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Coptic Liturgical Books
07-06-2010, 06:05 AM,
Coptic Liturgical Books
An answer to another liturgical question:

9. When I’ve visited Coptic Orthodox Churches I’ve noticed that they seem to use a lot of different books during services. What are those books?

The Coptic Orthodox Rite makes use of a number of different service books, some of which are often used and some rarely, and some of which are available in English translation. The names given to the books, especially in English translation, vary considerably. The major liturgical books are as follows, but there are additional books rarely seen or used in local churches (for example, The Book of the Consecration of Monks and Nuns, The Book of the Consecration and Enthronement of Patriarchs, The Book of the Consecration of Holy Chrism).

The Psalmodia - this contains the “Verses of the Cymbals” and the doxologies for various seasons use in the Raising of Evening and Morning Incense. There are two Psalmodia: (1) that which covers the whole year except for the month of Kiahk, and (2) that for Kiahk. The earliest known text of the Psalmodia is from the ninth century.

The Synaxarium - this contains the accounts of the lives of the Saints and events relating to major feasts of the Church, and is usually published in several volumes divided for different parts of the year. The earliest manuscripts of the Synaxarium date from about 1340

The Difnar (Antiphonarion) - this, like the Synaxarium, contains brief accounts of the Saints. or of special events, with a glorification to the saint, and is used at the very end of the day's Midnight Praises (at the conclusion of the Theotoki). The Difnar is replaced by a special contemplation from The Book of Contemplations for the Sundays of the Holy Great Fasting, Sundays of the fifty days after the Resurrection, all of the Great Lordly feasts and some of the small Lordly feasts, and the feasts of St. Mary The earliest known text of the Difnar is from the ninth century.

The Books of Contemplations – this contains readings for particular feasts or events of the year. Readings from this book were traditionally used, for example, after the Gospel in Epiphany, and after the Feast of the Great Resurrection.

The Horologion (Arabic: agbya) – the book containing the services for the Hours.

The Euchologion (Arabic: khoulagy) - this contains the Eucharist (the Liturgies of St Basil, St Cyril and St Gregory) and the Raising of Evening and Morning Incense. It was originally a comprehensive volume of rites, first printed in Coptic and Arabic in 1761-1762 and including ceremonies for ordination and consecration. The Euchologion now refers to a volume containing rites relating to the Liturgy.

The Book of Secret Prayers – a separate volume containing the “secret” prayers offered by the Priest during the Liturgy and other services. It is now largely redundant given that those prayers are usually included in the Euchologion and other published texts.

The Deacon’s Service Book (Arabic: khedmet-el-shammas) This work was largely compiled by Cyril V and published in 1859; it contains most of the responses and hymns of the Deacons and the choir in all the major services.

The Lectionary (Coptic: katameros) - this contains the readings which are used during the services on each day of the year. The earliest known text of the Lectionary comes from the fourteenth century. The Lectionary consists of five parts or volumes. (1) The Katameros of the Year Days contains the readings for all the days of the year except Sundays and the Holy Great Fasting (Lent), the Passion Week, and the fifty days following the Resurrection, and for all of the different feasts except the Feasts of Resurrection, Ascension, Pentecost, Palm Sunday, Great Thursday, and New (Thomas) Sunday (the first Sunday after the Resurrection). For each of the days it covers this volume of the Lectionary contains the Psalm and Gospel of Evening Incense, the Psalm and Gospel of Morning Incense , the Pauline Epistle, the Catholic epistle (Catholicon), the Acts (Epraxis) and the Psalm and Gospel of the Liturgy. (2) The Katameros of Sundays contains the readings for all of the Sundays of the year except the seven Sundays of the Holy Great Fasting (the Sunday of Preparation and the six main Sundays) and the Feast of the Resurrection and the remaining Sundays of the fifty days until Pentecost. This Katameros provides readings for four Sundays of each month except the Coptic months Baramhat, Baramodah and the first two Sundays of Amshir. (3) The Katameros of the Holy Great Fasting (Lent) provides readings for the three days of the Fasting of Ninevah and the Feast of Jonah and all the days and Sundays of the Holy Great Fasting. (4) The Katameros of The Holy Passion Week provides the readings of Morning and Evening Incense and the Mass of Palm Sunday, and the readings of the general funeral that is prayed after the Mass. It includes the readings of the Passion Week starting from the 9th hour of Palm Sunday until the readings that are read during the Holy Communion which is the 11th hour of the prayers of the Joyous Saturday. It concludes with the readings of the Feast of the Resurrection of our Lord. It often includes The Book of Contemplations which provides an explanation of every single Gospel reading during this period. (5) The Katameros of the Holy Fifty Days begins with the readings of the feast of the Holy Resurrection of our Lord, and continues until the readings of the Liturgy of the Pentecost.

The Mayamer (Arabic: al-mayamir) - containing biographies of the saints, adding to those in the Coptic Synaxarium and many groups of stories of saints of relatively recent times. There are several versions held in different monasteries.

Lives of the Saints (Arabic: al-sirah) – further biographies of the saints, adding to those in the Coptic Synaxarium and the Mayamer, and traditionally read after the Mayamer.

The Book of Homilies (Arabic: al-mawa’iz) - a series of homilies attributed (probably without justification) to a number of the Fathers of the fourth and fifth centuries.

The Books of Praises – these contains Psalms and hymns, and are found in four volumes: (1) The Psalmodeia [from the original Coptic psali meaning a praise]. There are two Psalmodeias: (i) the daily Psalmodeia and (ii) the Psalmodeia of Kiahk. (2) The Epsalis and Contemplations on the Birth of Christ and Epiphany used for the preparation day of the birth of Christ and the day itself, and for the preparation day for Epiphany and the day itself. (3) The Epsalis of the Holy Great Lent which also contains the order and the readings of the procession of the Holy Cross during the Raising of Morning Incense. (4) The Epsalis of Feasts and Saints which provides two or more Epsalis for every single feast and for many of the saints.

The Book of Sacraments (sacramentary) – this contains the rites for the Sacraments, other than the Liturgy, and rites administered by Priests (Baptism, Chrismation, Matrimony, Absolution, funerals and various blessings). These rites are more commonly published in separate volumes: (1) Baptism, Chrismation and the Churching of Women, (2) Betrothal and Marriage, (3) Blessing of Homes and Unction, (4) Funeral Services.

The Book of Consecrations (pontifical) – this contains the rites used (normally by Bishops) for ordinations and consecrations (for example, of altars, icons and churches).

Book of Laqquan – a book of blessings for water on the Feast of Epiphany, for Holy Thursday and for the Feast of St Peter and St Paul.

The Liturgy of Holy Week – a book containing the services from the Saturday of Lazarus to Easter Sunday.

In addition, there are some books for specific Feasts on which particular rites are celebrated: for example, The Bright Saturday Apocalypse, and The Rites of Lazarus Saturday and The Feast of the Entry of Our Lord into Jerusalem.

There is no published Coptic Orthodox equivalent in any language to the ceremonial volume or rituale found in the Roman Catholic Church; the ritual of the Coptic Rite was traditionally transmitted orally to new Priests during the period known as “The Forty Days” after their ordinations, and many more traditional Priests still believe that such matters should not be committed to writing.

This is a topic on which a whole book could be written - this is but a summary.

Fr Gregory

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