faith


Last night I came across a couple of news articles about a prominent Italian Muslim (who, to be fair, hadn’t actually practiced Islam for many years) who converted to Christianity and was baptized by the pope as part of a televised Easter vigil service. I say congratulations to him, and admire his bravery. Magdi Allam, who took the name Christiano in the baptismal ceremony, already had one death warrant against him for his activism against Islam, and I am sure this very public conversion will earn him another.

Some media commentators, ever ready to deliberate on matters they don’t understand, questioned why the Pope would create such a public show. It seems consistent with his bold statements about the true nature of Islam, and I think he as well as Allam is to be praised for boldly confronting an issue which Muslim leaders would rather keep secret, that is, that conversion out of Islam deserves the death penalty under sharia law – law which is often effectively carried out by vigilantes or family members of converts in Muslim countries.

In American politics, I finally decided to read Obama’s famous race speech. I have to say, much as I disagree with his philosophy and his grasp of history, conservatives who denigrate his speaking abilities seem to be doing so unfairly. It is a rhetorically effective speech, well constructed, cleverly addressing all the key issues and defusing them. Not that I think he actually solved the question of his connection Jeremiah Wright, but he did the best possible job of explaining him and at the same time making the attacks on him part of a bigger picture.

News from the UK: Rules of the Koran are more important than hygiene, according to UK’s Islamic Medical Society. Actually, make that cultural standards, not Koranic rules, since the Koran itself doesn’t really specify the precise nature of modest women’s clothing. The imams have just taught that whatever they wore in Mohammed’s time has to have been the heavenly standard. Sort of like chronological snobbery taken to the extreme.

But yes. Now religious scruples trump scientific principles, and keeping a few inches of your skin covered is more important than taking good care of your patients. One wonders why these women are involved in health professions, anyway. Do they not find it disturbing, or at least hypocritical, to be looking at naked male patients, while they refuse to lift their sleeves enough to wash properly?

Here in the US, there’s an uproar if Christian pharmacists propose not to dispense abortifacient drugs due to their religious principles. And all they’re doing is offering a slight obstruction to health care (if you insist on calling the destruction of life health care) (and yes, this is weighted language to be using about RU-486). But it seems to be all right, at least by Muslim standards, to downright forcibly endanger your patient’s health because you’re so concerned about letting your wrists be seen in public.

I have some pretty high standards of modesty myself, but this is ridiculous and hypocritical. Let’s see whether the UK health community is able to respond appropriately, or whether the once-proud Britons have truly become slaves, the new dhimmis. (Which is the Arabic word for conquered peoples who are allowed a few protections as second-class citizens as long as they submit to all Islamic laws.)

O give thanks unto the Lord, for he is good: for his mercy endureth forever.
Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, whom he hath redeemed from the hand of the enemy, and gathered them out of the lands, from the east, and from the west, and from the north, and from the south.

They wandered in the wilderness in a solitary way; they found no city to dwell in.
Hungry and thirsty, their soul fainted in them.

Then they cried unto the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them out of their distresses;
And he led them forth by the right way, that they might go to a city of habitation.

~ Oh that men would praise the Lord for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!
~ For he satisfieth the longing soul, and filleth the hungry soul with goodness.

Such as sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, being bound in affliction and iron, because they rebelled against the words of God, and contemned the counsel of the Most High:
Therefore he brought down their heart with labor; they fell down, and there was none to help.

Then they cried unto the Lord in their trouble, and he saved them out of their distresses.
He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death, and brake their bands asunder.

~ Oh that men would praise the Lord for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!
~ For he hath broken the gates of brass, and cut the bars of iron in sunder.

Fools because of their transgression and because of their iniquities are afflicted.
Their soul abhorreth all manner of meat; and they draw near unto the gates of death.

Then they cry unto the Lord in their trouble, and he saveth them out of their distresses.
He sent his word and healed them, and delivered them from their destruction.

~ Oh that men would praise the Lord for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!
~ And let them sacrifice the sacrifices of thanksgiving, and declare his works with rejoicing.

They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters:
These see the works of the Lord, and his wonders in the deep.
For he commandeth, and raiseth the stormy wind, which lifteth up the waves thereof.
They mount up to the heaven, they go down again to the depths; their soul is melted because of trouble.
They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, and are at their wits’ end.

Then they cry unto the Lord in their trouble, and he bringeth them out of their distresses.
He maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still.
Then are they glad because they be quiet; so he bringeth them unto their desired haven.

~ Oh that men would praise the Lord for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!
~ Let them exalt him also in the congregation of the people, and praise him in the assembly of the elders.

He turneth rivers into a wilderness, and the watersprings into dry ground; a fruitful land into barrenness, for the wickedness of them that dwell therein.
He turneth the wilderness into a standing water, and dry ground into watersprings;
And there he maketh the hungry to dwell, that they may prepare a city for habitation, and sow the fields, and plant vineyards, which may yield fruits of increase.
He blesseth them also, so that they are multiplied greatly, and suffereth not their cattle to decrease.

Again, they are diminished and brought low through oppression, affliction, and sorrow.
He poureth contempt upon princes, and causeth them to wander in the wilderness, where there is no way.
Yet he setteth the poor on high from affliction, and maketh him families like a flock.

The righteous shall see it, and rejoice; and all iniquity shall stop her mouth.
Whoso is wise, and will observe these things, even they shall understand the lovingkindness of the Lord.

~~Psalm 107 

This psalm is so many things in one: a record of God’s saving power to bring the Israelites out of Egypt to the Promised Land; praise for his work in bringing each one of his children out of the darkness and despair of sin into the light of his salvation in Christ; a description of his providence through all of life; and an invitation to all who find themselves in darkness and the shadow of death, in trouble or distress, longing and hungry souls, tossed by the tempests of life. Call to God in your distress, and he will answer and save you out of your troubles. I know that this is true. 

The other night we admitted a woman with a chronic condition in a very severe exacerbation. She sat huddled up in bed, looking very sick, and pretty much refusing to talk, so most of the history came from an attentive husband. He explained that she’d been diagnosed some seven years ago, “but in 2002 she was healed, so she hasn’t needed any medicines since then.” Umm, right. Turns out she had been in the hospital once in between, but whether because of a misdiagnosis at that time, or because of patient refusal, had not restarted the usual medications. The husband concluded his explanation of the most recent events by saying, “We’re born-again Christians, and we’re just waiting for Jesus to heal her.”

I gave them a fairly supportive answer, and went to report to my senior, who uses Jesus’ name frequently, but not with any decency. I felt obliged to mention their story about healing, since they would undoubtedly tell it to him when he went in, and because it was rather relevant as an explanation of why her disease had been untreated for so long. He shook his head. “That’s nonsense. You can’t be healed of that disease.” Although not the ground I would have chosen, I felt obliged to say something, because I don’t intend to spend the month listening silently to his atheism. “Well, theoretically, I think you can be healed of anything.” “Not metastatic disease!” “Well, yes, that too, if God wants too. Nothing is impossible for God.” “That’s your philosophy.”

But I do wish these folks would have some better sense of tactics. It’s bad enough trying to tell any doctor that you’ve been miraculously healed; it produces a less skeptical response if you actually have been healed, or at least have minimal symptoms. Being on death’s door and requiring an operation is not the position from which to state that you’ve been healed. Please, folks; it makes it hard for the rest of us. (And for consistency’s sake, and politeness, don’t show up to the hospital and let yourself be admitted, and then insist to all and sundry that you’re just waiting for supernatural healing. If you’re here, you have to admit to God’s use of means on occasion.) (But I would still be thrilled if she were miraculously healed, just for the sake of my atheist colleagues.)

The Copts have their Easter service starting Saturday evening, and running past midnight. This is hard on the children, but there is a certain wild exhilaration produced by having a celebration at a time when everyone ought to be in bed that does great things for getting a party spirit going. Americans have no concept of how to celebrate. The Copts know how to use time and place, sights, sounds and smells, clothes and food, to celebrate properly. And why not? This is the high point of the year. This is the reason for the Church’s existence. It is this event, rather than Christ’s birth alone, which turned the world upside down, and split our calendar in half at 0 AD. Who could sleep on such a night? The King of Life broke the gates of hell, shattered Satan’s chains, and carried his people up triumphantly into the “paradise of joy” (firdous a-nay’eem, as the Arabic phrase goes). The very rules of our existence were changed today. Whoever heard before of a dead man returning to life on his own? It had been known for the prophet Elijah to raise a dead boy, and Christ raised some three people (Jairus’ daughter, the widow’s son, and Lazarus) – but never before was there one so strong that “it was impossible for death to hold him.” (Acts 2) What an unheard of event, that mourners should come to the tomb, and find the stone sprung away, and the body disappeared – on its own.

The atmosphere in the church was electric last night, in spite of the snow outside (incidentally, some global warming – snow for Easter? I’d hate to see global cooling!). Anticipation mounted as the preliminary prayers were gone through. The black hangings on the iconostasis and all the walls had been replaced with white banners, printed with the picture of Christ rising over the frightened soldiers, and the motto, “He is not here, for he is risen,” in red. The Pauline epistle was from 1 Corinthians 15: “If Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. . . If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept! . . . He must reign till he hath put all enemies under his feet; the last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. . . When he shall have subdued all things under him, then will Christ also himself be subject to him that put all things under his feet, that God may be all in all. . . ” And the catholic epistle was from 1 Peter 1: “[Having believed in him] ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls. . .”

Then, all the lights were turned off, leaving the church shrouded in utter blackness. Behind the closed curtain of the “royal door” in the center of the iconostasis, the priest and deacon chanted to each other, a deep, majestic tune which rises ponderously to heights of joy as the message is proclaimed:

Christos anesti!
Elithos anesti!
El Masihu qam!
B’ilhaqiqati qam!
(Christ is risen! Truly he is risen!)

Lift up your heads, o ye gates, and be ye lifted up, ye everlasting doors, and the King of Glory shall come in!
Who is this King of Glory?
The Lord of hosts! The Lord mighty in battle! He is the King of Glory!
Who is this King of Glory?
The Lord of hosts! The Lord mighty in battle! He is the King of Glory!

With that, the lights came on, and with a crash of cymbals, the deacons and congregation began to sing the following song, while all the deacons carrying candles made a three-times procession around the church, leading the priest with an icon of the resurrection garlanded with roses.

Christ is risen from the dead!
By death he trampled on death,
And gave life to those who were in the grave!
(repeat ad lib in Coptic and Arabic)
Christos anesti ek nekron!
Thanatos thanaton pateesas,
Ke tos mnesami zoe kharisamenon!

At length, the psalm was read, from 118: “This is the day that the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it! God is the Lord, who has showed us light. Bind the sacrifice with cords, even to the horns of the altar. O Lord, save! O Lord, send now prosperity!”

The gospels were from Luke and John’s accounts of the resurrection (Matthew and Mark having been read earlier at the Bright Saturday service in the early morning). The service proceeded on the usual pattern, with pauses whenever the special prayers referred to Christ being risen, for the above song to be sung again. This is one of the few “long tones” that the whole church knows, and sings loudly. There is a favorite Arabic hymn which was sung over and over during communion, starting with the words, “Truly he is risen! Truly he is risen! The Prince of life has risen from the dead!”

Yesterday the service finished around 12:45am. Everyone then greeted each other with the exclamation, “Christos anesti!” and the reply, “Elithos anesti!” (Christ is risen! Truly he is risen!) while the priest and deacons handed out chocolate to all the children, and most of the adults too (rather like a hobbit’s birthday party). Gradually everyone descended to the basement, drawn by the smell of all the ladies demonstrating their cooking abilities with the first meat dishes in 50 days. One of the favorites manages to combine both meat and eggs, a kind of lamb meatloaf wrapped around peeled hardboiled eggs, and sliced. Perfect.

Thus home to bed around 2:30am. Our family abandoned hopes of going to Protestant Easter services, and recuperated in preparation for an Egyptian Easter party this evening. Meat, eggs, and chocolate were the main ingredients all around. We all commiserated with each other on the expense of buying Easter supplies at the same time as the Westerners. Usually we count on buying egg dyes and chocolates at bargain prices after the Western Easter. Ah well. After this year, the dates will begin to diverge again, one week at a time, until we wind up with the Western Easter in March, and the Eastern in May, and then turn back around.

After Christ’s death in the ninth hour, the mood of the church gradually shifts. The worst is over now, and we begin to celebrate the victory that Christ won over Satan, sin, and death.

The prophecy of the eleventh hour is the Exodus account of the Passover, now finally and completely fulfilled, as the blood of the perfect Lamb covers his people’s sins and protects them from final death. In the twelfth hour, the priest himself comes down and chants the third chapter of Lamentations, which is so entirely fitting, and terribly poetic in Arabic, as it was in the original Hebrew (an anacrostic poem): “I am the man that has seen affliction by the rod of his wrath. . . He hath set me in dark places, as they that are dead of old. . . I was a derision to all my people, and their song all the day. . . Thou hast removed my soul far off from peace; I forgot prosperity.”

And then, “It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is thy faithfulness. The Lord is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him. The Lord is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him. . .” Go read the whole thing.

The gospels of the eleventh hour cover the veil of the temple being torn, symbolizing the reconciliation of God and man, with no barrier between us now, the dead rising from the graves around Jerusalem, and the remarks of the centurion.

The psalm of the twelfth hour takes – I kid you not – fifteen minutes to sing. In our church, there’s one man who’s far and away the best cantor; he loves Jesus, and the songs of the church, and he studies the tunes carefully, and teaches them to his sons. However, he’s so shy that two other deacons have to stand up to sing with him, and then gradually sit down once he gets going on this virtuouso performance. This is fifteen minutes, no repetitions (unlike a baroque aria), and no written music – all by memory. This is the psalm on which I finally began to understand Coptic letters, simply because there was so much time for considering! But joking aside, it is the perfect conclusion for the day:

Thou hast laid me in the lowest pit, in the darkness, in the deeps.   Ps. 88:6
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.   Ps. 23:4
Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever; the sceptre of thy kingdom is a sceptre of righteousness.
Thou hast loved righteousness and hated wickedness, therefore God, thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.
All thy garments smell of myrrh, and aloes, and cassia.     Ps. 45:6-8

 Followed by the last bits of the gospel accounts, as Joseph of Arimathea requests Christ’s body and buries it, and the women watching, making plans to come and anoint it after the Sabbath.

Here the deacons gather the armfuls of red roses, which were laid all day in front of the icon of the crucifixion which was placed at the front of the church, and the little girls get to help strip the petals off. The priest and deacons then make a procession around the church with an icon of the burial of Christ, which is then wrapped in the rose petals and some spices, and placed in a marble box on the altar, with a candle at either end, symbolizing Christ’s tomb, and the two angels. The men of the church then retire behind the curtains around the altar and read the entire book of Psalms through (simultaneously, to save time), while the women prepare to serve a meal of foul (fava beans) and fried falafel. The last fasting meal of the church is eaten in a festive atmosphere. We are looking forward now to the Resurrection, which will be celebrated scarcely 24 hours from now.

After this nine hour service, most people promptly go home to bed (instead of spending an hour on the internet!), in preparation for the midnight vigil service, which commemorates the Harrowing of Hell, as Christ brings his saints, from Adam and Abraham on forward, out in triumph, having cheated Satan and death, and broken the strength of our oldest enemies. If I have any energy left after this adventure, I will try to post some more. Mainly, we chant a great many hymns regarding every saint in the calendar, and read the entire book of Revelation, one chapter at a time (in case you needed any more proof that the Copts are postmillenialists at heart). There are some candles floating in aromatic oil involved, too. And a daybreak liturgy is prayed, as well. The Easter service itself will start around 8pm on Saturday (in case I’m too busy sleeping and dying Easter eggs to write before then).

The prophecies are read from Jeremiah 11ff, and then Zechariah 14: “And it shall be in that day, that living waters shall go out from Jerusalem, half of them toward the former sea, and half of them toward the hinder sea. . . And the Lord shall be king over all the earth; in that day there shall be one Lord, and his name shall be one. . .”

Philippians 2:4-11 is read (“Christ Jesus, who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God. . . took upon him the form of a servant. . . humbled himself unto death, even the death of the cross, wherefore God hath also highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Hallelujah!!), followed by this hymn: “O you who at the ninth hour did taste death in the flesh for the sake of us sinners, mortify our carnal nature, O Christ our God, and deliver us.”

“Save me, O God, for the waters are come in unto my soul. I sink in deep mire, where there is no standing; I am come into deep waters, where the floods overflow me.
They gave me also gall for my meat, and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.”  Ps. 69:1, 2, 21

The gospel readings record Christ’s last words: O my God, my God, why have you forsaken me? And, It is finished.

First, a reading from Numbers, where Moses lifted the brazen serpent on the pole to heal the people after their disobedience brought a plague of poisonous serpents; Jesus specifically referred this to himself when he was talking to Nicodemus in John 3. Then, Isaiah 53, the Suffering Servant again.

And Isaiah 12-13: “Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid, for the Lord Jehovah is my strength and my song; he is also become my salvation. Therefore with joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation. And in that day shall ye say, Praise the Lord, call upon his name, declare his doings among the people, make mention that his name is exalted. Sing unto the Lord, for he hath done excellent things; this is known in all the earth.
Cry out and shout, thou inhabitant of Zion, for great is the Holy One of Israel in the midst of thee. . .

“Howl ye, for the day of the Lord is at hand; it shall come as a destruction from the Almighty. . . For the stars of heaven and the constellations thereof shall not give their light; the sun shall be darkened in his going forth, and the moon shall not cause her light to shine. . .”

Amos 8:9-12: “And it shall come to pass in that day, saith the Lord God, that I will cause the sun to go down at noon, and I will darken the earth in the clear day; and I will turn your feasts into mourning. . .”

Here a number of hymns are interjected into the order of readings; I will quote the most theologically significant. (Ok, for honesty’s sake I’ll admit that there are a fair number of hymns to Mary, and general remarks to the saints here, too, which I am omitting; my father says that the most objectionable of these were introduced in the 1800s under Catholic influence, that the Copts did not spontaneously write very strong statements to Mary.)

O my Lord Jesus Christ, who was crucified on the cross, trample down Satan under our feet.
O you who in the sixth day and at the sixth hour was nailed to the cross because of the presumptuousness of Adam’s sin in Paradise, tear asunder the handwriting of our sins, O Christ our God, and save us.
O Jesus Christ our God, who was nailed to the cross at the sixth hour, and has slain sin by the tree, and has by your death given life to the dead, even to men, whom you created with your own hands, and who were dead in sin.
You have wrought salvation in the midst of the earth, O Christ our God, when you stretched your pure hands upon the tree of the cross. Wherefore all nations cry out, saying, Glory to you, O Lord.

O Only Begotten, Eternal, Immortal Word of God, who for our salvation did will to be incarnate of the Holy Virgin Mary:
Who without change became man and was crucified; O Christ God:
You trampled down death by death, you who are one of the Holy Trinity, glorified with the Father and the Holy Spirit.
Holy God, who being God, for our sake became man without change:
Holy Mighty, who by weakness showed forth what is greater than power:
Holy Immorrtal, Who was crucified for our sake, and endured death in his flesh, who is Eternal and Immortal.

“Forsake me not, O Lord; O my God, be nor far from me.
Make haste to help me, O Lord my salvation.”   Ps. 38:21-22
“They parted my garments among them, and cast lots for my vesture.
But be not thou far from me, O Lord; o my strength, haste thee to help me. . .
He trusted on the Lord, that he would deliver him; let him deliver him, if he delight in him.”   Ps. 22:18-19, 8

Then the gospels, describing Christ carrying his cross, being crucified, the mocking of the people, and the one thief who believed in him, which leads to this hymn. The chorus is given (and sung) in English, Greek (those religious imperialists!), Coptic, and Arabic. This tune is faster and hopeful, and the whole congregation joins in. (Bear in mind that from the point in Matthew where “darkness came over the earth,” until the end of this hour, the lights are all turned off until the ninth hour, and we’re reading by the light that slips in the windows around the curtains.)

O King of Kings, Christ our God, Lord of Lords, as you remembered the thief who believed on you, on the cross, remember us in your kingdom.
Remember me, O Lord, when you come into your kingdom.
Remember me, O Holy One, when you come into your kingdom.
Remember me, O Master, when you come into your kingdom.

Who has ever seen a thief believing in a king? This thief by his faith stole the kingdom of heaven and the paradise of delight.
Mnesthete mou, Kyrie, en te basileia sou.
Mnesthete mou, Hagie, en te basileia sou.
Mnesthete mou, Despota, en te basileia sou.

Because of your deeds, o thief, you hung on the cross, condemned; and because of your faith, you received grace and joy, the kingdom of heaven and the paradise of delight.
Aripamevi, O Bashois, akshani khen tek metouro.
Aripamevi, O Phe-ethowab, akshani khen tek metouro.
Aripamevi, O Pa-ooro, akshani khen tek metouro.

You did not see Christ, God, glorified on Mt. Tabor in the glory of his Father; but you did see him hung on the Kranion, and you cried out, saying:
Iskurni, Ya’Rabb, ma’ta gita fi malakutek.
Iskurni, Ya’Qudaas, ma’ta gita fi malakutek.
Iskurni, Ya’Sayeed, ma’ta gita fi malakutek.

For this hour the key prophecy was from Isaiah 50:4-9: “The Lord God hath given me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him that is weary. . . The Lord God hath opened mine ear, and I was not rebellious, neither turned away back. I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to them that plucked off the hair; I hid not my face from the shame and spitting. For the Lord God will help me; therefore shall I not be confounded; therefore have I set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be ashamed. . .”

Also some verses from Job, and then Isaiah 63:1-7 (William Billings wrote a beautiful setting of this): “Who is this that cometh from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah? this that is glorious in his apparel, travelling in the greatness of his strength? I that speak in righteousness, mighty to save. . . And I looked, and there was none to help; and I wondered that there was none to uphold; therefore mine own arm brought salvation unto me, and my fury, it upheld me. . . I will mention the lovingkindnesses of the Lord, and the praises of the Lord, according to all that the Lord hath bestowed on us. . .” (Christ first being described, and then speaking, here.)

“For I am ready to halt, and my sorrow is continually before me. . . For dogs have compassed me; the assembly of the wicked have enclosed me; they pierced my hands and my feet.”   Ps. 38:17, 22:16

The gospels then, describing Pilate offering to release Jesus, and the people spurred on by the priests to chose Barabbas the murderer instead, and then Jesus being scourged by the soldiers. (By this time, we are reading four gospel passages every hour, in parallel.)

(After every hour, the litanies of the daytime are prayed, instead of only at the end of the whole day, as otherwise during the week. This is what makes this last so long, plus the fact that the psalms in Coptic are getting longer and longer, as the day becomes sadder.)

The services today started around 9am (I believe – my enthusiasm failed to get me going that early; we arrived around noon) and proceeded until 6pm. Since there are several wonderful songs and verses in here, I am going to break this day’s post up by the canonical hours, each of which lasted somewhat more than one hour, in practice.

The first hour’s prophecy was read from Deuteronomy, Moses’ warning to Israel of what would happen if they worshipped other gods: “I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that ye shall surely perish. . .” Today I finally realized the significance of all the prophecies and psalms put together: the psalms are often calling for vengeance against the wicked, who are persecuting the speaker of the psalm, and the prophecies are denouncing Israel for not obeying God. And many passages from the gospels identified Israel’s final disobedience as failing to recognize – indeed, killing – their Messiah when he came. They may not ever have enunciated it in so many words, but the Copts clearly believe in the covenant theology summarized by the phrase, “the Church is the new Israel.”

Another prophecy was read from Isaiah 1: “Hear, o heavens, and give ear, o earth. . . The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master’s crib; but Israel doth not know, my people doth not consider. . .” And Jeremiah, concluding with 23:5-6: “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth. In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely; and this is his name whereby he shall be called, The Lord Our Righteousness.” Also the passages from Jeremiah, and from Zechariah 11, concerning the one who was sold for 30 pieces of silver, which ended up in the potter’s field. Lastly, a homily by John Chrysostom, considering, in a very Socratic vein, that Judas was the one truly harmed by the transaction, since he did evil, and lost his soul, whereas Christ was innocent, and thus not the most to be pitied of the two.

“Deliver me not over unto the will of mine enemies, for false witnesses are risen up against me, and such as breathe out cruelty.”   Ps. 27:13

The gospels being the passages describing Jesus before Pilate, refusing to answer any accusations, only telling Pilate that his kingdom is not of this world.

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