Festal Days, Monthly

MONTHLY FESTAL DAYS

At present, the Coptic church observes three monthly festal days. These three monthly commemorations are recorded in the Synaxarion at 12 Ba’unah with reference to the story of Saint Euphemia, a devout widow who used to observe her husband’s habit of distributing alms, especially on these three feasts every month.

The first, the Feast of the Angel, is observed on the twelfth day of every Coptic month (Budge, 1915, pp. 917-19). It is held to commemorate Saint MICHAEL the Archangel through laudation, which follows the of the Synaxarion in the church. It is more regularly observed in churches dedicated to Saint Michael and is usually a simple memorial except on the two main feasts of Saint Michael, 12 Hatur and 12 Ba’unah. Some Copts, following the custom of their ancestors recorded in the Synaxarion under 12 Hatur and 12 Ba’unah, still make vows and observe a monthly family feast, to which the priest also is invited to bless the meal that follows the prayer of laudation and the reading of the homily. Such family or church festivals are more often observed on the main feasts, where “Saint Michael’s bread” is also prepared by the faithful, blessed by the priest, and then distributed to those who are present and to the poor.

The Feast of the Virgin occurs on the twenty-first of every Coptic month. It is a simple memorial service consisting of laudation after the of the Synaxarion, with some more hymns sung to the Virgin. The monthly feast is more regularly observed in churches dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary, especially the feasts commemorating her dormition, 21 Tubah, and the consecration of the first church dedicated to the THEOTOKOS at Philippi, 21 Ba’unah.

The commemoration of the Annunciation, the Nativity, and the Resurrection of the Lord is observed on the twenty-ninth of every Coptic month with the present exception of the months of Tubah and Amshir, which represent the Old Testament period and the silence that preceded the Annunciation, respectively. Thus, this monthly commemoration continues for ten successive months, beginning on the Annunciation, 29 Baramhat, and running until the Nativity, 19 Kiyahk. The Resurrection of the Lord also occurred on 29 Baramhat (see FEASTS, MAJOR).

Commonly both 29 Baramudah and 29 fall during Paschaltide, the fifty days beginning with Easter Sunday. Therefore, they are dedicated, like all the days of Paschaltide, only to the commemoration of the Resurrection.

If these days of monthly commemoration fall on fast days, the fast is ended directly after the liturgy, which is to be celebrated early in the morning, but the required abstinence is observed. The liturgy is recited in the joyful mode (see LAHN).

The lessons appointed for the day are to be read as usual. But if it be a Sunday, the lessons are to be changed for those of 29 Baramhat, except during Paschaltide where the appointed lessons are to be observed. Burial and memorial services are to be performed, as on Sunday, without using the mourning mode.

On 29 Baramhat, the hymns commemorate the only, and verses like “Jesus the took flesh from the Virgin” and “For Thou hast come and saved us” are the recurrent theme of singing. The commemoration of the Resurrection is restricted on that day to the of the Synaxarion (and the Fraction Prayer for the feasts of the Lord), since the glorious celebrations of the Holy Resurrection are to take place only on and Paschaltide.

The twenty-ninth of the months Ba’unah, Abib, Misra, Tut, Babah, and Hatur is designated for the commemoration of the Annunciation, Nativity, and Resurrection, together with the use of verse for each or “Thou hast come, wast born, and hast risen and saved us.”

There were additional Coptic monthly feasts, but they are not observed at present. The beginning of every month was observed by the ancient Egyptians, not with festive processions or of a mythical character but simply with a service offered for the dead. However, there is no evidence to relate the beginning of the Egyptian month to the moon.

This custom survived in Christian for some centuries in the form of a eucharistic liturgical service, as is attested by JOHN OF NIKIOU (c. 690), who attributed the origin of this custom to the Romans, saying, “Now March is the beginning of months [i.e., the beginning of the Roman year]. And in the beginning of the month they celebrate a feast, and they named that feast “Primus.'” His comment testifies to the Coptic custom of eucharistic celebration at the beginning of every month when it goes on to say, “It is for this reason that the holy fathers, the Egyptian monks, who were clothed with God, offer at the beginning of every month an unbloody sacrifice to the holy consubstantial Trinity and receive the holy life-giving mysteries, while they chant the words of Psalm 80, “Blow up the trumpet in the day of the new moon, on the notable day of our festival'” (Charles, 1916, p. 46).

BIBLIOGRAPHY

  • Budge, E. A. W. Miscellaneous Coptic Texts in the Dialect of Upper Egypt. London, 1915.
  • Charles, R. H. The Chronicle of John, Coptic Bishop of Nikiou. London, 1916.
  • Meinardus, F. A. Christian Egypt, Ancient and Modern, 2nd rev. ed., pp. 99, 104. Cairo, 1977.
  • Nau, F. N. Les Ménologies des évangeliaires coptes-arabes. PO 10, pp. 165-244. Paris, 1915.
  • Tisserant, E. Le Calendrier d’Abou’l-Barakat. PO 10, pp. 245-86. Paris, 1915.

EMILE MAHER ISHAQ