The Portal December 2017 - Page 6

THE P RTAL December 2017 Page 6 Going South with the first and second Josephs Father Mark Woodruff on a topical subject W e have long been tracking where the Apostles’ proclamation sprang to, west, east and north from Antioch. Yet it was south that the good news went first. Nearing Christmas, we hear from Egypt, “land of the Copts”, where the Holy Family dwelt in refuge from Herod, that theirs too is a Holy Land. It is also the land of Jacob and the first Joseph. It is the land of Moses, where the Law was given on Sinai. Furthermore, it is the starting point of the Second Exodus. From this place, like Moses before them, the second Joseph protecting the Mother of God and the Child set out with a new revelation of the Divine Nature – God with Us; a new covenant of love; a fresh crossing of the waters in baptism; and entry to a new Promised Land - the Kingdom of God. Furthermore, Alexandria was where St Mark, their own Apostle and Evangelist, was martyred in AD 63. And in the Egyptian deserts, St Anthony and St Pachomius taught hermits to come together and form the very first monastic communities. In a country of 95 million, 12 million practising Christians form a large minority (compare the 5 million attending church in supposedly Christian Britain). Copts endure persecution and discrimination not only from Egypt’s overwhelmingly Muslim society (e.g. prevention of new churches and repairs), but also Protestant proselytisation (e.g. through modern Western music, and laxity on divorce and remarriage). Two million Copts live in other countries, where a focus on spirituality, teaching and the formation of young disciples makes the Church missionary- minded. Thus their three dioceses in Britain not only strengthen young British Copts not to lapse, but also plant churches and engage new Christians from the Alexandria was the second city after Rome, until the wider population. imperial capital relocated to Constantinople. A great centre of learning, its theology stressed the divinity Although Coptic was no longer spoken by the 17th of the incarnate Word, while the school at Antioch century, it is still used in the Church’s liturgy, along stressed that Christ’s humanity is distinct and not with some Greek and Arabic, integrating the diverse absorbed when united with His divinity. After the patrimonies that historically marked the community. Council of Chalcedon, the Egyptian bishops rejected a Here are the Greek in which St Mark wrote his gospel, distinction between the two natures, because it seemed and a Eucharistic prayer with elements no less ancient to divide Christ’s very Person. (St Cyril of Alexandria’s than the third-century Roman Canon. Here are chants teaching on the unity of Christ, who is both the Man and prayers in spiritual language descending from the Jesus and the Second Person of the One God, proved a Pharaohs’ kingdoms. vital bulwark for the Copts when Islam arrived in the 7th century, attacking the Trinity and the Incarnation.) The same liturgy invokes “Allah”, showing that Christian Arabs called upon “The God” long before It is now realised that Greeks, Latins, Copts and Muslims. “Kyrie eleison” shows that Copts share Syrians failed to understand what each other meant the same Greek roots as Latin Catholics and other by words that we translate as “nature”, “substance” Orthodox. When 21 Copts were martyred by ISIS in and “person”. The schism between the non- 2015 in Libya, their cries were, “Jesus, help me” and Chalcedonian Churches (Coptic, Syriac, Armenian, “Kyrie eleison”. Indian and Ethiopian) and the Chalcedonian (the Catholic and Byzantine Orthodox Churches), which In the 17th century, Franciscans and Jesuits has lasted since 451, unbalanced the whole Church. conducted missions targeting not Muslims but other Despite agreeing that all share the same faith, even Christians. Thus attempting to overcome the schism if differently expressed, it challenges the recovery of backfired. The small body of Coptic Catholics was unity to this day. ... continued at the foot page 22 Ø