Wednesday, August 6, 2008

A Question For You!

Today I drove by a church, and the sign out front said "Coptic Orthodox Church".

Can anyone tell me what this means?


Aunt Laura said...

I would love to know that answer to that one.

Batjacboy said...

OK, here goes.

First of all, we have to go over the "rites" of the Catholic Church.

A rite represents an ecclesiastical tradition about how the sacraments, including the Mass, are to be celebrated. As the early Church grew and spread, it celebrated the sacraments as would be best understood and received in the context of individual cultures (following St. Paul's example), without ever changing their essential form and matter. The early Church sought to evangelize in the major cultural centers of the first centuries A.D. These centers were Rome, Antioch (Syria), and Alexandria (Egypt). All the rites in use today evolved from the liturgical practices and ecclesiastical organization used by the churches in these 3 cities.

The Catholic Encyclopedia describes the situation like this: "Within the Catholic Church [there are] canonical rites, which are of equal dignity, enjoy the same rights, and are under the same obligations. Although the particular churches possess their own hierarchy, differ in liturgical and ecclesiastical discipline, and possess their own spiritual heritage, they are all entrusted to the pastoral government of the Roman pontiff [the Pope], the divinely appointed successor of St. Peter in the Primacy."

The Catechism lists seven rites. These rites so listed: Latin (the one most American churches belong to, even if they don't say the Mass in Latin like yours does, Rita), Byzantine, Alexandrian, Syriac, Armenian, Maronite, and Chaldean, are actually families of liturgical expression. These rites are the descendants of the liturgical practices that originated in centers of Rome, Antioch, and Alexandria.

Now, the liturgy used by the church in Alexandria in Egypt is attributed to St. Mark the Apostle. This church became known as the Coptic church because Copt is the Arabic and Greek word for Egyptian. Before the Moslem invasion in 641 the Copts fell into a heresy called Monophysitism (which taught, wrongly, that Christ had only one nature (Divine), whereas we know He is one Person with 2 natures: one human, one Divine). This one-nature heresy was condemned at the Council of Chalcedon (451). Through missionary work, some of these Copts were brought back into union with the Pope in recent years.

Today there exists in Egypt (and elsewhere) the Coptic rite which is "Orthodox" (definitely NOT Catholic) and the Coptic rite that is "Catholic", and loyal to the Pope.

So the "Coptic Orthodox Church" you saw is NOT Catholic. They are a descendent of the heretical branch from way back in the 400s.

Rita said...

Thank you batjacboy for answering my question.

Anonymous said...

Absolutly fascinating! That answer has brought to mind a dozen questions about the other regional branches mentioned, but, since this is Rita's site I'll just write them done for further inquiry. Thankyou for the knowledge.

Rita said...


Please feel free to ask any questions you have.

After all this blog is to give
me/others the opportunity to learn as much as possible.

Aunt Laura said...

Wow thank you Rita for answering that long time question. I have passed by that church for 10 years always wondering about it. Thank you so much for allowing me to read your blog. I find all the information very interesting and i so much enjoy it.

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