Why do we celebrate so many wonderful feasts in our church? To celebrate and re-live the occasion, to truly appreciate the joy of our Orthodox church & also to know what the main feasts are in our Orthodox Church as the verse says, “Rejoice in the Lord and again I will say rejoice” (Philippians 4:4).
One of the main characteristics of the Coptic Church is joy, even in her ascetic life. St. John Cassian described the Egyptian monks, who spread from Alexandria to the southern borders of Thebaid (Aswan), saying that the voice of praise came out perpetually from the monasteries and caves as if the whole land of Egypt became a delightful paradise. He called the Egyptian monks heavenly terrestrials or terrestrial angels. St. Jerome informs us about an abbot called Apollo who was always smiling. He attracted many to the ascetic life as a source of inward joy and heartfelt satisfaction in our Lord Jesus. He often used to say, “Why do we struggle with an unpleasant face? Aren’t we the heirs of the eternal life? Leave the unpleasant and the grieved faces to pagans and weeping to evildoers. But it befits the righteous and the saints to be joyful and pleasant, since they enjoy spiritual gifts.” This attitude is reflected in church worship, art and all aspects of life, so that it seems as if the Church life is a continuous, unceasing feast. Pope Athanasius the Apostolic tells us in a paschal letter that Christ is our Feast. Although there are perpetual feasts, the believer discovers that his Feast is in his innermost heart, the dwelling place of Christ, the Life-Giving Lord.
The church relates and joins the feasts to the ascetic life. The believers practice fasting, sometimes for almost two months (Great Lent), in preparation for the feasts in order to realize that their joy is based on their communion with God and not on the matter of eating, drinking and material desires. The Coptic feasts have beautiful hymns and splendid rites that inflame the spirit. Their aim is to provide the living with heavenly and angelic thoughts. They also reveal the Holy Trinity and Its redeeming work in the life of the Church in a way that is simple enough to be experienced by children yet deep enough to quench the thirst of theologians.
THE SEVEN FEASTS THAT ARE CELEBRATED ARE AS FOLLOWS:
1. THE ANNUNCIATION (Paramhat 29, c. April 7): On this day, we recall the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies and the attainment which the men of God had longed for across the ages, namely the Incarnation of the Word of God in the Virgin’s womb (Matthew 13:17).
2. THE NATIVITY OF CHRIST (Christmas, Kiahk 29, c. January 7): It is preceded by a 43 days fast. Its aim is to confirm the divine love shown when God sent His Only-Begotten Son.
3. THE THEOPHANY OR THE BAPTISM OF CHRIST (Tuba 11, c. January 19): It is connected with the feasts of Nativity and Circumcision. On Nativity, the Word of God took what is ours (our humanity). By Circumcision, He subjected Himself to the Law, becoming one of us. Finally, in Epiphany, He offered us what is His own. By His incarnation, He became a true man while still being the Only-Begotten Son of God; by baptism, we became children of God in Him while we are still human beings. In this feast, the liturgy of blessing the water is conducted, and the priest blesses the people by wetting their foreheads and hands to commemorate baptism.
4. PALM SUNDAY: It is the Sunday that precedes the glorious feast of the Resurrection. It has its characteristic joyful hymns (the Sha’anini – Hosanna (Matthew 21:9)) and its delightful rite. The Church commemorates the entrance of our Lord Jesus into the Jerusalem of our hearts to establish His Kingdom in us and gather all in Him.
A procession moves towards the nave of the church where the people stand before the icons of St. Mary, the Archangels, St. John the Baptist, the Apostles, the martyrs, the ascetics, etc. The procession continues before the church doors and the baptismal basin, praising God who embraces all together in His Son Jesus Christ. The procession ends by re-entering the sanctuary, for the God of the Old and New Testaments meets with the saints in heaven (symbolized by the sanctuary) forever. At the end of the liturgy of the Eucharist, a general funeral service is held in which water is sprinkled on anyone who might die during the Holy Week, since the regular funeral prayers are not conducted during this week. By this rite, the Church stresses her preoccupation with the Passion and Crucifixion of Christ.
5. THE FEAST OF THE RESURRECTION: It is preceded by the Great Lent (55 days) and is considered by the Coptic Church as “The Feast.” Its joy continues for fifty days until Pentecost. The feast of the Resurrection is also essentially celebrated on every Sunday.
6. ASCENSION: It is celebrated on the fortieth day after the feast of the resurrection, on a Thursday. On this feast, we remember our Lord Jesus Christ who raises us up to sit with Him in heaven (Ephesians 2:6).
7. PENTECOST: It represents the birthday of the Christian Church. The only begotten Son paid the price for her salvation, ascended into heaven to prepare a place for her and sent His Holy Spirit to her, offering her guidance, sanctification and adornment as the Heavenly Bride. On this feast, the church chants hymns, rejoicing in the resurrection of Christ, His ascension and the dwelling of His Holy Spirit in her. Thus, she connects the three feasts in one whole unity.
Think about it
1-How many major feasts do we have?
2-Why do we celebrate & based on which verse in the bible?
3-In which Coptic month & date is the Nativity feast celebrated?
“attach your answer in a separate sheet, write your name and submit it in the Deacons corner box at the information board by the front desk”