject, I hope we let cooler heads prevail...

    I don't think anyone is arguing about whether one agrees or not with the canon, just simply when and in what manner was this particular rule was developed.  It would would probably help rather than discussing the issue of the use of canons, that more information on this prosphora baking rule be researched, not just on the basis of Coptic practice, but also Oriental Orthodox practice.  It's not helpful to simply dismiss canons in disgust or in a pejorative form, as correct and agreeable as you may be.  I am of the simple opinion that one needs to take a step back and concentrate on larger issues that could plague the Church, and then these other issues may follow, and this issue isn't that big of a deal to me, at least for the time being.
  • I am not simply dismissing this in disgust, myself. I am simply highlighting that this was a local practice that developed that lack some proper theological basis and/or elaboration. It is a symptoms of a more systemic syndrome.

    Glory to God though, He has raised up some bishops and defenders of the faith in our own day.
  • "Oh. So you're taking the stance of "lets not follow this rule just because we are not following this other one"...I get you..."

    Bro you're better than this. Don't cop out. He's raising a question as to how authority is voiced in the church. He put faith in your power of reason to make that inference yourself. Don't hide behind snarky remarks. 

    I think what you need to show, tasgeel, is why you believe this canon should be interpreted without invoking economia, whereas all the above other canons (and so many more include the disgusting canons of awlad el 3assal) are either not followed or interpretted with economia. Yes, there are some disgusting canons. Yes they should be expunged. No, this one in particular is not disgusting. But "canons" are such a farce now. Its the equivalent of mandatory minimum sentences. Its just a way to force your agenda. 

    It's not throwing out the baby with the bathwater. Its a simple question of how you discern the baby FROM the bathwater. That is what is being asked. How do you discern what to apply economia to and what do you withhold it from. 

    She said take off your jacket. I told her mans not hot. 

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