No more Coptic?

Hello everyone!

So in our church, our priest wants less Coptic to be chanted during the mass or any other liturgical service like the Tasbeha. His reason, because it's an old language and no one understands it, so we must say it in English.

I don't mind saying hymns in English but if really think about it, the Liturgy of the Faithful is long and all of it is done in English with not one word of Coptic (upsetting but, oh well!) I believe we should have a balance between both languages, I don't want to abandon the language of my fathers.

Most churches have an Arabic Church and they do have a balance in between Arabic and Coptic. But my priest believes that most people who are in Egypt or came from Egypt to the US, do Coptic so can differentiate themselves from the Islamic people in Egypt or something like that (which I find it as a very funny and stupid excuse).

As well, at our church, I believe he priotises Soccer lessons on Fridays for the kids over Hymns Lessons. We are not passing the heritage of our church to our future generation. There is hardly any lessons anymore for the kids to learn the hymns in COPTIC!

What I wanted to ask is, what should I tell him? I don't want to lose the Coptic Language, I'm so sick of just trying to tell him how important it is to our church. I feel he doesn't understand it's importance.


Distressed Deacon


  • Bring it up to your Bishop :-)
  • I am not sure the bishop will have a different view. The most important thing these days is to please the congregation.. Isn't that what Christ would have wanted too? Haha.. Eldeen yosr walaysa 'osr.. La tonaqesh wala togadel ya a7' @dann100
    Oujai khan ebshois
  • edited August 2018
    I am an American convert and I approve of your comment. Last Sunday, we had a guest Priest (Our Priest is in Egypt to see his family until next week) and he did the majority of the Liturgy in Coptic. He was a monk, so he used a different book than the one we normally use. 

    I was the only one, out of seven Deacons, who could read and follow in Coptic. I was born in Ohio and became a Deacon in 2015. Those who were serving with me became Deacons as children.

    We need to improve in teaching servants and parishioners the basics of Coptic. 
    Tell him that he must understand that Arabic is merely the language of your conquerers, and that English and Coptic must blend together during the Liturgy, just as we do with Arabic and Coptic. 

    And also, knowing the hymns in English is wonderful, but if your church is not a church geared towards bringing diversity, you should teach Coptic, be able to do hymns properly in Coptic and English equally to keep the tradition a vibrant part of our church.

    He is misunderstanding that Coptic is the same as Arabic. Arabic will be drift away you begin to marry and have children in the places like the U.S. I have already seen the children of immigrants who may have even been born in Egypt be extremely ignorant about Arabic being spoken in certain churches. 

    This is just a transitioning time. You have to help to guide your Father, perhaps explain things to him by showing him how important Coptic is, and that the choices that our church makes in the next few decades will greatly influence the vibrancy of our church.  
  • Dear @ItalianCoptic,
    Thank you very much. Very well said.
    Oujai khan ebshois
  • edited August 2018
    Yeah that is right I am pleasing the congregation at the expense of souls.
    I had the below to say but I feel but it could be unwise and I should not drive people away who as st Jude says on some have compassion because God may be very patient for some who maybe were unloved in life or whatever or He may be patient but I do not know. He will count as many as deserve it as those of the 11th hour or who He wants but I don’t know.

    I had to say this:
    Because the devil before the sin says God is merciful and afterward God is harsh.
    Sin is not safe proverbs warns the harm of adultery. Some people commit the sin and die in it. If one has opportunity to repent he should not delay.

    I Must speak truth in love

    I can’t try to please all but must speak the truth for everyone to have the chance for salvation
    God’s word will offend some but they are not without hope if they take the opportunity now. One should not sin and then hope to be saved. As Jesus said to the adulterer sin no more. Because she still had chance to repent but if one delays he may lose chance like the foolish virgins

    See Galatians 5:16-26 and Ephesians 5:1-7. It would be harsh to terrorise people with Sirach 23:16-27.

    Even King David sinned and in the New Testament we may have the sure mercies of David. It means if one is not practicing sin without regret. If one happens to fall in sin God can be merciful but it still has consequences on earth. The bible says those who rejoice in the fall of the godly will be punished we must assure the sinner lest they are swallowed with too much sorrow upon their sign of sorrow but people shouldn’t plan to sin or they are practicing sinners even if there may be a chance for them to repent

  • everyone has good points.
    we need to also remember to learn obedience. run from pride, it is the worst sin!
  • edited August 2018
    I have important things to say since I mentioned that sirach quote which seems like it can mislead people who are weakened by these times.I can not edit posts. It is important to contend earnestly for the faith of the saints.
  • Dear @mikeforjesus,
    Forgive me for being so thick but I thought overall you echoed what I wanted to say, or have I misunderstood your point? The main thing is I hope I have not offended you..
    Oujai khan ebshois
  • edited August 2018
    Thank you dear brother. You are so kind.
    No you did not misunderstand me. I am glad I did not misunderstand you. Of course you did not offend me. My posts could be pretty annoying to read because of my weakness of writing ability and style and lack of discernment of thoughts. I try to be better. I hope it can be endured though I am ashamed that I have probably been too much for some before but I hope I can avoid more excessive disturbances. I was worried and agreed that we could myself especially could passively be allowing the world to numb our spiritual conscience but I think we need to be wise because the wisdom of God is first peaceable though we may need to distinguish if that is being used as an excuse to seek to never take a stand. Jesus said the way to life is difficult and we know Jesus was interested in not turning people away unless He knows it is God’s commandment to speak but also not compromising the truth at all. I know that may seem to be against my initial message a bit it is true God said we should not be cowardly which I would not be if I had an upright heart which trembles before His law
    so I think the solution is to purify our hearts from love of the world
  • Dear @mikeforjesus,
    Thank you very much for your reply. All your posts make sense to me and they are well written. I was just confused by the latest link and I had already missed the post before @mabsoota's reply, so it is my fault. Just to make sure your posts are more perfect, you can use more commas and punctuation marks. God bless you and please keep me and my wife in your prayers always..
    Oujai khan ebshois
  • Thank you for the nice compliments dear brother :) It is my honour to pray for you two. I shall remember you two always when I pray. But I am in more need of your prayers. Nonetheless I am glad to seek to do so diligently
  • Good afternoon.
    About the Coptic language.
    I am only a beginner in the Coptic traditions. Nevertheless I offer a comment, however weak it may be. When St Mark Evangelist founded the Coptic Church, the normal liturgical language, as far as I understand, was Coptic. The second liturgical language was Greek. In those days there were a number of Arab persons in Egypt and further East, usually part of one tribe or another. Arabic was not a liturgical language in the Coptic Church.
    Coptic is the latest form of the ancient Egyptian language, which includes Hieroglyphic and demotic, as far as I understand. It is part of a family of languages that is different from the family of languages that Arabic belongs to. Coptic has the added attribute of sharing several of its letters with ancient Greek (koine') according to what I read.
    A few centuries later, after St Mark passed away, there were invasions of Arabic tribes into Egypt. The new rulers were mostly persons who spoke Arabic. In those days the liturgical language of the Coptic Church was Coptic, and the secondary liturgical language was Greek. Several centuries later, the Arabic language began to be introduced into Coptic religious services.
    In the present times, Arabic is the standard, normal language in Egypt, for government and business, as well as the judiciary. It is also widely used in the Coptic Church.
    As individuals and families from Egypt move to the US and other Western countries, they bring Arabic with them, especially the elders. The children may or may not know much Arabic. Their interest is in mastering English (here in the US and Canada). I guess they want to master German or French in European countries, of course. But the liturgical language in the Coptic Church remains Coptic, and the secondary language remains Greek. Arabic could be viewed as a third language.
    When a Church abandons its mother language, many problems and changes happen, over a period of time. It may take one or two generations but the changes will happen, and they are not always for the better. Each language develops a culture and mindset.
    If a reverend wants to depart from the ancient customs and mindset of the Church he belongs to, and move into uncharted waters, so to speak, then he will adopt another language and forget his mother language. If the reverend wants to remain faithful to the customs and mindset of his Church, as was set forth by the founder or founders, then he will use the ancient liturgical language or languages as much as possible.
    This is something that the reverend deacon may want to bring to the attention of his bishop.

  • Dear @Cairo,
    Very well said. I guess you hit the nail right on the head, as being Orthodox by definition is to follow the forefathers and the apostles from whom we received the faith, the way it was handed to us. There is no harm in having had many modifications, some major and some minor, but as long as they followed Christ's teaching, that is to pray longer, then those were welcome over the ages. The issue now is that we want to do the opposite..
    Oujai khan ebshois
  • Why was the secondary language Greek? Predominantly, the responses of the congregation?
  • Dear @ShareTheLord,
    Originally the liturgy was written in Greek mainly and later it was converted into Coptic with the preservation of Greek parts. The Greek was the language of the Bible initially and it was the spoken language of the empire ruling the world, where the majority of the people communicated through it, pretty much like English now. Therefore when the Bible became available in Coptic, with the decline in the Greek empire and consequently the need to communicate through it, and with the distinction in the respect for Egyptian Orthodox teaching, the forefathers thought to translate the liturgy into Coptic leaving some of the deacon responses Greek to convey the universality of the prayers being made clear and repeated to the congregation. I don't know what sort of English this is, I do hope you will be able to understand me anyway..
    Oujai khan ebshois
  • edited August 2018
    Yes, I do! Thank you @ophadece. It seems to me the spoken language back in those days were important as well then - a bit like the English of today? So in a sense, it encourages the English movement while teaching us to preserve what was handed down nonetheless. Though, I still understand those who advocate for complete English as even back then both Coptic and Greek were commonly spoken languages in Egypt...
  • Personally, I think the issues lies with how we view Coptic.
    We see it as a language used ONLY in the liturgy and we forget that it is a whole, complete language! Some ancient Egyptian tunts gossiped in Coptic around 13 AD :))
    If we teach Coptic and get a grasp of what we're saying without needing a translation right next to it, then we will be perfectly OK with praying entire tasbeha's and liturgies in Coptic.
    Anba Demetrius in Mallawi has released books on the Coptic language as a teaching series, with two beginner books in Arabic and English and a higher level grammar guide in Arabic only, with all of these series being continued. We need more of this! 

    There is a young Ethiopian deacon, no more than 10 years old, at a local church I used to pray at. He came and had to learn by experience as none of us were able to teach him. He started learning Arabic from the responses and translations and sermons, but he also learned a bit of Coptic. I was reading some hymn to the other deacons and he randomly translated etfe into the heaven. I asked him who taught him that, as I was sure it wasn't his servant, and he said he taught himself. I asked him later what else he knew and was able to translate a lot of things, even figuring out the a <subject, infinitive> construction for the past tense by himself! At 10 years old!!
    This kid is my defense to anyone saying that we need to phase Coptic out of the Church services, or lessen it. If anything, we need to normalize it and teach it. We can't just start saying entire liturgies in Coptic, but we need to get accustomed to it, and then teach it so we know what we're saying. If it's normal to teach kids who don't speak Arabic efra7y ya Mariam and understand at least a little bit of it, why not do the same with Coptic?
    Anyway, that's just my two cents on the issue. It is, in the end, the decision of the local bishop, priest, deacons, and servants.
  • Coptic is an integral part of the identity of the Church. It has no theological value, ie anyone can pray in any language and this does not make them less Christian. So, it depends on creating a balance between connecting with the congregation who mostly do not understand the language and preserving the language at the cost that the majority would find it difficult to comprehend.

    In an ideal world, it would be great to teach children Coptic competently, so that they can understand as they grow, the historical value of Coptic without feeling that this is part of Christianity. It has to do with the Culture of Coptic Church, not Christianity.

    Practically, this is not happening, whether the church would abandon its history or not, this is yet to be determined, however, what is happening now, is a slow shift towards minimisation of the role of Coptic in the church in favour of indegenous languages.

    Hymns seem to be taking longer time, or at least the changes are not as visible and tangible as the language.
Sign In or Register to comment.