“Blessed is Egypt, my people” (Isa 19:25)
Already from the Old Testament the prophet Isiah prophesized about Egypt saying ” Behold, the Lord rides on a swift cloud, And will come into Egypt” (Isa 19:1) and ” In that day there will be an alter to the Lord in the most of the land of Egypt, and a pillar to the Lord at its border” (Isa 19:19). This promise was fulfilled through the Holy Family’s flight to Egypt away from Herod to find refuge among the Gentiles. Thus, our Lord Jesus Christ came during His childhood to Egypt to lay by Himself the foundation stone of His Church in Egypt.
The Coptic Orthodox Church was established in the city of Alexandria year 43 A.D in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ by St. Mark the evangelist and apostle . The word Coptic comes from the Greek word ”Aigyptos” which means ”Egyptian”. When the Arabs arrived to Egypt in the 7th Century they started to call the Egyptians “qibt”. Thus, the word “qibt” meant both “Egyptian” and “Christian”. While the word “Orthodox” refers to the preservation of the “Original Faith” which the Coptic Church throughout the ages, defended against numerous attacks and heresies aimed at it. During early Christianity, the church in Alexandria was considered among the five primary “Sees” in the world, together with Jerusalem, Antioch and Rome, and Constantinople.
Through the catechesis of the Egyptian Church in Alexandria the world was enlightened with its allegorical and spiritual teachings of the Holy scriptures. The church was also the front defender of the Orthodox faith at the ecumenical councils.
The Christian monastic life has its background in Egypt in the 4th century which ireattracted the hearts of the children of the church towards the desert to live an inner spiritual life.
The Coptic Church is known by its asceticism which is not a goal in itself but it is a practical response to divine love, especially for monks and nuns. St. Antony, the father of monks, was the first Christian to live a sacred life in solitude which inspired generations unto this day. The Coptic monasticism is considered the most profound spiritual revival that ever happened in all the history of the Church.
Throughout generations, the Coptic Church has carried the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ through the persecution and massacres that were aimed towards the children of the church at reoccurring occasions during the history of the church. The church at some point even faced persecutions from the other Christian denominations that argued its Orthodox faith. In the way the church has offered a great number of martyrs and confessors among its children to God. Even at many times whole cities were martyred and a lot of believers fought to win the crowns of martyrdom with a heart filled of joy. Until to this day the church has continuously been offering martyrs to Jesus Christ.
Our Coptic Church is ancient and new at the same time. It is ancient in being apostolic, founded by St. Mark the Evangelist and traditional in holding fast to the original apostolic faith without deviation. It is is also new through the living Holy Spirit’s continuous work in the church which renews her youth.
In conclusion, the Coptic Church is rich with her evangelistic and ascetic characteristics, her genuine patriotic inheritance, her heavenly worship, her spiritual rituals, her effective and living hymns, her beautiful icons, etc. She attracts the heart towards heaven without ignoring actual daily life. We can say that it is an apostolic, contemporary church that carries life and thought to the contemporary man without deviation in faith. One finds in it life, sweetness and power of Spirit, with appreciation to and sanctification of arts, literature and human culture.