Burial Rites

The Coptic Church inherited the ancient Egyptian mentality regarding and ceremonies for the dead, which played an important role in the life of the Coptic congregation. The time of dying is one of the common themes in Coptic hagiography. Epitaph inscriptions reflect the mentality of the Coptic Egyptian toward death. Even the doxologies and the glorifications of some saints, such as those for St. Claudius of Antioch, are inspired by the lamentations of Isis.

vary according to the status of the deceased person. The Coptic burial rite is similar to the Greek rite in general, but the latter is more elaborate than the Coptic. The Coptic office has a simple structure; it consists of the and lections from the Holy Scriptures with verses from the Psalms, Pauline Epistle, and Gospels. These are followed by the of “Peace,” “the Fathers,” and “the Congregations,” the recitation of the Creed, and then the prayers appropriate to the purpose of the office, that is, the Litany for the Dead. Several hymns may be added to this simple structure according to the status of the deceased person.

There are for adult men, male children, adult women, female children, women who died in childbirth, bishops/metropolitans/patriarchs, hegumens/, deacons, monks, nuns, men who died during the Holy Pascha (Easter), who died during the Pascha, deacons who died during Pascha, male children who died during the Pascha, female children who died during the Pascha, and nuns who died during the Pascha. On the third day there is a special rite called the “Lifting of the Mat.” This rite is performed in the home of the deceased person. It has a structure that is similar to that described above.

Although there is no critical study of the rite of burial, several fragments from the Monastery of St. Macarius and the Monastery of St. Pshoi at Wadi al-Natrun might date from the 13th or 14th centuries.

The first edition was published by Raphael Tukhi in 1763. It is, however, not always in agreement with the manuscript tradition. In 1905, Claudius Labib edited the Book of Mourning. This book was printed at the command of His Holiness V in Coptic and in Arabic. Since then, several editions have been published based on this book but with the Arabic text and with only some readings in Coptic.