Coptic Orthodox Church

Coptic Orthodox Church is the oldest church in Egypt and one of the earliest Christian churches in Christianity. The main church is centered in Alexandria, Egypt. The church is believed to have been founded by St. Mark in 50 AD. It belongs to the non-Chalcedon or miaphysite branch of Christianity or Oriental Orthodox Christianity. Coptic Christianity is related to the Ethiopian Tewodros Orthodox Church and the defunct Nubian Church. The Other Oriental Orthodox Churches include, the Syrian Orthodox Church, Armenian Orthodox Church, and churches located in India. The Ethiopian and Nubian churches once received their head from the Coptic Orthodox Church. Presently, ethnic cleansing is occuring in Egypt with Copts being the object of discrimination and terrorist attacks. Coptic Christianity was once the dominant religion of Egypt before  islamization. The number of Coptic practitioners vary, some put it at 10 to 15 million worshippers.

Belief and Practice


Prayer is fundamental to Coptic Christianity. Practitioners pray seven times a day.  Each prayer surrounds a theme in the life of Christ or event in the church. Fasting is another component of the church. Copts fast for 210 days in the year. Fasting begins in the morning and later in the day with consumption of non-meat , pure plant base dishes.  Major fasting occurs during Lent in the Coptic Calendar. Other practices called the Seven Sacraments are observed. They are as follows:

1.Chrismation--the receiving of the holy spirit with the anointing of oil after baptism
2.Repentance and Confession-confessing sin and being absolved by priest
3.the Eucharist--the eating/drinking of wine and bread, symbolic of Christ's body and blood 
4.Unction of the Sick--priest pray for sick, annoints with oil(symbol of the Holy Spirit)
5.Matrimony-marriage between one man and one woman conducted by priest in a church
6.Priesthood/Holy Orders- the selection of priests by a bishop laying hands on head, symbolic of annointing with the holy spirit

One basic tenent of the Coptic Church is the unified nature of God and Christ. Christ in human form was one in divinity with God. The son and father were inseparable.  

Monasticism was first developed in Coptic Christianity , in the latter 200s AD and  taking root in the 400s AD.  The concept of living in purity not being tempted by earthly pleasures,  a simple life , worshipping god in isolation was first extolled in Egypt. The first monastery was founded in the eastern desert of Egypt. Saint Anthony,  a Copt,  is considered the first Monk to live the Monastic life.  Saint Pachom, another Copt, set the rules for monasticism.
 
Martyrdom and sacrifice is a major conception of Coptic Christians.  Hundreds of Martyr's are held in great reverence, especially during the early centuries of Christianity, when Christians were killed and prosecuted under the Roman Empire. 

Structure


Many post exist in the Coptic Church. The Coptic Pope or Patriarch centered in Alexandria is considered head but does not have absolute authority. He is elected by a young boy, who randomly selects a name from a pile of candidates. Patriarch candidates come from a pool of monk, who served in the monasteries. Outline of the clergy order is as follows:

Patriarch (Pope)
Metropolitan
Bishop
Hegumen (Archpriest)--head of a small monastery
Priest
Archdeacon (Leader of Deacons)
Deacon
Epideacon (Assistant-Deacon)
Ognostis (Reader)
Epsaltos (Hymnist)

Sacred Text


Sixty eight books are considered cannon in Coptic Christianity, which corresponds with the same as most Protestant Bible but includes two addition.  The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahdo Church consider 81 books cannon. They include the following:

Genesis
Exodus
Leviticus
Numbers
Deuteronomy
Joshua
Judges
Ruth
1 Samuel
2 Samuel
1 Kings
2 Kings
1 Chronicles
2 Chronicles
Ezra
Nehemiah
Esther
Job
Psalms  
Proverbs
Ecclesiastes
Song of Songs
Isaiah
Jeremiah
Lamentations
Ezekiel
Daniel
Hosea
Joel
Amos
Obadiah
Jonah
Micah
Nahum
Habakkuk
Zephaniah
Haggai
Zechariah
Malachi
Matthew
Mark
Luke
John
Acts
Romans
1 Corinthians
2 Corinthians
Galatians
Ephesians
Philippians
Colossians
1 Thessalonians
2 Thessalonians
1 Timothy
2 Timothy
Titus
Philemon
Hebrews
James
1 Peter
2 Peter
1 John
2 John
3 John
Jude
Revelation