Sunday, April 27, 2008

Coptic Easter

Last night I was honored to be able to celebrate the Resurrection of our Lord with a classmate of mine from the medical school. My classmate, Mina, is of Egyptian descent and is a Coptic Christian. I met him near the beginning of the year and after talking a bit about the Coptic Church he invited me to celebrate Pascha at his church. So last night I headed to Covina, to St. John Coptic Orthodox Church. I was blessed by the nearly five hours of beautiful liturgy celebrating the Resurrection. I had a harder time following along than I did last year when I celebrated Pascha at an Orthodox Church in America parish as only about a quarter to a third of the liturgy was in English. As far as I could tell, elements were used from both the liturgies of St. Basil and St. Gregory. The songs and chants of the night had the intonations which one would hear in the calls to prayer coming from minarets in the Muslim world. I think the foreign musical scale made it harder for me to learn some of the hymns that were chanted many times throughout the night. By the end of the night I had begun to pick up one of the hymns and it was very cool to try singing with the Arabic intonations instead of the Western that I have always heard and sung. The homily was first preached by a Coptic bishop either in Arabic or a Coptic dialect and then was read by a deacon in English. I will leave you with the words from the chorus of the Coptic Resurrection hymn, "Very Early Sunday Morning," which we sang many times toward the end of the night:

Resurrection is my song,
Resurrection gave me life,
Resurrection made me strong,
Jesus, my Lord, is alive,
Resurrection made me strong,
Jesus, my Lord, is alive.


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