Communion Hymns Origins

Hi everyone,
I recently joined the Coptic Orthodox Church (was baptized, chrismated, and communed recently), and so am still learning a lot. I was wondering where we get a lot of our hymns from and how old a lot of them are? Specifically I have in mind songs like "Night of the Last Supper" or "The Burning Bush Seen by Moses." I was wondering this as I often see the lyrics to a lot of these hymns written in Arabic and English and not Coptic, leading me to think they were written after Coptic stopped being commonly used outside of the Liturgy.
P.s. forgive my ignorance on anything


  • Hi,

    Congratulations on your baptism.

    You are in the right place to find hymns and songs. I'm not familiar with "Night of the Last Supper" but "The Burning Bush" is one of my favorites:

    There is a lot of material on this website under the "Media" tab.

    God Bless!
  • Hello @theseanvert
    Welcome to our Church!
    I really like your questions and I tried searching them up because I wasn’t really sure, you brought up an awesome point to why they are written only in English and Arabic and not Coptic. When I was searching “The Burning Bush” I found that Pope Gregory was the first one who compared the Burning Bush with the Virgin Mary carrying the Lord Jesus Christ within her so the hymn had to be written after Pope Gregory. I couldn’t find anything for the Night of the Last Supper though. All I know for sure is that the melodies of the Coptic hymns in our church were melodies that the ancient Egyptians used like Golgotha and mostly all of the hymns came from there because when St. Mark came and preached Egypt, the melodies were used but the words of the hymns changed to fit for our faith. Hope that helps a tiny bit!
    God bless.
  • Welcome to the Coptic Church!

    What you're talking about are commonly called the melodies (madeehas) of communion- the hymns would be Psalm 150 and Pi-Oik ente EpOnkh (the Bread of Life), although those two change throughout the year (on fasting and feast days, we do not say Pi Oik and usually say something different related to the fast/feast itself).

    The hymns are very, very old, and I'm sure some of the other more knowledgeable people on this forum can give the hymns' exact history. The melodies are spiritual songs that are meant to keep us in the spirit of the Sacrament. They were written originally in Arabic for the most part and translated and adapted to English and many other languages.

    I know The Burning Bush is a Psali taken from the Kiahk (Nativity fast) midnight praise for Thursdays, and was probably written by a bishop a really long time ago. The tune is actually shared by lots of other Psalis and songs in the Kiahk Midnight Praise. As for Night of the Last Supper, it was probably composed as a melody specifically for Communion based on it's language.

    The reason those two melodies, and many others like them, aren't written in Coptic is because they were composed after Coptic stopped being the local language. Meanwhile, hymns like PiOik were written in the very very early Church, when Coptic was still widely used.
  • Dear all,
    Like @Daniel_Kyrillos I was waiting for someone more knowledgeable to shed more light on the answer of @theseanvert. However let's be very clear and not confused about something (unfortunately we all live in the diaspora where the practice has deviated massively, well, also in Egypt really) stuff like "alollaiqa", "en fadeena da'ana", "kaneesaty elqebteya", "wa habeeby", etc are not melodies, they are merely some Christian carols that wrongly found their way to the liturgical services. They should not be said altogether as they do not follow the criteria of Coptic hymnody in general, but I believe either @minatasgeel or @Remnkemi have expanded on this very issue before so I will wait for their extended and thorough explanation. Also beweik is not that old a hymn, as far as I understand it was composed in the 19th or 20th century taking various verses from the Adam Sunday taodokeya, but someone can again correct me if I am wrong. Lastly I believe the function of melodies was not really to fill the time after exhausting the Coptic hymns, it was a substitute, because unfortunately people feel that it is more important to engage the "audience" who are unwilling to sing in a dead language..
    Ⲟⲩϫⲁⲓ ϧⲉⲛ Ⲡϭⲥ
  • I didn't wanna get into this topic because talking about it can be very lengthy. So, for the sake of time and benefit, here are bullet points to consider, and maybe we can answer more specific questions after:

    + It is very difficult and sometimes near impossible to date or find the origins of a specific hymn or even right. Coptic scholars in academia, and there are a lot more of those these days in universities, are slowly working on either very big projects or very specific articles/papers concerning liturgical texts--consider that we are talking about "text" not tunes because, sadly, we don't have a system of passing down tunes in the coptic church (audio recordings only started int he last century, and you can't compare that to the other 18 the Church has been alive for and practicing the liturgy).

    + While the above is true, we mostly can identify the period and the place some hymns originate from. The keys to almost every study that considers historical records are (1) Time/Period, and (2) Place/Region. This was we can say, "Based on the fact that this hymn was written in this manuscript that dates to this period, and that is written in this style referring to this specific region, we believe that this hymns originated here, at this place, and around this time."

    + Also in consideration of the above, we kind of have an idea of where do hymns fit in our current liturgical rites and where changes took place. This is while realizing that rites and 'ways of worship' int he orthodox Church may develop over time depending on specific situations. 

    + We also find out, based on styles of writing, the source language a specific hymn was written into. 

    This All that being said, i didn't answer any of the questions in the original post. But here are some info:

    + The Burning Bush is a hymn/madeeha that was written to be said on the Thursday Theotokia during the month of's not a communion hymn but many decide to them just because they like it. 

    + There are a lot of what's called "communion hymns" "madaieh eltawzi3" in arabic. Those might of been written in the last 5 centuries...soo not too old, but in the same time not too modern either. While some may dislike them for having primitive language, do consider the "Time" and "Place" they were written in--time of persecution, of poverty, of ignorance and illiteracy...and through all these, our faith has still survived.

    + "Night of the Last Supper"/"laylo-l3asha elsirri" and "Our Redeemer"/"Enna-fadina" are only two of many many arabic songs that were brought in by the rich Copts who, in the last 2 centuries, while the church was in really dark ages (A light during that time was St. Habib Girgis), brought in from Catholic and Protestant theology. And because printing books was very expensive, mostly it was those "songs" that made it into books and newer books just kept copying.

    + As for everyone outside Egypt (I don't like the word diaspora anymore or even 'immigration' lands), we have used whatever was available to us...and now we are recognizing these issues and slowly (very slowly) dealing with them. 
  • Many thanks @minatasgeel.. very well said. By the way I forgot to say something in the post I wrote above, please also note that tasbeha hymns (be it midnight praises, vespers praises, etc) should not be used during the liturgy and especially communion. That specially applies to any psalies, taodokeyas, and/or canticles and their lobshes. Unfortunately this is not adhered to either.. 
    Oujai qen P[c
  • @ophadece...i don't consider that to be an issue though. You have to consider that the majority of churches outside egypt have one priest each liturgy that may have a huge crowd that need communion (body and blood separately). And sometimes there isn't enough "communion hymns" to say...even if you were saying the proper ones, it's not enough time. So some would have to get hymns that may be "ok" to say. So it really depends on the circumstances, and also the people that are leading and their knowledge of what's proper or not. 
  • Yes @minatasgeel and that leads us to the discussion on the common wrong vs the unrecognised right. For me just because some people find it OK to say something that doesn't make it right and it should only mean they need to be taught. We have a variety of asbasmoses that can be said during Communion, saints' doxologies (those can be said by the way but I know you must know that already), and a plethora of "unsung heroes" such as abakran, genetleyon, 'f'm'bsha ghar, kata nikhoroc, besides arebrecbawin + tobh verses, or Adam Abel, or behloj. We can even lengthen baralax verses to fit the time, but who is willing to take the responsibility? Ibrahim Ayad? Cantor Gad? Cantor Amir? Cantor Zaher? Anba Raphael? Anba Moussa? Well probably doing such a thing would drive people away so let's just do away with that and stick to the easy and palatable because it is nicer to people and it will keep them coming. No one has the time really, we should please people as if we were presenting a good popular radio or TV programme. By the way I will not even mention the more famous unsung heroes, such as ounishdi, ataibartanoc, or ondoc!
    Ⲟⲩϫⲁⲓ ϧⲉⲛ Ⲡϭⲥ
  • Hello @ophadece
    You make a point that some of the hymns that are from the Midnight Praises and Vesper Praises, etc should not be used in Communion Hymns and it is a common wrong and those who do this should maybe learn the other hymns to say. Learning and teaching from and to others is really good, it is always really nice to have it done correctly but I disagree with you at the end where you mention people to take the responsibility of this and that they are just like let us just stick with what's easy for people so that they do not leave. I believe that we are not for the hymns but the hymns are helping us, they are a tool in our spirituality and not our goal, it is not our goal to always get the exact melody or the exact hazzat and not miss any. It is about the spirit and the comprehending the words we are saying, our Lord Jesus Christ when he was ministering and preaching to the Jews and their problem with the Sabbath he said: "The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath" (Mark 2:27). Therefore the hymns for us is now like the Sabbath for the Jews, it is not about what is said when or which hymns we use and how old or new or their origin, it is using it as our tool. If we do this, how different are we from the Jews then or the Muslim now who pray at the exact time in the day and the perfect sayings and reading their Qu'ran in the perfect language and perfect melody? I do not think it is anyone's fault for this change, I believe if we want to keep our Coptic and all the heavenly hymns in place, to aid us spiritually, we should start teaching others if God has granted us this knowledge and be that change we hope to see in the Church of God, but not wait for someone else that is famous and known to take responsibility for us because in front of God if we have a talent and a knowledge God will judge us upon using them. I believe your point is excellent but I believe there is still room for us to pray and rise spiritually with the hymns that we sing in our churches now, although incorrect. God bless. 
  • edited January 2019
    Hi @msmekhael,
    Thank you very much for your post. I can see that you thoroughly understood my point and I will therefore need not repeat the things I said before. Now I have heard this saying too many times in different versions, "rites were made for man, not man for the rites", "hymns were made for man, not man for hymns", and so on and so forth. Psychologically speaking this is a way to cover up our wish to make it easy for ourselves covered in the image of not wanting to be pharisees. Let's pay heed to the verse you mentioned whereby God was teaching a correction of a wrong practice, criticising his creation for doing the very thing with their animal possessions, rather than fellow humans. By the same token, the Bible teaches us to do this and not forsake the other. It also teaches us that our Lord is a God of order. It also teaches us not to choose the easy way. It also teaches us that the more we are given the more is expected from us. Nowadays we have, YouTube, sound cloud, hundreds of church websites, Facebook, many apps with the right arrangement of hymns but we are still practising the easy way! I am sorry to say but this is the exact nature man was created in, that is the more available knowledge becomes, the more fallacious arguments we come up with - it is called "belittling the genuine goal" (I hope you understand what I mean as I can't find a good translation of the Arabic term). I see it as we are impoverishing our church, one who despite all the lost hymns is very rich and has an unmatched treasure, not found anywhere else. Because of the wrong practice our youth now can not differentiate between hymns, melodies and mere Christian songs. They don't know specific hymns have special time and arrangements. They don't know they follow specific rules and criteria, and that our Orthodox Church has been infiltrated with non-Orthodox music and in some cases charismatic tunes. You of course know that I am not at all referring to people on this forum, and I certainly don't mean to criticise but I would like to see Her clothed with the ideals that He instructed us with. Now as for Jews and Muslims, we are a continuation of the Jews dogmas and beliefs and hence practices. When we read the Old Testament we find that God associated each commandment with a special meaning and rite. Now God is the same yesterday, today and forever so if we neglect some things then we need to correct ourselves. Muslims have actually followed our suit to the letter and we started deviating more "oh let's not be hypocrites, pharisees, حنبليين, sticklers : God looks at the heart" - these are all false teachings because God wants us to be just, to pray seven times a day, to do it at specific times, and to hold on to His example. One last thing to say, it is not about what we do and how much we do, it is about how much we love Him. The more we love Him the more we will stick to the church teachings to the letter. Thanks again for your lovely comment and sorry for the very long post; by the way, let me avail myself of this opportunity and say I have not forgotten that I still need to reply to the other thread but I need much more time than this..
    Ⲟⲩϫⲁⲓ ϧⲉⲛ Ⲡϭⲥ
  • Hello @ophadece
    Thank you for your reply! Sorry for the delay of my response. I actually really appreciate you using social psychology to describe this, I see your point but I believe that I was trying to convey a different message. I understand that this verse or these sayings are overly used and perhaps are used for excuses more than justifications nowadays. What I was trying to convey is exactly how you ended your post, that it all matters about how much we love Him mostly because these all lead us to His way but they are not the actual goal or way we are trying to meet. I totally agree that our God is a God of order and not of lazinesses and I was not saying let us be lazy I am just saying that we can try our hardest to teach others and learn how it is supposed to be correctly done but not be so annoyed with it being done wrong, even though it is wrong or the person saying it in Church may not know the correct way, we can humbly correct them and not just criticize them. Yes God looks at the heart but of course we need to stick to our teachings that He taught us and not use that phrase as our excuse for being lazy to learn, it is just hard to convince someone in church that what they are doing is wrong because it has to be done in a humble and a special way and I am sure you understand what I mean. What I meant about the Jews was how they were obsessed with their teachings and not actions, they memorized the teachings but did not understand it and of course did not act upon it in their lives and that is what God was criticizing. I totally agree with your last sentence and it was seen in many examples in our Church History with all the Popes, Bishops, Monks, and Saints who defended their faith, even unto death because they loved God that much, may their prayers help us have the same faith and actions and love of God as they did. Like you, I really would like to see the Church staying strong in Christ and even stronger than it is now and was before, our Church will always be rich because of God and all the saints even unto the last second. As for the other thread, that is totally okay, you can have as much time as you would like :). God bless 
  • Dear @msmekhael
    I can't describe enough how pleased I am to see that we are in agreement 110% and not just 100%, thanks a lot really. The only thing I have an issue with, but I do know it is a personal problem, is that we keep doing what we are doing and one day we will be able to teach the right practice to others. Seriously, I don't think that would be happening. The longer we practise the wrong, the more right it becomes "inadvertently". That's why I argued that there is a certain authority that has the knowledge I am sure, hoping that someone would take an action. You made a very good and important point and I guess it is what St Paul teaches us, that is to say, teachings without actions are fruitless.. Thanks again dear @msmekhael..
    Ⲟⲩϫⲁⲓ ϧⲉⲛ Ⲡϭⲥ
  • Hi @ophadece
    Yeah we are! That is true, I see the problem you're perceiving and we pray to God that He allows for things to be fixed and for the Church to return to its original traditions very soon. Yes, the more we practice the wrong the harder it would be to change it later. Thank you! 
  • edited January 2019
    @ophadece and @msmekhael ... What is the goal for going to a coptic church and participating in all these rites?
  • @minatasgeel, I don't get your point actually. The way I see it is that our dogmas and faith are connected to our hymns and we may be spreading wrong teachings by compromising and pleasing the majority. I hope I understood at least partly your question, but please clarify..
    Ⲟⲩϫⲁⲓ ϧⲉⲛ Ⲡϭⲥ
  • @ophadece... you're thinking too much about this. It's a simple question...what how does going to church benefit us?! What if we go to church more often?! What if we go to church less...what is changing?!
  • Hello @minatasgeel,
    Concerning your question of what benefits us when we go to church is up to us really. When we go to church, we pray and we unify with God and of course partake of the holy Mysteries. Going to church helps us designate that time to God and allows for the environment of all the believers to pray to the one and only God. Going to church is a necessity for us to take communion but going to church for the activities is not a necessity, they just allow for the environment and are once again a tool given to us so that we can focus on God. For example, the desert fathers and those in solitude barely went to church, they went to church for communion and they left right after, they didn’t necessarily join in on some of the things the church did because they were always in a state of prayer. So going to church more frequently helps us who are in the world to pray to God more and do what it is for our eternal life in this time designated to church. When we go to church less frequently we are missing out on all this time we could be spending with God, although we can still pray during this time, but inside the church the environment would allow us more to pray and connect with God because of the many heavenly hymns and prayers inside the church; although it can benefit us very spiritually, we can also gain sins from attending church if we do not focus on God but instead on those around us and spend our time doing everything other than prayer. I hope that answers a little bit.
  • Hi @minatasgeel
    I still don't get the point of your question really. I hope @msmekhael has answered your question to some extent. Anyway, I am hoping that you will enlighten me with your answer lest I misunderstand what you mean - I actually know how mature you are and I don't recognise the simplicity of this Sunday school question. But just for the sake of the discussion, I am more than 100% sure that you know that there is nothing in our Orthodox teaching that encourages us to go to church less - NEVER EVER. The teachings of the forefathers centred upon going more than once a week. Fr Dawood Lam'ey quoted a saint who I can't remember now who rued the lowly spiritual state that Copts reached as they were only attending church four times a week!!! Lastly, I hope we don't get into the protestant argument of since the main aim is Christ's Body and Blood, then everything else is secondary.. No, it is not like that.. The more we go to church, and also the longer we remain in Her, the more blessed we become with our bodies being sanctified for the union with God through Communion. I hope that I was able to answer your question..
    Ⲟⲩϫⲁⲓ ϧⲉⲛ Ⲡϭⲥ
  • So, then, on a annual day what should one pray after the bread of life? Should we stick to the melodies on Coptic reader or is it okay to say another hymn or veneration?
  • Hi @menafayik
    I'm not sure if this question was directed to me, but personally speaking I would choose ⲡⲟⲩⲣⲟ ⲛ̀ⲧⲉ ϯϩⲓⲣⲏⲛⲏ, ⲟⲩⲛⲟϥ ⲙ̀ⲙⲟ Ⲙⲁⲣⲓⲁ, and ⲁⲡⲉⲕⲣⲁⲛ.
    Ⲟⲩϫⲁⲓ ϧⲉⲛ Ⲡϭⲥ
  • 1- Chant slowly
    2- Psalm 150 in all three languages
    3- Chant the long "Pioufa pennouti" if possible
    4- The Bread of Life, slowly, in Coptic and English (even Arabic too)
    5- Pray more traditional, annual-melody, communion songs (e.g. Our Father,...etc.)
    6- Chant any hymns for the day that traditionally come after the Synaxarion (Apekran, Fa Nitenh, Ouran Enshoushou...etc.)
    7- The doxology (if any) for the day's saint.
    8- Repeat some of the above if necessary. There is lots of motion during communion, and some people will miss it the first time or would have liked to participate.

    As you see...Eight things to do that would be very traditional and beautiful!
  • We are allowed to sing Doxologies, Correct ?

  • Yes we are, although I personally would exhaust the "Lordly" hymns first and also limit the doxologies to the watos days (Wednesday - Saturday), we have very few Adam doxologies. At least there are asbasmoses Adam and watos for the saints and angels, etc..
    Ⲟⲩϫⲁⲓ ϧⲉⲛ Ⲡϭⲥ
  • In which order would you chant the Doxologies and/or Aspazmoses @ophadece ?
  • Hi @Jojo_Hanna,
    What I am going to say now is so arbitrary, but if other churches have a better practice with Coptic hymns, I would be grateful if they share. Obviously the length could be modified based on the duration of Communion.
    Adam annual days: psalm 150, ⲕ̀ⲥⲙⲁⲣⲱⲟⲩⲧ, ⲡⲓⲱⲓⲕ, ⲡⲟⲩⲣⲟ, ⲟⲩⲛⲟϥ ⲙ̀ⲙⲟ Ⲙⲁⲣⲓⲁ / asbasmos Adam for the saint or angel of the day.
    Watos annual days: ⲕ̀ⲥⲙⲁⲣⲱⲟⲩⲧ, Ⲡϭⲥ Ⲫϯ (ⲡⲟⲩⲣⲟ), asbasmos watos for the saint or the angel of the day.
    Ⲁⲡⲉⲧϫⲏⲕ ⲉⲃⲟⲗ would also fit watos days and suit the time of the Communion but strictly speaking I am not sure it can be said at any time, unlike ⲡⲟⲩⲣⲟ.
    Ⲁⲡⲓⲛⲁⲩ ϣⲱⲡⲓ for fasting days. Also please refer to @RamezM's post above, and remember the tunes can be easily fitted, so ⲟⲩⲛⲟϥ ⲙ̀ⲙⲟ or any asbasmos Adam can be a continuation to ⲡⲓⲱⲓⲕ. Watos doxologies on watos days can be fitted on the tune of the watos asbasmos.
    By the way once I was in London and heard @drewhalim sing ⲛⲓⲉⲑⲛⲟⲥ ⲧⲏⲣⲟⲩ during Communion as an introduction to glorification (not the vespers rite), which I believe is a correct practice but I have not looked deeply into this (of course to say ϧⲉⲛ ⲫⲣⲁⲛ is not correct, but we do)
    Ⲟⲩϫⲁⲓ ϧⲉⲛ Ⲡϭⲥ
  • @RamezM
    I have a question about veneration during communion hymns. Recently, I've heard a lot of people say that it is inappropriate to chant things related to the saints during the distribution because it shifts the focus from the body and blood of our Lord. Is this a proper view?
    We have all these veneration hymns that we chant now during communion (Oran, enthoten, niromi, atai, and many others) but is that because they don't fit after the synxarium (which is a more proper place for them it seems) or because they actually are appropriate for the communion rite?
  • @menafayik from what I know, the Synod has said not to say tamgeed during the distribution to keep the focus on Christ. In my humble opinion, there are times where a tamgeed or madeha about a saint can help direct out focus to God. Again, thats my opinion. Talk to your priest and deacons about what you decide, but keep in mind what the Synod has said. Their proper place is after the Synaxar.
  • Where can the decisions of the Holy Synod concerning such topics be found?
  • @Daniel_Kyrillos
    Glorification has no place in the liturgy anywhere..
    Ⲟⲩϫⲁⲓ ϧⲉⲛ Ⲡϭⲥ
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