CONSECRATION OF CHURCH
After a new church has been equipped with the necessary vessels, curtains, books, and icons, it has to be consecrated, that is, set apart for divine service and dedicated to a saint. The consecration of a Coptic church is a colorful, elaborate service, carried out on a Saturday evening, and is enriched with significant readings from the Old and the New Testament.
Seven new pots are filled with water into which the following seven kinds of fresh fragrant plants are placed: jasmine, basil, citron, shaddock, lemon, vine, and the tree of Mary. Leaves of garden beet are also put around the altar and the pots. Seven candles are lighted on seven candlesticks, as are seven wicks in pure olive oil.
The bishop begins by saying the thanksgiving prayer. Then he offers incense and blesses the congregation. The midnight prayer is said, followed, inaudibly, by the first 120 Psalms. The remaining thirty-one Psalms (according to the Septuagint) are to be read aloud.
The service comprises twenty-one principal lections, each consisting, as a rule, of an intercession, a lesson from the Old Testament, a psalmody or a theotokia sung by the deacons, and a lesson from the New Testament.
Then the deacons sing the hymn to the Virgin Mary, beginning with “The golden censer is the Virgin.” This is followed by lections from Hebrews 7:26-28 and Hebrews 8; James 14-26; and Acts 7:44-56.
Then the hymn of the descent of the Holy Spirit and the Trisagion are chanted. A priest then recites the first intercession of the Gospel, and Psalm 67:13, 25, followed by readings from Matthew 17:1-8, Mark 9:1-8, and Luke 9:28-35.
Another priest recites the second intercession of the Gospel, and Psalms 64:1 and 149:1, followed by John 10:12-42. Then the deacons sing a few hymns.
A priest prays the three smaller intercessions of peace, for the church, for the fathers, and for the congregation. Then the congregation recites the Creed.
Then the Bishop offers incense and says the prayer of the incense, followed by two petitions.
Seven petitions read by the archdeacon are followed by several prayers by the bishop. The bishop then prays inaudibly to the Lord after which he recites the formula for consecration of the church and a prayer of benediction.
The clergy and deacons, carrying the jars, crosses, candles, censers, censer-pots, and the gospel-book, form a procession in front of the bishop, chanting appropriate hymns, until they reach the opening in the middle of the eastern wall of the sanctuary, which the bishop sprinkles with water. They go around the four walls of the church, which the bishop sprinkles with water, saying: “For a holy consecration of the house of God.”
Then he starts again at the eastern wall, this time signing with the holy oil of chrism, saying: “We consecrate this place as the church of [name of saint] in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” He continues signing all windows, corners, and pillars, saying: “Blessed is the Lord God, now and to the ages of ages, Amen.”
- Burmester, O. H. E. The Egyptian or Coptic Church, pp. 236-45. Cairo, 1967.
- Horner, G. W. The Service for the Consecration of a Church and Altar, According to the Coptic Rite. London, 1902.