St. Shenouda Coptic Newsletter

Volume 1, No. 4 July 1995

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Ruffian, Theologian, or Abbot? (by Maged S. Mikhail)

A prominent event in the Lives of St. Shenouda is that in which the Abbot accompanies St. Cyril to the Council of Ephesus (431 AD.). This fact has been attested to by St. Besa as well as St. Shenouda himself [See D. W. Young Coptic Manuscripts from the White Monastery. p. 133. Ms. Paris BN 131(6)f.56-57]. It is also upheld by the majority of scholars. However, "why was Shenoute invited to Ephesus?" continues to be an enigmatic question. Some scholars suggested that Cyril, whom they view as an unscrupulous character who just happened to be a great scholastic theologian, just needed the "violent" Shenoute with him as a "bodyguard." On the other end of the spectrum; others suggest very lofty reasons, which falsely depict St. Shenouda as a theologian comparable to St. Cyril (who has been called "the theologian par excellence"). And in between the two extremes we find every sort of combination. However, the real reason behind St. Shenouda's invitation to Ephesus may simply be his reputation; and need not be a part of a Cyrillian plot or due to the Abbots own theological prowess.

In his time, St. Shenouda was one of, if not the, most illustrious abbot in all of Egypt. And judging from the attendees of prior councils it was not at all strange for such abbots to be invited to attend ecclesiastical councils. Being the Charismatic leader of the huge White Monastery, and in many ways the de facto governor of the surrounding region; St. Shenouda would have been invited, if for no other reason, solely for his position and his reputation in Egypt.

The fame of St. Shenouda is actually a very interesting phenomenon. There are absolutely no known references to him in the Greek sources of the time (or later for that matter). Yet the good Abbot was undoubtedly known by the Alexandrian hierarchy, and seemingly even the Emperor himself; Theodosius II. This is apparent from an authenticated fragment from the second letter of St. Cyril to the Abbot. In it, St. Cyril tells St. Shenouda (Sinuthius): ". . . it has been communicated to me through the clergy who are in Constantinople, that the pious Christ-loving emperor has decided to send someone from among those who are very close to him to urge you and me to come to him." ["letter 110" Letters of St. Cyril of Alexandria 51-110 (US.: Catholic Univ. Press., 1987), 2nd Letter, 1st. frag. Trans. D. W. Johnson. Note that "letter 110" is actually a collection of fragments from three letters]. It is doubtful that this was the actual invitation to the third Ecumenical Council. However, it does demonstrate that the Abbot's reputation may have very well extended even beyond the borders of Egypt. Interestingly enough the Arabic Life seems to support this notion. It cites the following as the reason for Shenoute's invitation to the council:

And when the fathers gathered in the Council of Ephesus to defame Nestorius the hypocrite, those prominent in the Court said to the king 'there is in upper Egypt a man, a righteous prophet, called Shenouda who sees what is to be before it is . . . send so that his friend anba Cyril (Kyrillos) the patriarch of Alexandria may invite him, so they may embarrass this Nestorius and engage him in rhetoric. [E. Amelineau, Monuments pour servir a l'histoir de l'Egypte Chretienne au IVe siecle (Paris: Ernest Laroux, 1889), 426. Arabic Texts w/ French Translation; the above is my own rough rendition]

I believe that the Arabic Life is probably on the right track; although the actual events were probably not as poetic. For it is not inconceivable that St. Shenouda was invited to the council purely on his reputation. And as observed from the fragment above; at least St. Cyril, and seemingly the Emperor as well, held St. Shenouda in high regard.

The other, more widely accepted explanations mentioned earlier (Shenoute being a bodyguard or theologian) simply do not hold up. The Abbot was certainly not a theologian in the same sense in which St. Cyril was. He was an Orthodox Abbot, who taught and followed doctrines, but didn't attempt to formulate or define them. But it must be said that what the Abbot lacked as a scholastic theologian he made up for as an exegete; it is in this field that we may come to appreciate his thought, and originality. As for him being a "bodyguard;" this conclusion rests upon the out-dated notion that the Abbot was some sort of ruffian. The Society's upcoming Annual Bulletin will serve as a better forum to discuss the alleged "violent" demeanor of the Saint. However, for now it will suffice to note that the eighty-three year old abbot could have hardly been the threatening, violent perpetrator he is often depicted as.

Like a patriarch of a large family, St. Shenouda's power was an extension of his charisma, not his fist. And it was because of this charisma/(fame) that he was invited to attend the third Ecumenical Council.

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A Psali Batos for St. Shenouda (by John Rizk)

Introduction: The following text translation is that of a Psali (hymn) in honor of St. Shenouda, recited whenever his feast falls on Wednesday through Friday. The text was published By Prof. Leipoldt in his Sinuthii Vita et Opera Omnia III, pp.226-230, from a manuscript in the St. Petersburg Public Library collection. Errors in the text were left uncorrected because of their value to Coptic linguists.


When we praise...

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St. Shenouda's Writings (by Ashraf Hanna)


The following text is a translation from an Arabic sermon read on the 3rd Sunday during lent in the Coptic Church. The text comes from a microfilm of the Paris Ms P. Arabe 4761 (CML 1592).

Translation: (30V) ......... as master Paul says , how fearful it is (31R) to stand in the presence of The Living God. So if The Apostle who is filled with grace says that , how will it be the standing of the sinner who departs his world without repentance to accompany him in front of God.

As it says in the katholicon : "The good can barely redeem himself , where shall the sinner be."

So , how is this indifference that we are in towards our salvation until the unavoidable hour of death comes to us. Because our lives are like vapor that appears for a short while then vanishes , and a person's life in this world is all but the hour that he is in and no more. If he is in repentance, joy, and happiness in the world; this is the present hour. (31V) And if he is in sin, misery and sadness or burden of the world which no one can describe due to its magnitude, it will be this hour (and) nothing else.

As it was told about King Alexander, when he reigned in the world, that as he was (once) passing with his soldiers by some cities, he saw a woman ordering, forbidding, and ruling .

So he asked the citizens of the city saying, "How come there is a queen in a kingdom that once had seven kings who were brothers, didn't any of them had a child son to rule after him?"

And he was told "O king, from the total of the seven kings, there came only one son, and now he has his residence among the graves and this (32R) is his permanent home. We offered him the kingdom but he refused and did not want it" .

So, king Alexander ordered his presence before him and said to him "O man, why are you living among the graves and abandoning the kingdom that your father and uncles have left you while you are living among the tombs suffering great hardships from hunger, thirst, the heat of the summer, and the cold of the winter; abandoning the luxury that is desired by all human beings?". And the worshipping man answered him saying" I was busy with a great task in the cemetery, otherwise I would have come rapidly without any delay and worked as a king in the place of my father and my uncles". And the king asked" and what was this work that you are talking about?", (32V) the man replied "O king, I could not distinguish the bones of the dead from each other , but all I found was that the bones of the king , the poor, the slave, and the master were all the same the one exactly like the other".

The king then said "leave this worthless job and come so that I can seat you on the throne of the kingdom and put the gold necklace on your neck and claim you as the king and to become under my direction and watchfulness". And the praying man answered" there is no objection to what you order, but let me first wish from you four things to ask them from God Who gave you this kingdom, to give me and I will sit on this throne and never disobey you".

And he was told, "And what are these four that you want?"

And this praying man said, (33R) "I want youth without aging, permanent happiness without grief, healthy body without illness and a life without death". So when he said these four matters, the king became in great astonishment and said, "You O human being (you) asked for what is impossible, and what that cannot exist. As for youth without aging, it is a must with the abundant of days and nights and their continuation on a person that his hair will change from black to white and the bending of the body with the bending of the head, the looseness of his teeth and the shortness of the legs from the steps, the body will become ruined and there could be no youth after the aging. And your saying to be always joyful and no sadness, (33V) this will never be accomplished to anyone because the grieves of the world are plenty and its happiness is little for sinners and saints, as the saying of Master David in his psalm" So many are the miseries of the good, and from all God save them", and the proof to this, our saintly fathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob suffered sadness, hardship and miseries so abundantly that tongues cannot describe or mention otherwise the talking will be very long and the listener will be bored. As for your request for a healthy body, this cannot be because the wise people said, eight things adhered to all beings descendants from our father Adam, happiness and grief, gathering and separation, hardship and easiness then illness and health, and there must be sickness (34R) to the created as from them Master Job the beloved and what had befallan upon him from many sicknesses that he said, "let this night in which I was born not counted among the nights, nor the day that they told me I was born be regarded among the days, if I never came out of my mother's womb, that would have been my desire so as not to suffer all these great illnesses". So, if this good man suffered from all these hard illnesses, how can you ask for a healthy body without illness. And as for your saying a life without death, death is a must and a debt owed by every human because as our God Great and Almighty told our father Adam when he disobeyed by eating from the tree. (34V) He sentenced him to hardship, misery, and many grieves. And then said to him "you have to eat your food with the sweat of your forehead until you go back to the soil to where you were taken, as you are dust and to the dust you shall return" and so it was. And also Lukman the wise says, "that God humiliated mankind with two properties, death and poverty. as without death no mighty stubborn would have kneeled and without poverty the free would not have served the slaves".

And when the aforementioned man heard these words, he said to the king, "O Sir, since matters are like this and God did not give me anything of these mentioned four things, let me master stay like I am, living among the tombs (35R) suffering the heat of the summer and the cold of the winter fearing from the heat of hell and its coldness and its worms who never sleep, and the required four pass by me and I am in peace liberated from the worries of a king . As the affairs of the kingdom distract from the required rights of God ". When the king heard the words of this man, his heart became full of sadness to what he is in and to his spinning in the world and said, "I am under the judgment and the chance and the sentence of God is obeyed" then told this praying man, "go O man , you are from the good" and he wanted to give him some money, but the man told him, "the money of my father and uncles, I left and did not take anything from it. So, how can I take from you" and the king said, (35V) "inform me how is your living anyway" he told him, "On four things ", he was told, "and what are they" he said, "the first I knew that I have a God Who does not leave me without blessings so I was content with Him, the second I knew that I have an end and I am waiting for it, the third I knew that I have an obligation to fulfill so I am working on it, the forth I knew that the Right of God is seeing me wherever I am so I am ashamed to do what He hates ".

And when the king heard from him all these words, he became in great resentment for what he is in from great tiresome and hardship being a king, then he let the man go to his whereabouts and asked him for prayers.

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The Story of St. Mark (by Hani Abdelsayed)

Introduction: According to church tradition, the origin and establishment of the Coptic Church is attributed to Saint Mark the Evangelist. He is recognized as the founder and first bishop of the church. In the early fourth century, the scholar Eusebius, in his Ecclesiastical History, describes how St. Mark was the first to proclaim Christianity to the inhabitants of Egypt. Contemporary Coptic Historians, such as Isis Habib el Masri, cited this passage as direct evidence of St. Mark's evangelical presence in Alexandria. The next document arises in the latter half of the third century in the Constitutions of the Holy Apostles. Here it is mentioned that of all the bishops "Anianus was the first, ordained by Mark the Evangelist."

Later in the late sixth or early seventh century, Bishop John of Shmun (a city in Upper Egypt) delivered an encomium (eulogy) during the commemoration day of St. Mark's Martyrdom. Prof. Tito Orlandi, the renowned coptologist, reconstructed the Sahidic text in his Studi Copti. The following text is a rough translation of a portion of this text, preserved in Bibliotheque Nationale Copte 129.14, fol 103v. In this passage, Anianus speaks with St. Mark concerning his revelation of Christianity.


"... And through the reason of your sandal, I will cause all of the multitude of this city to know that a physician entered it recently. If the sickness does not exist, where is the need for the physician? And if the wound does not appear, where will the physician appear. For this one, the wound of his hand. And if you cure it, all of them would know that a new physician entered this city. And if the change does not take place, what is the need for a physician to whom every one comes. Thus the trouble which came because of it is solved.

And when St. Mark heard these things, he made clay in his hand and St. Mark made the sign (of the cross) on the hand of the man; "In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. This one that I came to announce his name in this city Rakoti (or Alexandria)

And at that moment, the wound disappeared, and (St. Mark's) finger created a clot on it. That is the name of Christ affected him like an elixir. And the direction of the Holy Spirit energized him

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News (Hany N. Takla)

1. The NKCSC Project: The first fruit of this project was the "Introductory Bohairic Coptic Grammar" (NKCSC-CL1). This electronic self-study guide was accompanied by selected texts as well as a dictionary module in Microsoft Excel. Later this month, as outlined in the attached flyer, we will release the second product, "The Bohairic English Dictionary" (NKCSC-CL2). This program will be a fully alphabetized and cross-referenced stand-alone viewer in hyper-text format. This dictionary can be accessed by Word for Windows through the Menu provided with the Bohairic Grammar Program. It requires only Windows 3.1 to run plus the Coptic fonts (Antonious), included in NKCSC-CL1. The rights for these fonts were acquired by the Society in March of this year from their developer, Dr. Wisam Michael.

The next program to be released will be the Coptic New Testament. Its development is running ahead of our previous estimates and we expect it to be available in early October of this year. It will be similar to the Bohairic Dictionary in its hyper-text appearance. It will allow the users to navigate through the New Testament by book and chapter. The user will have the choice of viewing the selected Chapter in parallel Bohairic/English (KJV) or Sahidic/Greek combinations. This program will be distributed in three separate arrangement; Bohairic/English, Sahidic/Greek, or a combination of both.

Other programs under development are the Bohairic/English Annual Lectionary, programmed in Word for Windows like NKCSC-CL1, along with other Church lectionary systems. Publishing The Old Testament will be released in separate books or groups of books, arranged in the same manner as the New Testament in Bohairic/English (Septuagint), and Sahidic/Greek. We are also contemplating a CD publication of the life and times of St. Shenouda the Archimandrite, including text and translations of the available vitae, selections from his writings, and graphical tour of his famous monastery church (the White Monastery). May God help us in accomplishing these worthwhile efforts.

2. Coptic Day and the California Orange County Coptic Mini Center: Through the efforts and the enthusiasm of our youthful members in Orange County, the Society will be holding a Coptic Day on Saturday, July 22, 1995. This will be a celebration of the Feast day of St. Shenouda and the opening of the first Coptic mini Center in Orange County. The celebration will be held in the Archangel Michael Coptic Orthodox Church in Santa Ana, California, where the mini Center will be located. More details are included in a separate flyer.

It will have a computer, with an updated electronic library of the works of the Society. It will also contain a microfiche viewer and a representative sample microfilm library of Coptic research material, including manuscripts, books, and articles.

This Coptic mini Center is designed to establish a link between the Coptic community in Orange County and our main Coptic Center in Los Angeles, approximately 40 miles away. Such link will function as a base to raise the awareness and to spread the benefits of the Coptic Heritage to more people. Hopefully, this will lead to more people getting involved in the work of the Society. This geographical area has lots of youthful potential! The success of this novel idea will lead to the establishment of more of these mini centers in the future and possibly upgrading them to regional branches.

3. Scholarship Coptic Studies among the Copts: In the last issue of the Newsletter (4/95) we reported on two of our Coptic Youth being accepted for graduate study in a modified Coptic Studies program at University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and at Catholic University of America (CUA) in Washington DC. In recognition of their achievements, the Society has approved a $1,500 scholarship for each of them for the Academic year 95-96. This will be paid from the general funds of the Society.

On May 12, 1995, in celebration of the 25th anniversary of the establishment of the first Coptic Church in US, St. Mark Church of LA established a scholarship fund under the name of its founder the departed Fr. Bishoy Kamel. The funds collected, $5,000, were turned over to the Society for administration and distribution. Of such amount, $3,500 will be awarded to Mr. Maged S. Mikhail to be used for the "Spring Semester in Egypt" Program sponsored by the Scriptorium in Michigan in January 1996. Two $500 scholarships will be awarded, one each, to Mr. Mark Moussa and Mr. Maged S. Mikhail for their upcoming academic work at CUA and UCLA respectively. The remaining $500 will be awarded later to a person pursuing an approved minor in Coptic Studies.

4. The Scriptorium in Egypt: We reported in the last issue of the Newsletter, on the first season of excavation work performed by the Center for Christian Antiquity (the Scriptorium), under the direction of Prof. Scott Carroll, in the Western desert of Wadi 'N Natrun, Egypt. The upcoming season, will feature the first edition of their "Spring Semester in Egypt". Ten students will participate in the program that will afford them the chance to learn about Coptic monasticism, Language, History, and Art as well as to participate in the excavation under the direction of renowned scholars in each of these respective fields. The program will count for 16 semester units. . The cost of this over three-month-program in Egypt is $7,900 including plane tickets to Egypt from New York and back. Included among the students, God's willing, will be our Maged S. Mikhail who will give us a first hand report on the accomplishments of the upcoming season. For more information on this program or the activities of the Scriptorium, please contact Profs. Scott Carroll or Jerry Pattengale at (800) 333-8373

5. Coptic Academic Curriculum: The Society has always advocated that the Copts should pursue higher studies in the field of Coptic Studies. This year, as some of our youth elected to pursue such goals, we discovered that there are no comprehensive curriculums offered any where in the US. In fact they will be enrolled in customized curriculums that have strong emphasis on Coptic subjects. Such curriculums lack the Coptic perspective emphasis that we sorely need. As a result, we are working on such a comprehensive curriculum that will develop the Coptic perspective in an academic setting.

This curriculum is designed to prepare students to carry on meaningful research in the various branches of Coptic Studies. Students will be required to take a total of 18 classes from 12 different groups. Such groups include Coptic Language, Bible, History, Literature, Liturgy, Art, Law, Languages, ... etc. The classes will utilize the immense study resources collected by the Society, especially the manuscripts. Strong emphasis will be placed on the translation of Coptic texts arranged in the various groups mentioned above. This 3-year curriculum will be equivalent to Upper Division and Master Degree courses!

All classes will be offered at the Coptic Center in Los Angeles, with the first ones offered in January 1996, God's willing. Each class will be divided up into 15, 2-hour weekly sessions. Two sessions will be offered back-to-back on Saturdays between 10 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. There will be a tuition fee of $100 per class ($50 for Society's members). More details will be provided in the near future.

6. Coptic Microfilm Library (CML): During this period, the long-awaited microfilms of 7 codices from the Cambridge University Library arrived. These are a welcome addition to our extensive holdings. They include biblical and liturgical Bohairic manuscripts as well as parts of the famous library of St. Shenouda's monastery (The White Monastery). Currently we are processing orders for 32 Christian-Arabic codices from the National Library of Paris and another 32 Coptic Bohairic and Sahidic codices from the collection of the British Library. Also have an order out to IDC in the Netherlands for 13 Coptic and Christian Arabic manuscripts from collections in London and Birmingham, UK, along with several thousands of frames research material about Egypt.

7. Coptic Book Library: More volumes of Coptic language, monastic literature, and biblical studies were added to our Coptic library. We also added a 500+ offprints (articles) in the field of Coptic Studies. This offprints collection is very valuable because most of the works done in this field were published in scholarly serial publications and not in books. More volumes are planned for the next quarter.

8. Publications by Copts: The Society has two important publications that it is sponsoring their distribution. The first is a 2-volume set of "Coptic Art". A collection of over 370 beautiful color plates of Coptic Art treasures with a brief caption accompanying each plate. An indispensable set to have by all those interested in the Coptic Heritage. The price is $35.00 for members, and $40.00 for non-members. The second publication is a 2-volume set of analysis of the Coptic and Greek texts of the Liturgy of St. Basil in English. The publication is titled "Analysis of the Liturgy of St. Basil". It does not require extensive knowledge of Coptic and practically no knowledge of Greek to use. It is must for everyone studying the text of the liturgy for academic or devotional purposes. The price is $24.00 for members and $28.00 for non-members. We recommend both of these publications to any one interested in the Coptic Heritage. Both of these volumes can be ordered directly form the Society.

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Prepared by Hany N. Takla. Last Update 3/18/96

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