A few more words on the arrangement of the Bible readings in the Pascha services: Monday covers creation and the fall. Tuesday, one hour had two straight chapters from Genesis on the Flood and the Covenant with Noah. Wednesday’s readings cover the exodus from Egypt (pointing forwards to the ultimate exodus in which Jesus, the second Moses, delivered his people from the spiritual land of Egypt, ie bondage to sin). Thursday, the Copts connect the Last Supper, which is in fact a beginning of the New Covenant, with the Abrahamic covenant, and consider the story of Isaac’s substitute at length. Intermixed are readings from Proverbs and the Wisdom of Sirach (the Copts accept the core books of the Apocrypha, but not as many I think as the Catholics do) describing the beauties of Wisdom (which is a figure for Christ), and the blessings offered to men who follow her.
Some of the psalms for today (which are complicated to look up because the Copts use a system of numbering which sometimes matches the KJV, and sometimes doesn’t, and I haven’t figured out the trick yet):
. . . That thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest. Ps. 51:4
(Which becomes full of meaning when one considers Paul’s use of it in Romans 3, to demonstrate that God’s righteousness stands firm, regardless of men’s sins, and goes on to show God’s glory in Christ’s death, wherein he demonstrates his own righteousness in judging sin, and also as sufficient to provide remission of sins for believers.)
For lo, thine enemies make a tumult; and they that hate thee have lifted up the head.
They have taken crafty counsel against thy people, and consulted against thy hidden ones. Ps. 83:2-3
(This is read in conjunction with John’s account of Judas Iscariot murmuring against Mary anointing Jesus’ feet.)
Have mercy upon me, O Lord, for I am weak; O Lord, heal me, for my bones are vexed.
My soul is also sore vexed; but thou, O Lord, how long?
. . . And hide not thy face from thy servant, for I am in trouble; hear me speedily. Ps. 6:2-3, 69:17
Deliver me, O Lord, from the evil man; preserve me from the violent man,
Which imagine mischiefs in their heart; continually are they gathered together for war. Ps. 140:1-2
Besides the prophecies of judgment, there are many beautiful promises of restoration read; and Isaiah is one of the most wonderful books in the Bible; which is all my excuse for quoting it here:
Therefore thus saith the Lord God: Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation; he that believeth shall not make haste.
And your covenant with death shall be disannulled, and your agreement with hell shall not stand. . .
Bread corn is bruised; because he will not [for]ever be threshing it, nor break it with the wheel of his cart, nor bruise it with his horsemen. This also cometh forth from the Lord of hosts, which is wonderful in counsel, and excellent in working. from Is. 28:16-29
Lastly, yesterday my mother pointed out to me this truly wonderful summary, to be read after the passage in Matthew 23 where Jesus tells his disciples that of all the beautiful buildings of the temple in Jerusalem, not one stone will be left upon another:
“When the disciples heard the prophecy of the Savior, they showed him the temple, the venerated stones, and the sanctuaries. He responded to them, saying, There will not be two stones together. Verily this happened forty years after the ascension of our Lord. The Romans came, devastated the city, and demolished the temple, which remains thus to this day. One million and two hundred thousand Jewish men were killed by the sword. They were castigated by God’s wrath, and his damnation covered their faces.”
Thus we conclude that the Copts are actually preterist and postmillenial in their eschatology (as can be seen further by the Messianic promises from Isaiah being read together with the parables of the kingdom of heaven, and the prophecy in Daniel of the Ancient of Days being associated with Christ’s death and resurrection, and in general all the Messianic psalms, concerning both his humiliation and his exaltation, being brought together in this week); they have not worked this out in detail, and the people generally are uninformed on the subject. But those of us who have wandered into the heady pastures of Reformed postmillenial thought rejoice to see that the Copts are on the right track here as well. (In case you can’t tell, I will be happy to exposit on this at length if anybody asks. Or email me at my new address, on-the-dotted-line at hot mail dot com.)