FEASTS OF THE THEOTOKOS
The high reverence for the Virgin Mary by the Copts is best expressed in the Coptic SYNAXARION where she is described as “the sovereign of the universe, the queen of all womanhood, through whom we have grace.” Thus the Copts celebrate seven feasts for her. Dates are here given according to the Coptic Calendar, with their equivalents in the Gregorian calendar.
- The Annunciation by the archangel Gabriel to her father Joachim and her mother Hannah (who was barren) that she would conceive and give birth to a daughter, 7 Misra/13 August.
- The Nativity of the Virgin Mary at Nazareth, 1 Bashans/9 May.
- The Presentation of the Virgin Mary at the temple, 3 Kiyahk/12 December. Hannah had vowed to offer her daughter to the service of God. When Mary was three she was presented at the temple. Her father Joachim died when she was six, and her mother when she was eight. Mary spent twelve years at the temple, with other virgins.
- The Dormition of the Virgin Mary, 21 Tubah/29 January. The Virgin slept in the Lord at the age of fifty-eight years, eight months, and sixteen days, attended by the disciples and her female companions. In an effulgence of divine light, Christ appeared, with angels and archangels, received her soul, and entrusted it to the archangel Michael.
- The Assumption of the Virgin’s body. The bodily taking up into heaven of the Theotokos occurred three days after her burial, on 24 Tubah/1 February.
The Coptic church, however, celebrates this feast on 16 Misra/22 August, at the end of the fifteen-day fast devoted to the Theotokos. The only apostle who had witnessed the assumption of the Virgin’s body was Thomas. According to a Coptic tradition, on his way back from India to Jerusalem, Thomas saw the Theotokos’ body carried on the wings of angels, above the mountain of Akhmim in Upper Egypt. The other apostles, desirous of seeing it as well, kept a fast with prayers and were promised by Christ to have their wish granted. This came to pass on a day that was adopted by the Coptic church to be the Feast of the Assumption of the Theotokos, 16 Misra.
- Feast of the Theotokos the iron-dissolver (21 Ba’unah/28 July). On this day the apostle Matthias, who had been chosen to replace Judas Iscariot (Acts 1:26), was released from prison through the Theotokos’ prayers that were fervid enough to dissolve the iron used in the making of chains and fetters. Likewise on this day the Coptic church celebrates the consecration of the first church to be dedicated to the Theotokos, at the city of Philippi.
- Feast of the Apparition of the Virgin at Zaytun, Cairo, 24 Baramhat/2 April. This event took place in 1968 (see VIRGIN MARY, APPARITION OF).
In addition to the above, in medieval times Abu al-Barakat IBN KABAR, the author of an encyclopedic work on theology in the early part of the fourteenth century, mentions another feast of the Virgin, which does not figure in the Synaxarion. This is the Annunciation.
- Fenoyl, M. de. Sanctoral le Copte. Beirut, 1960.
- Kabes, J. “La Dévotion de la Sainte Vierge dans l’église copte.” Les Cahiers coptes 2 (1952).
- Wassef, C. W. Pratiques rituelles et alimentaires. Cairo, 1971.