I have received a number of enquiries arising from my work on the Raising of Morning and Evening Incense, recently published as an introduction to the texts of those services by the British Orthodox Press. I thought it might be easier to answer them on the Forum.
I am hoping to complete annotated liturgical texts, with rubrics, ceremonial directions and commentary, for the Raising of Incense and the (Coptic) Liturgy of St Basil by the middle of this year. This has been a long work-in-progress, endlessly interrupted (alas) by University commitments.
The draft works are almost completed and, alas, very length: in terms of A4 single-spaced pages they run to Incense:100 pages, Prothesis:30, St Basil:200, Communion Outside the Liturgy:15 and the Fraction:30. These are not intended for use in practice: the liturgical texts used are taken for accuracy of meaning, not beauty of form!
The work on St Basil is definitely NOT intended as a ?how to do it? guide for BOC Priests, since, in my opinion, no-one should celebrate St Basil who has not received the traditional training prescribed for that rite (known as ?The Forty Days?) and participated in the formal, ceremonial completion of the training (known as ?Receiving the Sacrament?). It was my privilege to undergo that training and to ?Receive the Sacrament? from one of the Coptic Church?s most knowledgeable Monk-Priests.
By the end of the year I would like to have completed equivalent works on the rites of Baptism and Chrismation, Absolution and Matrimony.
Traditionally, the details of the rubrics, ceremonial instructions and traditions in relation to Coptic rites were transmitted orally ? during ?The Forty Days? and thereafter ? and not committed to writing. There is no Coptic equivalent of, for example, Fortescue and O?Connell (for the old Roman Catholic rite) or ?Ritual Notes? (for Anglo-Catholics). Some commentators (like Meinardus and Burmester) have given accounts which more or less summarize the traditions, and Bishop Mattaous (of The Syrian Monastery) provides the best English account of them in his ?The Spirituality of the Rites of he Holy Liturgy in the Coptic Orthodox Church? (and in other papers on the other rites).
The traditional rites were (and are!) extraordinarily complex and demanding and, I suspect, gradually being lost. Certainly, except in the case of my Monk-Priest teacher I have never seen them celebrated in their full complexity, although I am sure they are so celebrated in the more traditionalist monasteries in Egypt. This is one reason why I hope to be able to commit them to writing.
To fully participate in the rites of the Church we need to understand them so that we, whether clergy or laity, are no longer passive observers, but active participants.