LAYING THE CORNERSTONE OF CHURCH
At the ceremony held to celebrate the founding of a church, the following items are placed in a receptacle: a Bible, a cross, coins in current circulation, newspapers of the day, and a document with the name of the patron saint to whom the church is dedicated, the name of the head of state, the name of the patriarch, and the names of the clergy and the notables attending the ceremony.
The head priest places the receptacle in the spot designed for the purpose beneath the threshold of the middle sanctuary, saying, “We lay the blessed foundation stone of this holy church dedicated to [name of the dedicatee] in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, one God, Amen. Blessed be God the Father almighty, Amen. Blessed by His only- begotten Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, Amen. Blessed be the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, Amen.”
The head priest then commences prayers saying, “Have mercy upon us, O God Father almighty. All-holy Trinity have mercy upon us. Lord God of powers, be with us, for we have no help in our tribulations and afflictions, save Thee.” This is followed by the Lord’s Prayer, the prayer of thanksgiving, the raising of incense for the evening, Psalm 50, and Genesis 28:10-31.
A priest says the intercession for the sick, and the deacons sing the litany, “The censer of gold is the Virgin, and her sweet aroma is our Savior. She has given birth to Him; He has saved us and remitted our sins. We worship Thee, O Christ, with Thy good Father and the Holy Spirit, for Thou didst come and save us.”
The epistle is taken from Hebrews 9:1-11; this is followed by the Trisagion, and the intercession of the Gospel, the psalm-versicle being Psalm 122:1-2: “I was glad when they said to me, Let us go into the house of the Lord. Our feet shall stand within thy gates, O Jerusalem.” The Gospel is from Luke 9:28-36. The deacons sing the appropriate response, and a priest says the three greater intercessions (for the peace of the church, the fathers, and the congregation). The Creed is followed by Kyrie Eleison said forty-one times.
Here the head priest says a prayer incorporating an earnest request to God to establish the new church on sure foundations, imparting purity to its sanctuary where the faithful may worship His sacred name, receive the holy sacraments, and enjoy God’s divine graces. The three absolutions are then said by the head priest, followed by the benediction and the Lord’s Prayer.
- Bishop Athanasius, metropolitan of Bani Suef and Bahnasa. Kitab Tartib Wad‘ Hajar al-Asas li-al-Kana’is al-Jadidah, pp. 3-32. Cairo, 1959.