† One of servants of the Coptic Church would hereby like to present a response to a thesis done by Hegumen Father Youhanna Nassif on rectifying the Coptic calendar, and adjusting the celebration of the Nativity feast, in the manner of a “critical appraisal”, following along the lines of an article written by Father John Ramzy, which the appraiser (in reference to the writer of this response) will include at the end of this response. The appraiser’s motivation in writing this response stems from what he observed in the thesis, as in the imprecision in presenting some scientific points, in addition to the thesis of our hegumen father being full of personal opinions that do not amount to scientific facts, nor to being pragmatic. Please note the appraiser’s usage of normal font (besides the usage of the shape of the Cross “†”) in his responses to the points raised, following the paragraphs containing our hegumen father’s discussion, which the appraiser had marked in a bold font.
Rectifying the Coptic Calendar
and Adjusting the Date of the Nativity Feast
Thesis by Hegumen / Youhanna Nassif
I go back again now to publish the original thesis on the topic of rectifying the Coptic Calendar, which I had published precisely 3 years ago, after I had now revamped some statements, and added important clarifications to explain the idea and ease the understanding.. I pray that God uses it for enlightenment, peace, and edification of the Coptic Orthodox Church, and to all her children from the ends of the earth to the other.
† The appraiser did not have the opportunity to read the original thesis of our hegumen father, but with revamping the thesis and addition of clarifications, the appraiser finds it more worthwhile to focus on this work, which is an update and review of the previous one.
Rectifying the Coptic Calendar
and Adjusting the Date of the Nativity Feast
+ It is well known that we as the Coptic Church celebrate the Nativity feast since the early centuries on the 29th of Kiahk.. And the Church has organised a beautiful arrangement for the rites of the month of Kiahk with its four Sundays, in terms of the readings and the hymns in preparation for this important feast. Therefore, it is impossible in any way, shape or form, to change or dispense with these joyful and enriching rites.
†(C-1)† The appraiser has realised the contradiction of different sources, especially the Arabic-written ones with the English, but it is clear that the Coptic Church forefathers were not accustomed to making a mention of the feast of Nativity alluding to Jesus Christ not being a worldly king, and therefore He ought not be treated like pharaohs for instance, or oppressive rulers who cared about their birthdays being celebrated through flagrant ceremonies, as per Origen’s explanation and Pope Clement agreeing with him (Encyclopaedia Britannica). Some Arabic sources indicate that the Nativity was decided for recognition as a feast, at the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD. The appraiser also found other indications of celebrating the feast of Nativity with Theophany as in the words of St. Basil the Great and Saint John Chrysostom. These two saints lived in the fourth century (both were born after the Council of Nicaea that took place after the year 325 AD). St. Basil the Great elaborates stating that “as for Christmas and Theophany, the fathers of the Council of Nicaea decided to celebrate them at night”, which explains the role of those forefathers at the Council of Nicaea in the celebration of the feasts of Nativity and Theophany together (Hegumen Youhanna Salama: “Ellaale’ Elnafeesa fy Sharh Toqoos wa Mo’taqadat Elkaneesa”, Vol. 2).
As for the Western records, we find that they followed the same principle, and perhaps it is no surprise as there was no division in the Church into different denominations at that time, meaning the principle of not celebrating the birth of the Lord in the first three hundred years. The first record of the celebration on December the 25th was in 336 AD, during the reign of Emperor Constantine (the first emperor to convert to Christianity). This day is calculated to be the 29th of Kiahk in the year 52 AM in the Coptic calendar, and there is more than one reason (or opinion) indicating the choice of that day (December the 25th). Among such reasons (or opinions) is that different countries celebrated a variety of feasts, perhaps the most famous, profusely mentioned, is the pagan feast “saturnalia”. There are also other feasts mentioned, such as the Yule Festival in Germany, Balder Feast in the Celtic legends, and in Scandinavia, the feast of the sun god which was hit by a mistletoe arrow. In addition, another Western tradition was mentioned as reported by historian William Tighe where on the 25th of March (corresponding to the 29th of Baramhat in the Coptic calendar) perhaps for its relation to the vernal equinox, was taken to be the day of the feast of Annunciation, so that Christmas takes place nine months later (10 months in the Coptic calendar up to 29th of Kiahk, or 28th of Kiahk after a Coptic leap year, due to the intercalary day being inserted at the end of the month of Nasee’, which falls between the feasts of Annunciation and Nativity) (Encyclopaedia Britannica; American Encyclopaedia; Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church; Hutchinson, Ruth and Adams: “Every day is a holiday”; William Tighe: “Calculating Christmas”; Hegumen Youhanna Salama: “Ellaale’ Elnafeesa fy Sharh Toqoos wa Mo’taqadat Elkaneesa”, Vol. 2).
+ It was the case in the past up to the year 1582 AD, that the 29th of Kiahk in the Coptic calendar would coincide with the 25th of December in the Julian calendar.. Until it was discovered that the earth completes its annual rotation around the sun in a time slightly less than that previously calculated (about 11 minutes and 14 seconds), so it moves forward to a different point than that where the beginning of the year was calculated, and it continues to move forward each year by those minutes and seconds that are not counted in the old calendar.. In 1582 AD, the scientists found that the earth was located at an advanced position in its rotation around the sun of about ten days, which made them move the calendar ten days forward to be compatible with the proper position of the earth, and this was in October 1582 AD, whereby after the 4th of October they moved on the following day to the 15th of October directly.. This has been known as the Gregorian amendment named after Pope Gregory, Pope of Rome at the time who adopted this amendment. It is a correct astronomical adjustment that the world will continue to use until the end of time.. Through it, the Gregorian calendar is adjusted by a precise scientific mechanism, which is to drop three days every 400 years, drop an extra day every 4000 years, and drop an extra day every 20,000 years.. Therefore the calendar calculation remains fully compatible with the location of the earth in its rotation.
†(C-2)† There are several important points, that the appraiser will mention, but before that let us agree on two terms: the first, old style Julian calendar, and the second new style Gregorian calendar (to facilitate the analysis and comparison between different calendars). According to Wikipedia (the free online encyclopaedia), some scientists had realised the error of the old style Julian calendar before its introduction in 46 BC by at least a century. This is evident from the history of a scientist called Hipparchus who lived between about 190 – 120 BC. The appraiser could not find a reason for not correcting this calendar at such a period in spite of that! Julius Caesar relied upon an Egyptian scientist called Sosigenes in order to adopt the old style Julian calendar, which therefore illustrates the similarity between the Coptic calendar derived from the Egyptian, and the old style Julian calendar (please see below).
†(C-3)† The appraiser will mention some points, before addressing what our hegumen father mentioned above. In terms of the new style Gregorian calendar, the appraiser sees several flaws and errors:
-  Firstly, it is not accurate one hundred percent. This calendar averages the length of one year 26 seconds longer in some sources, and 27 seconds in others. This has led to such a realisation in recent times, whereby scientists are obliged to add one second every several years (this phenomenon was termed as leap seconds). This addition has happened almost 27 times since 1972 AD so far (suggesting that scientists of previous generations had not realised this – yes, science is evolving and every day we learn something new). In addition, the new style Gregorian calendar will still deviate with respect to the rotation of the earth one whole day in 4909 AD.
-  Secondly, and as the appraiser will elaborate further after this paragraph, the 10 day difference was discovered with the aim of recalculating Easter. Both the apokty calculation (derived from Latin “epactae”) of the Coptic Orthodox Church and the computus calculation of the Western Church are based on the metonic cycle, a cycle coordinating both the solar and lunar cycles. This is a 19-year cycle (i.e. it consists of 6940 days), and based on this, the year is calculated on average to consist of 365 + ¼ + 1/76. From this we can see that the metonic year is much closer to the year in the Coptic calendar, or the old style Julian calendar, as the average length of the year in both is 365 and ¼ days. For this reason, the Western Church failed to maintain the canons of the Council of Nicaea, because the calculation deviated according to the computus, whereas no change occurred according to the apokty calculation. That is why the celebration of the feast of Resurrection in the Western Church has deviated from our Coptic Church. The appraiser therefore wonders if this amendment was fit for its purpose, or was it an amendment devoid of careful studying. At least the computus calculation should have been modified to reflect the new style calendar system for instance, but now we find that Easter in the Western Church does not comply with the canons of the Council of Nicaea, and the three canons in short are: (1) to come on a Sunday (2) following the vernal equinox, and (3) to come after Nisan the 14th (Wikipedia, the free online encyclopaedia; http://endtimepilgrim.org/metonic.htm, http://www.timeanddate.com).
-  Thirdly, the scientists committed a serious mistake on introducing the new style Gregorian calendar, whereby Pope Gregory XIII decided to wake up on Friday the 15th of October 1582 AD, by the end of Thursday, October the 4th! How can the 4th of October be a Thursday, and the 15th of October a Friday in the same year? The appraiser wonders why days were not given new names. It makes sense that the right thing is to correct both the dates and the days – this is quite logical. This inadvertent mistake (intentional or unintentional) led to the discord of the dates with the preceding ones, and also to the Western Church differing in her celebration of Easter, depending on churches in which countries follow the new style Gregorian calendar. Due to such a reason, the same computus calculation would render two different Easter dates – one celebrated by a church following the new style calendar, and another by one following the old style calendar. That was not the only problem, but also because Easter must fall on a Sunday, the difference became one week, or multiples of, whilst the calendar showed a difference of ten days in the 16th century, and that difference increased thereafter. That indeed was another reason why the Western Church could not adhere to the apostles’ and the forefathers’ canons (meaning the three principles, including those stating that Easter must not coincide with the Jewish Passover, and also not to precede it – those two aberrations that have become quite the norm in terms of Easter celebrations in the Western Church – please see below).
-  Fourthly, the new style Gregorian calendar contradicts itself, and also contradicts the logic on which it is based. On NASA’s website (the American National Aeronautics and Space Administration) – most probably the article was written by Mr David Mazza – it shows that by retrograde application of the calendar (known by the term “proleptic Gregorian calendar”), we find that there is another difference in calculation – that is after the Council of Nicaea, and the laying of the canons of Easter calculation and its three conditions, as the appraiser states in more than one section in this reply, the years 400 AD, 800 AD, 1200 AD should not be leap years (this is the difference from the Julian calendar). Hence, by subtracting these three extra days of such twelve centuries (fourth to sixteenth century), nine days should have been deleted, not ten! But for many reasons that the appraiser will mention, mathematical calculation is one thing, nature is another – the fact is that the earth’s rotation around the sun varies in length and fluctuates temporally each year (the scientific evidence is that 365 days 5 hours 48 minutes and 46 seconds is just an average for the solar year (tropical year) and not an absolute or fixed length). Finally, Dr. Irv Bromberg mentions, on the website of the University of Toronto, that through the application of the new style Gregorian calendar versus the old style Julian calendar in the pre-Nicene period (i.e. the first three centuries) we would find that mathematically the vernal equinox was supposed to be on March the 23rd – not March the 21st! Does this mean that twelve days, not ten, ought to have been deleted? This alone is evidence that this new style Gregorian calendar would not result in the same outcome as the old style Julian calendar. As we see then, this new style calendar leaves more questions than answers regarding its utility, mechanism, and efficacy (https://www.grc.nasa.gov/www/k-12/Numbers/Math/Mathematical_Thinking/calendar_calculations.htm; http://www.sym454.org/mar21; http://www.dateandtime.com).
-  Fifthly, the introduction of this new style Gregorian calendar has been accompanied by severe confusions in the Western world, for centuries, followed by the rest of the world regardless of their denominations, religion, or race. A historical snapshot reveals to us the introduction of this calendar in Pope Gregory XIII’s church, and the countries under his auspices, which were Spain, Italy, Portugal, Poland and part of France in the year 1582 AD. They were followed by the Catholic states of Germany and Austria in the following year and Hungary four years later. Approximately 23 years later, the other parts of Germany adopted it. Britain and its colonies (including America and Canada) did not agree to it until the 18th century (1752 AD for the sake of precision). The appraiser also noted that there are some sources mentioning some unconventional and surprising practices that had taken place as a result. For example, what had happened in Sweden, which included Finland and some other states at the time. In 1699 AD, the Swedish government decided to adopt the new style Gregorian calendar. The project depended on wiping out all the leap years from the Julian calendar up until and including 1740 AD (since at the time the new style Gregorian calendar preceded the Julian calendar by eleven days). They succeeded in 1700 AD in not counting the 29th of February, but circumstances hindered the project, thus they counted 1704 AD and 1708 AD years as leap years! This made King Charles XII cancel the adoption of the new style calendar, and revert Sweden to the old style Julian calendar! In order to achieve this result, the year 1712 AD became not only a leap year, but that day which had been deleted in 1700 AD was added, so the Swedish calendar ended up showing February the 28th, February the 29th, and February 30th in 1712 AD! Sweden returned to the Gregorian calendar, after almost 41 years, i.e. in 1753 AD. Bulgaria, Russia, and Estonia adopted this modern calendar during World War I. There are countless sources that describe the problems that resulted from the use of two different calendar systems in different countries at different times for one major global event. In addition to that, not only was the Russian revolution recorded, but also identified by two separate dates! As Russia had adopted the new style Gregorian calendar in the year 1918 AD, its first revolution was identified as February revolution (which commenced on the 8th of March 1917 AD new style – meaning the 23rd of February 1917 AD old style Julian calendar). Afterwards, and in the same year, Lenin had led another revolution on the 6th and 7th of November new style, or the 24th and 25th of October old style. So then, is it an October revolution or a November one? When was its predecessor, February or March? Finally, the appraiser found some references that mention that the Turks adopted this new style Gregorian calendar between 1916 AD and 1927 AD, when Egypt was under the Ottoman rule during such a period.
-  Sixthly, the rotation of the earth around the sun is influenced by many factors. These include the melting of glaciers, wind, storms and others. Scientists now conclude that with global warming, the length of days will vary faster than expected, and therefore some began to think about correcting the new style Gregorian calendar, to keep up with what is happening on the planet in particular, and the solar galaxy in general. The appraiser found many references to such suggestions, and he is also aware that social media is full of discussions about theories to such solutions (Wikipedia, the free online encyclopaedia; http://www.wwu.edu; astronomy.stackexchange.com). The following solutions have been suggested: Holocene Calendar, International Fixed Calendar, World Season Calendar, Leap Week Calendar, Hanke–Henry Permanent Calendar. Of course, it is then not at all unlikely that the calendar will change again and quickly, and this will have an impact on the holidays we know now (whether religious or worldly).
-  Seventhly, the usage of this new style Gregorian calendar has become a political tool for some countries, better to not be named, to impose more oppressive regimes on their people; because through the usage of this new style calendar, date changes and the days of months are reduced, thus the authorities control and manipulate workers’ wages and rights. In addition to that, it is easy to manipulate people’s ages, and this leads to recourse to courts and judicial authorities, which increases tension between people from the social psychology perspective. Interestingly enough, there are countries that do not recognise the durations of kings’ reigns and governors’ rules like others, and/or identify the births of kings on separate dates than the other countries! Also pregnant women would find that they take longer periods in their pregnancy and their due dates change, and how this may affect their husbands, their families, and their care! Indeed, it is documented in history how the use of this modern calendar has led to the instability of the economy of some individuals, and consequently many communities, because traders could not understand or agree on the dates of their trade and commerce. This was evident among Eastern and Central European countries as historically recorded (The British Encyclopaedia; Brad Plummer: “We’ve Been Using the Gregorian Calendar for 434 years, It’s Still Bizarre”; Jennie Cohen: “Six Things You May Not Know About the Gregorian Calendar”; Dr. Drang: “George II and the Gregorian calendar”; “Change from Julian to Gregorian Calendar” on http://www.timeanddate.com; Wikipedia, the free online encyclopaedia).
†(C-4)† Returning to the points that our hegumen father mentioned, the appraiser would like to point out that the discovery of the 10 days difference was made in particular because the vernal equinox in that era fell on March the 11th (ten days before its usual date). This was approved between 1545 and 1563 AD on the fringes of the Council of Trent, when Pope Paul III assigned the scientist Luigi Lilio for that particular job, where the latter died in 1576 AD, and then the Jesuit scientist Christopher Clavius obtained some of Lilio’s writings. Afterwards, Pope Gregory XIII decided to apply the new style Gregorian calendar, and on the 24th of February 1582 AD, he issued a papal decree (bull) for the purpose of recalculating Easter (Encyclopaedia Britannica; Peter Meyer: “The Julian and Gregorian Calendars”). As mentioned previously, the bull specified four countries, and part of a fifth, to commence in the morning of the 15th of October (treated as a Friday) by the end of Thursday the 4th of October. Of course, with the use of this new style calendar, the Western Church was unable to maintain two conditions of the Council of Nicaea concerning the Easter occurring after the Jewish Passover, and also not on the same day. Please refer to the points  and  in paragraph †(C-3)† for more clarity. The reader may also know that the vernal equinox coincides with the 20th of March nowadays in Europe (the origin of the amended calendar), and not the 21st of March, as was the case when the usage of the new style Gregorian calendar was decreed. Interestingly, in the year 1582 AD, the vernal equinox fell on the 10th of March, and not the 11th of March, as was the case five or six years prior! Please refer to the previous points for further elaboration.
†(C-5)† Neither can our hegumen father, nor anyone predict that this modern calendar will be in use until the end of ages! How can anyone predict this? Please refer to the previous paragraphs, so that discussions and disputes regarding this issue are clarified. In fact, it is now scientifically proven that the Persian calendar is the most accurate calendar known to man, and recently, the “revised Julian calendar” project was initiated, whereby errors are less than one second in the former and a second to two seconds in the latter (Wikipedia, the free online encyclopaedia).
+ As a result of this Gregorian amendment, the day of the 29th of Kiahk now occurs on the 7th of January and not the 25th of December as it was prior to the amendment, and it is expected to occur on January 8th, 2101 AD, January 9th, 2201 AD, and January 10th, 2301 AD. It is known that the Coptic calendar is older than the Julian calendar, which is taken from it, which is an astral calendar, not a solar calendar.. It was based on old astronomical calculations, especially the heliacal rising of the star Sirius.. This old Egyptian calendar is a very accurate calendar, and was the marvel of its time.. But it is not exactly identical with the solar calendar utilised in the world today..
†(C-6)† The appraiser would like to draw the attention of our hegumen father and the reader to an important point. At the beginning of the application of the new style Gregorian calendar, some countries celebrated Christmas on the 25th of December old style, while the other part of the European continent and the rest of the Western world on December the 25th new style (i.e. December the 15th old style – 19th of Kiahk in the Coptic calendar), as I mentioned previously. Thus, all the usual holiday dates varied, leading to even more disturbing and deeper splits, to the extent that many Christians thought that the Catholic Church wanted to impose its authority, and that increased anger and feud between different denominations (i.e. the reasons were not only political, or even pragmatic)! This was followed by other countries adopting such a modern calendar gradually in different centuries (i.e. after the difference in days had increased further), and subsequently the gap had widened between some countries and others, as explained earlier.
†(C-7)† It is quite probable that the date of the 7th of January was selected in the twentieth century when the Turks (Ottomans) adopted that new style Gregorian calendar in Egypt (the appraiser did not find a document confirming the exact date), leading to the deviation relative to celebrations in other parts the world. However, the Russian Orthodox Church and some other Eastern Churches continued to use the old style Julian calendar in their religious rites, regardless of the political aspect of the state. This old style Julian calendar closely matches the Coptic calendar used in the Coptic Orthodox Church, as noted earlier.
†(C-8)† The appraiser does not know on what reference did our hegumen father rely in his identification that the Coptic calendar is an astral calendar – the appraiser has found several sources in Wikipedia mentioning that the Coptic calendar is a solar calendar (Clagett, Marshall (1995), Ancient Egyptian Science: A Source Book, Vol. II: Calendars, Clocks, and Astronomy, Memoirs of the APS, No. 214, Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society; Grafton, Anthony Thomas et al. (1985), “Technical Chronology and Astrological History in Varro, Censorinus, and Others”, The Classical Quarterly, Vol. XXXV, No. 2, pp. 454–465; Krauss, Rolf et al., eds. (2006), Ancient Egyptian Chronology, Handbook of Oriental Studies, Sect. 1, Vol. 83, Leiden; O’Mara, Patrick F. (January 2003), “Censorinus, the Sothic Cycle, and Calendar Year One in Ancient Egypt: The Epistemological Problem”, Journal of Near Eastern Studies, Vol. LXII, No. 1, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, pp. 17–26; Pauline Tawdry: “Our Coptic Egyptian Language [the appraiser noted that our hegumen father used this book as described in the “References” section]).
The appraiser would also like to mention that Egypt knew three types of calendars, but the Coptic calendar emanated from the Egyptian solar calendar. The appraiser also found some arguments stating that some modern scholars reject the idea of the heliacal rising of Sirius (such as Clagett and Scharff), so the appraiser cannot comment on this particular point. The appraiser also found on http://www.st-takla.org a reference to Egyptologist James Henry Breasted, pointing out that this great calendar was taken by Julius Caesar to Rome and used as the best calendar at the time. In his book “The Wisdom of the Egyptians”, Dr. Isaac Ebeid states: this calendar is the first scientific “solar” calendar that is followed by all the people of the civilized world. The appraiser does not find the need to return the aforementioned pieces of information about the Egyptian calendar, from which the Coptic was derived, but suffice it to say, in agreement with the statements of our hegumen father, that the Egyptian calendar as witnessed by many scientists, whether Egyptologists, Coptologists, or astronomers, is indeed one of the marvels of its time. It is also worthwhile mentioning, that the Egyptian calendar, which uses base 6 as a denominator, is more accurate than the Gregorian calendar, which uses base 10 (decimals). The appraiser however, differs in his view in relation to the opinion of our hegumen father, since the latter hinted that the era of this calendar has concluded, such an idea that is not shared by the appraiser based on what he read from different sources.
+ Since the earth is one of the planets of the solar system, and its rotation around the sun with its diagonal axis determines the times of the four seasons and the lengths of the day and night throughout the days of the year, then it follows that the solar calendar for the inhabitants of the earth is more accurate than any other calendar follows another star than the sun. Therefore, the other calendar must be adjusted to the solar calendar. It is not required or expected to cancel the other calendars, whether astral or lunar, but what is required is only to adjust them on the solar calendar constantly if necessary.
†(C-9)† Again the appraiser would like to mention that he does not wish to repeat what he explained before (please see above). The appraiser believes that our hegumen father’s confusion in respect to the sources he accessed makes the reader uncertain of his aim. Simply put, the Egyptian calendar, the Coptic calendar, the old style Julian calendar, and the new style Gregorian calendar are all solar calendars. The appraiser therefore believes that the last line in the previous paragraph is about the adjustment required for the leap years (the appraiser expanded on this earlier and will return to these points later continuing to critique our hegumen father’s thesis). Please also review the points detailed in section †(C-3)† in order to realise the effects of the amendment that occurred to the different yearly seasons.
Please note that in the year 1903 AD, the summer solstice fell on the 22nd of June, in the evening, while it falls on the 20th of June 2096 AD in the morning (“Solstice and Equinox Table” Courtesy of Fred Espenak, http://www.astropixels.com; http://www.timeanddate.com).
+ It is worth mentioning that the Jews who have a lunar calendar, which is the Hebrew calendar similar to the Arabic one, established an astronomical calculation (similar to the apokty calculation) to set the dates for celebrating their festivals.. This calculation is a combination of the Hebrew and Gregorian calendars in a cycle of 19 years and is repeated thereafter. As for us Copts, adjusting the Coptic calendar on the Gregorian calendar is much easier because the Coptic calendar is very close to the solar Gregorian calendar, and the length of the Coptic year is almost identical with the length of the solar year by more than 99.9%.. Therefore, amending the two calendars on each other is a very easy task and will not need complex calculations.
†(C-10)† It is clear that our hegumen father was confused in comparing the Hebrew calendar and the Arabic calendar (also known as the Hijri calendar). As our hegumen father mentioned, the Hijri calendar is a lunar one, but the Hebrew calendar is a “lunisolar” one. The Hebrew calendar is lunar in terms of the months, and solar in terms of its association with agriculture, which makes the Jews resort to adding a thirteenth month every few years (on the whole, a thirteenth month is added every nineteen years) (“The Jewish Calendar” article on http://www.timeanddate.com; Rushdi Wassef Behman Doss: “Coptic Calendar Science and Apokty Calculation” [this is also one of the references used by our hegumen father as listed in the “References” section – this particular reference states: “therefore, the Egyptian Coptic Year is not a solar year, not a lunar year, not an absolutely astral year, but a Sothic cycle year” (the appraiser therefore deduces that it is this point on which our hegumen father relied, to reach the above conclusion)]; Attia Saqr: “The History of Egyptian civilization”; a research by Dr. Abdel-Hamid Lotfi in “elthaqafa magazine” (number 121)).
Two points remain for the appraiser to comment on with regards the apokty calculation: (1) the first point is that the apokty calculation was established by Anba Demetrius the Vinedresser, the 12th patriarch on the see of St. Mark, approximately after 189 AD and before the Council of Rome in 198 AD. St. Demetrius relied on the contemporaneous astronomy sciences, and an Egyptian scientist by the name of Ptolemy Elfaramawy, who managed to determine the date of the Jewish slaughtering of the lamb, thereby deciding the date of the feast of Resurrections for Christians. Based on this, Anba Demetrius published a decree every year to the churches of the whole world to determine the date of the feast of Resurrection/Easter. Such a calculation was called the “apokty calculation”, or the “the vine calculation” after Anba Demetrius the vinedresser. (2) The second point concerns the leadership of the Coptic Church throughout the ages in determining the timing of Easter (wherein God grants us the appearance of the holy fire at the church of the Holy Sepulchre, on the specified day based on our calculation, the Copts, according to what is stated in the Didache which contains the teachings of the apostles and the forefathers [chapter thirty one]) and also based on it the other seasonal holidays such as sham alnasim and so on. Of course, all this depends on the solar year and its association with the various agricultural festivals (see previous references). Again, the appraiser will not discuss the ambiguity of our hegumen father and his confusion of the Coptic solar calendar with the lunar calendar, and its comparison with the solar calendar, where the appraiser believes our hegumen father meant the Gregorian calendar (www.st-takla.org; Wikipedia, the free online encyclopaedia).
+ It should also be noted that in the third century BC, during the reign of Ptolemy, the ancient Egyptian calendar was modified and adjusted for the first time, and consisted of only 365 days.. A quarter of a day was added every year, or a full day every four years.. Scientific advances now show us the need for more precision in adjusting the calendar by calculating the minor difference of minutes already present, for the Coptic year to be exactly the same as the solar year. By applying this amendment, we are moving in the right direction towards the adjustment of the Coptic calendar completely.
†(C-11)† In fact, the appraiser would like to alert the reader that these statements are scientifically inaccurate. Ptolemy III had wanted to apply an amendment to the calendar, as our hegumen father mentioned, but this had not happened due to the opposition of the Egyptian priests at the time (i.e. in the third century BC). Such an amendment did not occur until the year 25 BC by Augustus Caesar, who had adopted it as a more accurate calendar than the old style Julian calendar (whose usage began in 46 BC, i.e. approximately twenty years before Augustus Caesar’s decision) (Wikipedia, the free encyclopaedia).
The appraiser does not need to comment again, posing the question which right direction are we moving in, since the new style Gregorian calendar’s flaws have been scientifically proven, and initiatives took place with the aim of discussing amendments to it, with what is more correct and accurate nowadays. As a result, also, from the factors mentioned above, the appraiser wonders if the speed of the earth’s rotation will change in the future in an unpredictable manner, and thus will lead one day to new discussions demanding that the current calendar be adjusted to a scientific calendar that reflects the natural phenomena that affect earth’s rotation at the time.
* The required amendment
+ Leaving everything as it is now, results in the Nativity feast gradually approaching the Resurrection feast, so how can we celebrate Nativity and Theophany during the days of Lent! Or after Resurrection? This is definitely unacceptable. The fast of the apostles has increased by 13 days than it was before 1582, and will continue to increase.. Many people feel its excessive length and therefore refrain from fasting at all, and this is not of any spiritual benefit.
†(C-12)† The appraiser is able to deduce that our hegumen father had misapprehended the apokty calculation and consequently the determination of the feast of Resurrection in the first place, and its relation to the feasts of Nativity and Theophany, after what he had pointed out in the above paragraph, given his explanation. It is certainly not a simple matter, i.e. the determination of the feast of the Resurrection, but the appraiser will mention a few important points for explanation first, and then to elaborate in the critique afterwards.
- The apokty calculation is based on the vernal equinox, which was on March the 21st at the time of holding the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD, that is the initial part of the fourth century (according to the old style Julian calendar), and it fell on the 25th of Baramhat in the Coptic calendar. After the application of the new style Gregorian calendar, the 25th of Baramhat in the 20th century and the 21st century, fell on April the 3rd. Therefore simply put, as the Nativity feast changes, Theophany also changes, and the feast of Resurrection changes. The reason is quite simple, the Coptic Church depends on the Coptic calendar in the apokty calculation, and not the new style Gregorian calendar, and in addition, all the Coptic dates will continue moving due to the discrepancy with the new style Gregorian calendar in terms of leap years.
- Secondly, this indicates the accuracy of the Egyptian scientist Ptolemy Elfaramawy, and the wisdom of Anba Demetrius the vinedresser (the appraiser dare describe his virtue of transparency and futuristic vision) in the ability to establish the apokty calculation, or the vine calculation, through which he was capable of determining the feast of Resurrection very accurately, hand in hand with the changes to the Hebrew calendar and the time of the slaughter of the lamb, throughout the ages. This accuracy was consistent with the teaching of the Didache and averted the mistakes that had occurred in the Western Church later (that is to say with the adoption of the new style Gregorian calendar and the discord of the computus – please refer to the above discussion). All this despite the usage of different calendar systems than was the case in the second and third centuries, when the old style Julian calendar was used.
- Thirdly, this is a purely rhetorical assumption (which the appraiser mentions for what might happen in the future in terms of asking similar questions to our hegumen father’s research) if there was an error in the calculation of the feast of Resurrection (which is impossible) and the moving of the Great Lent to an earlier date. The assumption revolves around fixing the feast of Resurrection onto the 29th of Baramhat that is the day of the commemoration of the resurrection of the Lord in the Coptic calendar (although this contradicts the principles of the Didache, but only for the pure rhetorical assumption and nothing more), which corresponds to April the 7th in the new style Gregorian calendar; this therefore means that the start of the Great Lent will be on the 4th of Amshir, which corresponds to February the 11th in the 20th and 21st Please remember that this is contrary to the canons of the apostles, the early saints, and the Church, and is practically impossible in any case. Therefore, in order for this to happen which our hegumen father warns of, that is to say the feast of Nativity to come during the Great Lent, this would then need at least 34 days for the feast of Nativity to move, which means that this will take 4,500 years (taking into account the leap years), and also Theophany will take about 2,900 years for the same to happen as well. The appraiser wonders about the presence of any logic that explains the suggestion to change our feast dates based on an unscientific, impractical, and imaginary premise. The appraiser would again like to point out that this paragraph is purely hypothetical and rhetorical, whereby he wanted to draw the attention of the reader that the theory mentioned by our hegumen father is not pragmatic, and also imaginary – because it is not wise to create a fictional problem and then hasten to find solutions to it!
- The appraiser would once again like to confirm that the change in the Coptic calendar in relation to the new style Gregorian calendar affects all the Coptic feasts and events, which naturally follow the Coptic calendar, i.e. not only the feasts of Nativity, Theophany and Resurrection.
†(C-13)† Returning to our father’s previous paragraph, the appraiser notes another error in his conclusion. First, as mentioned earlier, the new style Gregorian calendar was not applied in our country since its inception in 1582 AD. Secondly, and more importantly, the celebration by the Copts of major Lordly feasts, and consequently all churchly fasts, did not depend on the new style Gregorian calendar. Therefore, despite the difference between the old Western calendar and the new one, the Coptic Church continued to use the Coptic calendar, and that therefore did not affect the length of the apostles’ fast even with the adoption of the Gregorian calendar. Simply put, as has already been pointed out, and only for the sake of illustration, the feast of the apostles’ movement follows that of the feast of Resurrection, which in turn moved due to the change in the calculation of the vernal equinox (that point which the appraiser found our hegumen father to have misapprehended). For explanation purposes only, the vernal equinox which falls on the 25th of Baramhat, will move to the 4th of April in the year 2100 AD, and the feast of the apostles which falls on the 5th of Abib will fall on the 13th of July. More simply put, the apostles fast had not changed in length in any era whatsoever or for any reason at all.
†(C-14)† The most important aspect above all else, is the spiritual aspect, and the appraiser has been left quite confused by the statement made by our hegumen father. How can any Christian person, especially a Coptic Orthodox, complain of fasting or its length? The appraiser does not find an answer to this rhetorical question! Such a statement (and it is just a statement as such, unworthy of any other description) is very dangerous, because not only is it against the teachings of the Church, but also against the teachings of God. There is no need for the appraiser to list the various Biblical verses in support of his position, but it is enough to clarify some points to the reader, who perhaps may not be aware of. The Coptic Church surpasses other denominations (yes, I repeat, surpasses, along the lines of St. Paul the apostle saying: “Are they servants of Christ? I am out of my mind to talk like this. I am more. I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again” (2 Cor 11:23 – New International Version, and what follows) in her periods of fasting and principles of fasting more generally.
Our Coptic Church added three days to the Nativity fast, over what is practised in other churches, because of El-Mokattam mountain moving. Our Coptic Church was also gripped by spiritual zeal when she found that the Syriac Church reveres Jonah the Prophet by fasting for three days (also known as the fasting of the people of Nineveh); so what does she do? Contemplates in the Book of Jonah, the words of Jesus Christ likening Himself to the prophet in His death, His burial, and His resurrection, and makes this fast a first degree fast in our church. Our church also added a whole week of preparation at the start of the Great Lent, when she noted what another church had done approximately in the seventh century AD (regardless of the historical reasons behind the adoption of such an addition). It is not appropriate, then, to talk about the believers’ reluctance to fast, as it is our service and our duty as faithful servants of Christ to support the weak, so that we may steer this ship to where we find our Lord in eternal life. No one can change these teachings, and we have already found the results of what has happened in other denominations when tradition and rituals have become demoted to a lower value by making concessions, with the obvious aim of gathering people around the church, while in reality that was one of the evil tricks that succeeded in destroying the spiritual principles to start with, and believers gathering around the church altogether as well.
+ After the growth and spread of the Coptic Church throughout the world, especially in the West, Copts began to feel the problem more of the difference between the two calendars, and there has been dissatisfaction with the different dates of Christmas, with no holiday for schools and businesses at Nativity and Theophany. We have been spending a lot of time each year in explaining why there is a difference between us and the West regarding the dates of celebration.. Now it is time to rise up to the level of “finding a solution” instead of staying forever in the level of “explaining the reasons for the difference”; this sterile level that consumes our time in what does not build spiritually or solve the problem at the congregation level..!
†(C-15)† The appraiser finds it difficult to understand and respond to this point. How and why does our hegumen father, or any Christian person, call for an adjustment of the calendars in order to match holidays with each other? How does our principle become to comply with worldly rules and systems? What if the holiday dates change for instance? What if the Western Church and such societies applied the latest scientific findings regarding the original date of Christ’s birth? There are many studies that the appraiser believes that our hegumen father is well aware of (as they are supported by American religious scholars) as well as the reader, which aim to adjust Christmas celebrations to September? (Wikipedia, the free online encyclopaedia; http://www.ucg.org; various video clips on http://www.youtube.com). The appraiser also wonders what if the Coptic Church had spread in China more than the West? Would we request to unite the New Year celebrations with theirs in the month of February for example?
†(C-16)† It is enough for the appraiser to recall the words of Jesus Christ, the Gospels, and the apostles’ messages, about the departure from the world and its systems. The prince of this world is the devil, so how do we wish to imitate the world, and comply with earthly rules? Psychologically speaking, by virtue of the appraiser’s work in the field of psychiatry, he finds that through the application of such amendment suggested by our hegumen father a humanly demotion will be caused in contrast to the psychological need for self-actualisation (please refer to Figure 2). The Maslow hierarchy of needs pyramid arranges the human, and the psychological priorities of needs, in order for a person to elevate their human drive, and to develop psychological growth starting from the physiological needs represented in the bottom stone of the pyramid, through to the higher needs, including the need for belonging, and up to the highest stone leading to the peak of psychological needs fulfilment in self-actualisation. In studying such a pyramid, we find that the suggested amendment keeps the person in the level of the stone second from bottom, which revolves around the sense of social safety and security, therefore it pulls us down from the third stone which revolves around need for belonging, especially the spiritual churchly affiliation (being one of the psychological needs), and that then means that it belittles the target of rising towards the self-actualisation (as illustrated in figure 2). In short, the appraiser finds that this not only pulls the person downwards, but also equates the churchly traditions and spiritual needs, with the lowly earthly matters.
†(C-17)† Regarding the second point, the appraiser does not know why our hegumen father listed the feast of Theophany among the feasts that are taken as holidays! In fact, the countries of the diaspora where the Coptic Orthodox Churches are widely spread by virtue of immigration of large numbers of Copts, namely the United States, Great Britain, and Australia, have systems that do not allow holidays for the feast of Theophany, which we celebrate for three days starting from the 11th of Tubah (which falls on the 19th of January, or the 20th of January after the Coptic leap year).
As for the point after, the appraiser views that we do not waste time explaining the reason for the difference to the others, and that there is no such a lowly problem for us to transcend from by finding a solution. The fact of the matter is that through these discussions the other person realises how much we love and belong to our Church, which pulls him closer to learn more about our rituals, customs, traditions, and most importantly our forefathers and their legacy for us. If the other person, however, sees our attachment to worldly matters (compared to other Orthodox Churches for example), and not only the other person but also our children, then at a subconscious level they will not be proud of the position of their Coptic Church, for they have been educated in societies that promote the utility of reasoning and logic in various matters (physical, mental, and spiritual). Therefore, we may find that they do not have due respect for the Coptic Orthodox Church if she is attached to worldly affairs. Dare I say also that the criteria of Orthodoxy will be shaken then. Suffice it to say that one of these criteria is the steadfastness in adhering to the teachings of the forefathers (please note the above regarding the status of the Alexandrian forefathers, such as St. Athanasius the Apostolic, Anba Alexandros I the patriarch and St. Bafnotius, and their role in the development of the Orthodox Creed, the defence against the Arian heresy, and establishing the canons of calculating the feast of Resurrection, whose methodical basis was organised during the reign of Anba Demetrius the vinedresser (as mentioned earlier)).
The appraiser calls upon the reader once again to comprehend with due care and diligence that the adjustment of the Coptic calendar based on the new style Gregorian calendar will ruin the canons of the apostles and lead to the occurrence of the feast of Resurrection before or on the day of the Jewish Passover (which is contrary to the canons of the apostles and the teachings of Christ, that are clear in the interpretations of the Old Testament and the New Testament – the Old Testament contains such prophecies, detailing the transgressions of the Jews and their intransigence in the New Testament). Please note that following apostolic canon: “for the feast (of Resurrection) to fall on the Sunday that follows the Jewish Passover, not with or before it” (Didache 31; Elmagmoo’ Elsafawy page 198), and the seventh apostolic canon decrees isolating and excommunicating whosoever celebrates the feast with the Jews before the equal length of the vernal day and night. Finally, and in short, adherence to the Coptic calendar is one way of adhering to our Orthodox standards (and certainly resisting the devil’s tricks in abandoning our inherited principles across the generations, that many contemporary saints have adhered to, such as Anba Cyril VI, Anba Shenouda III, and many others, who have certainly been involved in such discussions over and over again, but all of them adhered to the teachings of our Coptic Church). The appraiser would also like to make this point most clear, and it concerns the brotherly love. We Coptic Christians love all Christians and non-Christians, including of course other Christian denominations, but that does not mean making concessions for the sake of unity of the faith. To make any concession, whatever its purpose may be, would send out a hidden message that drives at the recognition that we are not walking on a straight path, and that our position is flawed (conveying lack of confidence in the legacies we have received). This is not correct – we must not abandon the teachings of the forefathers that until recently (i.e. before the use of the new style Gregorian calendar) were followed by even the churches dissident from the Orthodox faith. Please refer to the above discussion, in particular the paragraphs dealing with the calculation of apokty and the feast of Resurrection, and its comparison with the computus calculation, after the adoption of the new style Gregorian calendar.
+ Therefore, the purpose of this research is simply to transcend above the situation in which we are now; that is to explain the reasons for the difference in the date of the celebration between us and the West, to the level of “applying a simple amendment in the Coptic calendar” based on sound scientific foundations, and to establish simple rules in order to correspond fully to the Gregorian calendar now and in the future as well.
†(C-18)† To summarise what has been mentioned before, the appraiser does not find it necessary to comment on transcendence, as from a practical and psychological points of view, this is deemed as a concession, i.e. relegation, rather than transcendence, and therefore, it will set a precedent that harms the Orthodox standards and violates the Church’s principle of departing from the earthly objectives. Let us remember very well that the end does not justify the means, and our goal without exception is love, and the unity of the Church, but not at the expense of the straight path, that is Orthodox, which the Coptic Orthodox Church has always followed. The appraiser again does not need to repeat the nature of the unscientific application to that amendment, in terms of its usage, and especially in terms of her subjection to global worldly rules. The appraiser will later comment on other paragraphs presented by our hegumen father, in order to explain some of the damage that the Coptic Church would suffer if she succumbed to these temptations.
+ Those who live in Egypt may not feel the urgent need for this adjustment, except for the suffering from the length of the apostles fast, but those living in the West feel this need, especially new generations, and families with foreign members who have joined the Coptic Church.. It is better to solve this issue now instead of losing some of our children in the short and long term.. In fact, our children get tired of these confusions and differences that consume part of their interests and upset them, causing a conflict between their belonging to their church and to their new countries in which they were born and grew up ..!
†(C-19)† Once again, the appraiser does not want to repeat what he said about the Coptic Orthodox Church and its love for fasting. Please refer also to paragraph †(C-14)† which illustrates the relationship between the Church and fasting from the spiritual perspective, and some developments in the rituals of the Coptic Orthodox Church in lengthening the days of the fast of Nativity, the introduction of a new fast that is the fast of Jonah (also known as the fast of the people of Nineveh), and the addition of a preparation week to the Great Lent. No one could possibly say that the length of the apostles fast causes suffering! How can anyone actually say this – is this some kind of disregard for the importance of fasting? Is it a denial of its usefulness? Is it unbelief? The appraiser does not understand at all how any mouth can utter such futile arguments that are of no use whatsoever! The hegumen father calls for shortening of the period of the apostles fast to avoid the departure of new generations and foreign members entering our Coptic Orthodox Church. Is the solution to attract believers to the church going to be achieved by reducing the days of fasting? This is a concept that is spiritually completely incomprehensible, as well as non-Christian in the first place. As the appraiser mentioned earlier, he would like once again to elaborate on the explanation that belonging to our church is more important than that to the country (please refer to figure 2 – Maslow’s hierarchy of needs – and also paragraph †(C-16)†).
†(C-20)† Let us assume a purely hypothetical proposition to clarify the mistaken idea that was inadvertently presented in the above discussion paragraph by our hegumen father. Talking about the apostles fast, the appraiser believes that our hegumen father didn’t wish to address the unification of the dates of Easter between Coptic Orthodox Church and its Western counterpart, as he had mentioned towards the end of the original thesis (the appraiser does not need to mention once again the extent of the damage done to the Orthodox faith by ignoring the canons of the Church, that the forefathers had established, with the occurrence of the feast of Resurrection before the Jewish Passover, lest we have communion with the transgressors (please refer to paragraph †(C-19)†). But only for the sake of a purely hypothetical assumption, if such an adjustment is applied, the feast of Resurrection would move one week (for it must fall on a Sunday), whilst the feast of the apostles, i.e. the fifth of Abib, would move 13 days to correspond to the 29th of June (once more the appraiser would like to repeat that this would ruin the canons of the Church, as the feast of Resurrection would occur in some years with the Jewish Passover, and in other years before it – examples of this, in the year 2025 AD the feast of Resurrection would fall on the same day as the Jewish Passover, in 2028 AD it would come before it, in 2031 AD before, in 2034 AD before, in 2035 AD before, in 2037 AD before, in 2038 AD before, in 2041 AD before, in 2045 AD on the same day, in 2048 AD on the same day, in 2052 AD on the same day, in 2055 AD before, in 2058 AD before, in 2061 AD before, in 2065 AD before, in 2066 AD before, in 2071 AD before, in 2072 AD on the same day, in 2075 AD on the same day, in 2079 AD on the same day, in 2082 AD before, in 2085 AD before, in 2091 AD before, in 2092 AD before, in 2095 AD before, in 2099 AD on the same day. Based on that, the shortening of the apostles fast would amount to 6 days, while in the years in which the fifth of Abib falls on either a Wednesday or a Friday, the shortening would be 5 days only. Is it then wise encouraging the believers to adopt an adjustment to a flawed calendar that is also not fit for purpose for a period of 5 – 6 fasting days shorter, whilst the Coptic congregation fasts on average 160 days yearly, not counting the apostles fast? The appraiser then wonders if from our hegumen father’s point of view, this shorter period of fasting by less than a week would lead to the loss of some of our children in the short or long-term.
†(C-21)† Although it is not the topic of the appraisal, nor is it a follow-up on what our hegumen father wrote, but the appraiser would like to draw the attention of the reader to two other points relating to the feast of Resurrection. If the feast of Resurrection is fixed to correspond with that of the Western Church (which is a violation to the canons of the apostles and those of the Council of Nicaea as mentioned above), we will find that in some years the feast of Resurrection comes constantly in March (while it comes in May as a result of the apokty calculation), meaning that the apostles fast will inevitably increase in length (for a month longer approximately, and in some years that period will even be longer than a month), as opposed to the apokty calculation and the Coptic calendar. The feast of Resurrection (Easter) will come in March for the Western Church, while it comes in May for the Coptic Church (i.e. a gap of five Sundays) in the years 2024 AD, 2032 AD, 2035 AD (in that year it will be on the 29th of April for the Coptic Church – 21st of Baramouda 1751 AM), first of April 2040 AD, reverting to March in 2043 AD, 2046 AD (in that year it will be on the 29th of April for the Coptic Church – 21st of Baramouda 1762 AM), 2nd of April 2051 AD, reverting again to March in 2054 AD, 2059 AD, 2062 AD (when it will come on the 30th of April for the Coptic Church – 22nd of Baramouda 1778 AM), 2065 AD (in that year it will fall on the 26th of April for the Coptic Church – 18th of Baramouda 1781 AM), 2070 AD, 2073 AD (when it will be on the 30th of April for the Coptic Church – 22nd of Baramouda 1789 AM), 2081 AD, 2084 AD (when it will come on the 30th of April for the Coptic Church – 22nd of Baramouda 1800 AM), 2092 AD (when it will come on the 27th of April for the Coptic Church – 19th of Baramouda 1808 AM), 2097 AD. Therefore, the total length of the apostles fast would fluctuate between 33 to 43 days on applying the new style Gregorian calendar, whereas if not applied, and continuing to use the apokty calculation, the total length of the apostles fast will fluctuate between 17 and 27 days in the same years (website of the South Australian Astronomical Society website, http://www.assa.org.au; Coptic Orthodox Church Network; copticchurch.net; http://www.whyeaster.com; http://www.timeanddate.com; Wikipedia, the free online encyclopaedia).
The second point is, as the appraiser has hinted before, that our Lord Jesus Christ blesses His people with the appearance of the holy fire on the feast of Resurrection that is determined by the apokty calculation. It is an honour from the Lord to our Coptic Orthodox Church, and her saints, and so the appraiser asks a nonsensical question: is this a coincidence? Does God really have coincidences? Surely, the appraiser knows well, and also does the reader, and our hegumen father, that for God there is no such a thing as a coincidence (please refer to, for example, the prevention for the good of man – a book of sermons on St. Mark, quiet questions about atheistic thought: primary thoughts -1- articles by the priest monk Seraphim Elbaramousy; Acts chapter 17 – interpretation of the Acts of the Apostles from Philippi to Athens “from the interpretation and reflections of the forefathers”) – please also note that http://www.st-takla.org is full of various articles and books on this topic, perhaps the most important of which are a series of interpretations and reflections of the forefathers, covering many events in the Gospels, Acts of the apostles, and the Epistles in particular, and the Holy Bible more generally.
+ In my opinion, too, it is serious to think that the Church in the diaspora celebrate Christmas on December the 25th and the church in Egypt will remain on January the 7th (which will change later).. If this happens, the Church will be divided within a few years.. And there will be an insoluble problem regarding the duration of the fast and the completion of the Sundays during the month of Kiahk for the Church in the diaspora, as to how can we begin the month of Kiahk on December the 9th and then about two weeks later we celebrate Christmas..? And also what about the dates of celebration of some feasts that are associated with the date of Nativity, such as the feast of Circumcision, Theophany, the wedding of Cana of Galilee, and Christ’s entry into the temple?! So I stress out that the celebration date must be unified in the Coptic Church all over the world.. Perhaps this is why some of our congregation in Canada in September 2014 when they were presented with the idea of celebrating Christmas at a different time from the mother church in Egypt, seemed unwilling to accept such a proposal.
†(C-22)† The appraiser fully agrees with our hegumen father that it is serious to even suggest the division of the Coptic congregation and the creation of some schism within the church. This thought is completely unacceptable to the appraiser, not only due to the dates of celebrations, but the issue is certainly much deeper, which does not require explanation or clarification to the reader. The appraiser finds the statements of our hegumen father describing the congregation in Canada as a nice reprieve and quite heartening, as the appraiser lives in a country in the diaspora, and can see and hear the zeal of the Coptic congregation on the principles of the one body and the one spirit as our Lord Jesus Christ demands us. Please also note, that our hegumen father made a mistake by his mentioning that Kiahk starts on the 9th of December (when in fact it starts on the 10th of December, or the 11th of December after the Coptic leap year – that then shows the appraiser our hegumen father’s confusion with dates and calculations in general).
+ I would also like to clarify the joy and appreciation of all the Church’s children, especially the second and third generations in the diaspora, for the amendment of the readings of the 23rd of Kiahk (1st of January), and selection of new readings for that day on the occasion of the departure of David the prophet, instead of borrowing the readings of the 8th of Tout (the departure of Moses the prophet).. They therefore felt that the Church was alive, developing, contemporary, and not rigid… And I expect that the joy and appreciation will be multiplied by the reception of the amended feast of Nativity.. It will increase the respect and attachment to their ancient Church, which is conscious and also progressing..!.
†(C-23)† The appraiser does not understand why this change had happened in the first place, and does not know when it did, and by whom. By virtue of the service of the appraiser in the deaconate, he was surprised by such a change a few years ago no more! But in truth, the appraiser sees this as a contradiction with the Orthodox standards, and with the tradition and the Coptic rites! The appraiser is well aware of how many times there have been recent amendments to some of the rituals bringing confusion and disturbance to the Coptic congregation, not to mention the difference in the interpretation of their aims, and thus their practices! Returning to the current point of discussion which is at the heart, and even at the core of the subject of the Coptic calendar compared to other worldly calendars – our Church does not celebrate New Year’s Day on the 23rd of Kiahk! This is celebrated on the 1st of Tout (11th of September three times every four years, and 12th of September after the Coptic leap year, which precedes the Gregorian leap year). In the celebration of the Coptic New Year, our Church selected a passage of the Gospel of St. Luke 4:14-30 in the liturgy Gospel reading, which ends with the expulsion of the Lord Jesus from the synagogue, and from the city, with the people being determined to cast him off the top of the mountain. Why did the church not stop before this segment particularly, instead of putting it in the katameros on such a day? The answer is simple: the Church in her wisdom as a bride of Christ wants to teach us that our celebrations in the world must be dedicated to remembering the passions and tribulations as long as we are still in this corrupt body. Our joy must be a joy in tribulations. Another important message, or even a more important one, is that this chapter revolves around the preaching of salvation, and our Christ has said in more than one place that He is not of this world, so we must remember this as we celebrate a worldly new year (i.e. earthly). Another message also taught by our Coptic Church is that we ourselves must remember our iniquities with the New Year celebrations because we are no more compassionate than those who wanted to kill our Lord, so in our celebration of the New Year we must have repentance, discernment, and self-judgment. Of course, there are many other messages and lessons, but the appraiser finds it sufficient to mention those in order to continue with the details of the response in more depth.
So by returning to the point of the 23rd of Kiahk, which falls on the 1st of January three times every four years (excepting Sundays, where the readings are those for Kiahk fourth Sunday), the appraiser wonders why these readings have changed. We can now understand that by the turn of the twenty second century, the first of January will fall on the 22nd of Kiahk three times every four years, and the 21st of Kiahk once every four years. The passages for the readings of the 23rd of Kiahk are repeated 18 times, with the commemoration of the departure of any prophet from the Old Testament regardless of who he is, or if he has specific rites (e.g. Jonah the prophet) or his Biblical status (i.e. one of the major or minor prophets). Why was the change made then? Is it because the congregation felt offended by the word of God frequently repeating the woes? Or because they were offended by the Church selecting such a passage which is not suitable for the event? Is it an inappropriate passage meant to induce fear in other people, and not us, and/or what the aim is for such a mention on the 23rd of Kiahk, which signifies the celebration of the New Year that certainly does not involve us either spiritually or ritually anyway? The appraiser believes that the message of the Old Testament is to offer true repentance from within, and not outwardly, and also that fear is very important in our worship to the Lord (let us listen with the fear of God – worship God in fear and trembling – “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Mt 10:28 – New International Version) – “Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God” (2 Cor 7:1 – English Standard Version)). Or should the word of Christ be divided into what is suitable or not! The appraiser understands that the katameros, as well as the euchologion, the psalmody, and the synexarium, have all been changed before in order to unify the readings and prayers in different places that use the Coptic rites, and this is a wise and admirable goal, which had achieved its aims fully, so is it wise to change it now for the sake of an event that bears no relationship to the Coptic rituals in the first place? What will happen in the year 1816 AM, 2099/2100 AD? Will we return to the original rites and the readings of the 8th of Tout (the departure of the prophets)? Why is the church criticised for her rigidity and steadfastness? Why would changing rites become an evidence of vitality, progress, and contemporariness? The appraiser believes that the position of the people who make such arguments reveals lack of complete awareness with the principles of selecting the particular passages and readings for the Coptic Church’s katameroses, and also their unbelief that the Holy Spirit is concerned with selection of such passages and readings, and their generalisability on a large scale to embrace all places that use the Coptic Orthodox rites. It also reveals the lack of understanding for the arrangement of the passages and their connections with each other, which reflect not only the forefathers’ ideologies, but also an Orthodox Theological ideology, and an apostolic one, offered to us in a complete spiritual model, and also essential for our life on earth (article by Eng. Fouad Naguib Youssef in the link: http://carpro1.tripod.com/HTMLobj-138/Coptic_Lectionary.htm).
On the philosophical and psychological level, too, do we want our children to change and deviate from what we teach them when they are young? Even on the personal level, who wants his personality to change from time to time, in order to keep pace with changes in society? Psychology calls these people feeble-minded, or weak-willed. In addition, as the appraiser has mentioned before, the danger of changing the Coptic rites in order to attract more people does not necessarily ensure their respect, but the feeling that something is defective and ought to have changed – the appraiser therefore does not see that it is logical for a person to feel attracted or adherent to any organisation that walks in an unclear path and needs to change itself and its path from time to time! The appraiser hopes that the bride of Christ will not stray in the midst of worldly developments, and by the framework of modernisation and adjustment, something that our Church, our rituals, and our Orthodox values do not need, those which have been preserved by the Holy Spirit over the generations, facing up to the tyranny of the persecutors, the oppression of the aggressors, and above all the schism that had taken place by the dissident denominations away from the Orthodox faith. Finally, let us reaffirm the assertions of historians in various fields and regions, in their testimonies that without the Orthodox Church, her forefathers, and her saints, and their unchanged and unmoved position over the ages, Christianity as a whole would have suffered, and would have been completely lost through the gnostic philosophies, atheism, and heretics who used tools such as the destabilisation of Coptic principles in faith-like disputes, exhibitionistic styles, and also scrutiny directed. (The appraiser calls on the reader to remember God’s work in the miracle of moving the Mukattam mountain, as a churchly congregational work that is not matched by any collective work anywhere else in the world) (Wikipedia, the free online encyclopaedia; Claremont Coptic Encyclopaedia; http://www.britishorthodox.org).
* The idea of the amendment
+ The idea of the amendment is based on a once only procedure, which is the deduction of thirteen days from the Coptic year, in one of the months in which there are no Lordly feasts or important churchly occasions such as the month of Babah.. For example, if we choose the 3rd of Babah (which falls on October the 13th), it will be followed directly by the 17th of Babah (which will fall on October the 14th). Otherwise, the last 13 days of any Coptic year could be deducted, so that the 1st of Tout will come the day after the 22nd of Mesra. Therefore, the 29th of Kiahk will fall on December the 25th, as it was for many centuries before the Julian calendar was amended in 1582 AD..
†(C-24)† The appraiser views the statements of our hegumen father as lacking objectivity. Firstly, how can anyone argue that there are no important Coptic events? Let us note that on the 12th day of each month there is a monthly commemoration of Archangel Michael; on the 21st day of each month there is the commemoration of the Virgin Mary the Mother of God; on the 29th day of each month there is the commemoration of the feast of Annunciation (except for the months of Tubah and Amshir). Does our hegumen father suggest that we cancel the celebration of one of those days? Of course someone may ask what would happen if we actually ignored these days just once for a more important goal? No, the appraiser does not see this as an important goal – the appraiser fears the wrath of God, the angels, and saints. The appraiser does not wish or hope that this day will come when one such day, in which there is a commemoration of a saint (or certainly a martyr), an angel, or our mother the Virgin Mary would be dropped – the appraiser reiterates that the end does not justify the means. There is no need for the appraiser to mention that our Church urges and even cares about the relationship with the saints. There is no doubt in the appraiser’s mind that our hegumen father and the reader know perfectly well the intercessions of the saints and angels before God, and even the well-known stories about their complaints that the Coptic congregations do not sufficiently plea with them for the good of the congregations themselves.
†(C-25)† The appraiser would like to draw the attention of the reader to an important point, that is before the year 1582 AD the Copts remained under the rule of multiple governments, and the appraiser thinks that there was no possibility for them to carry out ceremonial celebrations as is the case now, except only those spiritual celebrations. We should also be aware that at such a time it was not easy to transmit news or learn of developments, and therefore the appraiser doubts that at that time the Copts had known, or even cared about the change that took place in a few of European communities in their adopting the new style Gregorian calendar, before spreading more gradually. Finally, and still on this point, the appraiser would like to contemplate on the position of St. Athanasius when he was told that he had taken a stance that caused the whole world to be against him and he answered “and I am against the world”. If our Coptic calendar is different from all countries, governments, and kingdoms of the world, so be it, even if other Orthodox churches follow that new style calendar.
+ The same mechanism used in the Gregorian calendar is to be followed to adjust the differences in minutes and seconds in the Coptic calendar over the years. Three days of the small month are deducted every 400 years, an additional day is deducted every 4000 years, and an additional day is deducted every 20,000 years.
+ Thus, after this amendment, the two calendars will be identical, and there will be no room for any difference at all.
†(C-26)† Perhaps our hegumen father does not realise the difficulty of his proposition. Attempting to match days together will not mean that dates will coincide. The fact is that the leap year in the Western calendar (whether old style Julian or new style Gregorian) is reliant on the addition of a day in February, i.e. February the 29th, while the Coptic calendar adds a day in the leap year (preceding the Western calendar leap year) in the month of Nasee’. Therefore, the Coptic feasts will continue to fluctuate every four years and fall on different days until they coincide with the Western calendar leap year on February the 29th. Consequently, the appraiser realises that such an application will not only apply to the Coptic calendar, but will also spoil the days and years in the Coptic calendar after the application, and be discordant with the teachings of the forefathers, the apostles’ legacy, the tradition of the Church, and more importantly this will contravene the role of the Holy Spirit, our God who preserved our Church and everything in her throughout the ages. As noted above, the appraiser cited many references of foreign scientists and analysts who recognise the role of the Coptic Orthodox Church in preserving Christianity as a whole.
* Announcement of the amendment and its date
+ In the beginning there needs to be a study for the proposal by the specialist committees in the Holy Synod, and I am willing to attend and explain all the details and answer the questions, until the idea becomes clear and be convincing to all.
+ In my opinion, we will need to set a date for the implementation of this amendment, and it is preferable that the announcement of the date for the amendment be made on the same day of its adoption, and that that would precede the implementation by approximately two to four years.
+ In the period from the announcement of the decision regarding the amendment until it is implemented there are some important arrangements that must be made.
* Important arrangements before amendment
First: on a national level: it is necessary to notify the leaders of the country on the proposed amendment before the announcement.. With explanations of the reasons that led us to this in summary, and I do not think that there will be any objection, as everyone knows that the Coptic Church is the guardian of the Coptic calendar, and uses it in all occasions.. In this regard, the date of the country’s Nativity feast is to be adjusted to the 25th of December instead of the 7th of January.
†(C-27)† What if the authorities refused? What if the government changed, and reviewed its position after its predecessor’s acceptance? Why should the Church change things according to what suits the government, or the world?
Second: on a churchly level: it is important to carry out an ecclesiastical awareness for the congregation at all levels with the reasons and methods of amendment, and some expected outcomes after the amendment, which we will show later.. I expect that the majority of the congregation to welcome this amendment in Egypt and abroad.
Third: on an ecumenical level: it is also important to communicate with all the churches of the world, especially the churches that follow the old style calendar, and inform them that we will make this amendment in the year so and so, and explain the benefits of this amendment for the purpose of the unity of the Church.. And generally speaking, the number of Orthodox Churches still following the old style calendar is very small, and the majority are currently going by the new style Gregorian calendar and celebrate Christmas on the 25th of December.. As for the Catholic Church the amendment will serve as an initiative of love from us in the direction of convergence towards the desirable unity with them.
†(C-28)† The appraiser does not know what is the purpose of our hegumen father’s suggestion to inform the other Orthodox Churches? Why should we care about their knowledge? Is it a sense of the Coptic Church’s duty in announcing the abandonment of the communion with them on the aforementioned dates? Or is it the responsibility of the lead Coptic Church to announce the abandonment of her leadership? It is very important for the appraiser to clarify with regards the second point that the desirable unity is the unity of faith. The appraiser does not see that the unity of faith can be achieved by the Coptic Church’s abandonment of the teachings of the forefathers, and their legacies as I have mentioned earlier in more than one place. The truth is that the appraiser can interpret from a psychological perspective, with the proposition of our hegumen father, such that the church would resemble someone who tries to appease another in every possible way in order to earn some external validation, or to seek approval, or to conceal some sense of psychological insecurity. These are immature defence mechanisms used by recipient agents when attacked by figures of higher authority.
In fact, this should not be the position of the Church and its congregation from the appraiser’s point of view, for what would result thence forwards regarding the risks that other people, including our children, would not respect this weak and unproductive attitude. One of the main objectives for the spread of the Coptic Orthodox Church throughout the world is the dissemination of the Orthodox faith and, of course, the Coptic doctrines that ensure this. How, then, can anyone call for the bride of Christ to conform to the rules of the world, rather than impose her spiritual principles and teachings in all aspects of life and in all countries?
* Some expected results to the amendment
Most of the Lordly feasts and all the saints feasts will move back to what it was before 1582.. Which means that it will fall at an early date than what we are now accustomed in its place in the Gregorian calendar.. This will be strange to us for a while and then we will get used to it over the years, noting that in the Coptic calendar they will stay the same. Let’s take some examples:
†(C-29)† Our hegumen father’s usage of expressions such as “will move back” and “will return”, indicates to the appraiser the lack of depth of our hegumen father’s awareness of his suggestion. Please note that none of these feasts or days had ever moved or changed at all before. What happened, as the appraiser pointed out earlier, is that the feasts in the Western Church have moved because of the usage of that new style calendar (some churches ignored 10 days’ worth of Lordly and saintly feasts, others 11, others 12, etc). Therefore, Christmas has been celebrated on December the 12th in the old style Julian calendar in the 20th and 21st centuries. So all the feasts of the Coptic Church come as usual, both the glorious feast of Nativity, on the 29th of Kiahk (or the 28th of Kiahk after the Coptic leap year), which is still on December the 25th in the old style Julian calendar, the glorious feast of Theophany on the 11th of Tubah, which falls on January the 6th or January the 7th after Coptic leap year, and the feast of the apostles on the 5th of Abib, which falls on the 29th of June. Therefore, in summary, no Lordly or saintly feast has moved either according to the Coptic calendar or the old style Western calendar – so what happened after the amendment is that all the dates had changed for the Western Church, but not for the Coptic Orthodox Church, nor the Eastern Church who still uses the old style Julian calendar. Please also refer to the point †(C-26)† relating to Coptic dates varying with the Western calendar every four years.
* The feast of Circumcision (6th of Tubah) will return to the 1st of January.
†(C-30)† Please refer to points †(C-26)† and †(C-29)† to appreciate that it is not such a simple or a straightforward matter! We find that every four years the first of January will coincide with the 5th of Tubah, wherein is the commemoration of Eugenius the soldier.
* Theophany (11th of Tubah) will return to the 6th of January.
† But every four years it will fall on the 7th of January (and therefore it will not coincide with the celebration of the Western Church).
* The feast of Christ entry into the Temple (8th of Amshir) will return to the 2nd of February.
* The feast of the Annunciation (29th of Baramhat) will return to the 25th of March.
†(C-31)† It is worthwhile pausing here. The appraiser would like to explain an important point about our forefathers’ adherence to our traditions and even dare add our Coptic identity. In his research, the appraiser found that upon the usage of the old style Julian calendar that was built on the Egyptian Alexandrian calendar (later Coptic), the 29th of Baramhat, corresponding to March the 25th in the first century BC, was the day marking the vernal equinox. Therefore, because the old style Julian calendar (or the Coptic calendar of course) was not changed, our forefathers took the 25th of Baramhat, corresponding to the 21st of March in the fourth century, as the day of the vernal equinox, as mentioned in the Didache in the beginning of chapter 31: “Our brethren who were bought by the holy blood of Christ, you must determine the day of Passover with all the great concern and attention after the unleavened bread which is in the time of the (vernal) equinox, which is the twenty fifth of Baramhat, and to not celebrate on the day of this feast, which is the remembrance of the passion of the One, twice a year, but only once to Him who died for us once. And beware of celebrating with the Jews for now you have not a communion with them. For they have gone astray, and sinned, and transgressed, those who thought that they had spoken the truth, went astray all the while, and deviated from the truth. But you shall keep away from the feast of the Jews, that where there is the unleavened bread, which shall be at the time of the spring, that is the twenty fifth of Baramhat, that which shall be preserved for twenty one days of the crescent, so that the fourteenth day of the crescent shall not fall in a week other than that in which you determine the Passover, so you end up making the Passover twice a year in ignorance… etc” (www.st-takla.org; Wikipedia, the free online encyclopaedia). This demonstrates (1) the wisdom of our forefathers at the time, (2) their amazing knowledge of history and astronomy, and (3) their far-sightedness and dare I say their virtue of transparency and the knowledge of the future. Let us never forget the status of the School of Alexandria and its level of educating Egyptians and people from other nationalities, and its lead role in all fields, not merely the religious.
* The feast of the Christ’s entry into Egypt (24th of Bashons) will return to the 19th of May.
* The feast of the apostles (5th of Abib) will return to the 29th of June, so the fasting of the apostles will be 13 days less than the current situation.
†(C-32)† Actually, our hegumen father gets it wrong again with his calculations concerning the apostles fast. What our hegumen father misunderstands is that the apokty calculation does not depend on the new style Gregorian calendar, but on the Coptic calendar, specifically the 25th of Baramhat, as the appraiser explained in different places in more detail. Thus, if this new style Gregorian calendar is applied, then the 25th of Baramhat will fall on the 21st of March and not on the 3rd of April. As a result, the feast of Resurrection will come a week early than the day it comes on in the twentieth and the twenty first centuries (i.e. the difference will simply be five or six days at the most as explained by the appraiser before). Please refer to the paragraphs †(C-19)†, †(C-20)†, and †(C-21)† for a more accurate explanation on this point.
* The fast of the Virgin Mary will begin on July the 25th (1st of Mesra) and her feast will fall on August the 9th (16th of Mesra).
†(C-33)† The appraiser does not know if our hegumen father has forgotten, or has no knowledge, of one important thing, indicating the seriousness of the change he proposed to the Coptic calendar and the impact on the Coptic Orthodox Church as a whole, not only in Egypt. On the 16th of Mesra each year, the rays of the sun illuminate the altar of the Virgin Mary the Mother of God at St. George’s archaeological church in Great Sahrajt – yes, it is an archaeological church. As the appraiser pointed out previously, the 16th of Mesra has not changed in the Coptic calendar before at all. This day, the 16th of Mesra, i.e. the day of the assumption of the body of Virgin Mary comes on the 22nd of August each year in the twentieth and twenty first centuries. So what will happen if we apply what our hegumen father suggests, i.e. through this amendment? In fact, according to http://www.wataninet.com, the priest father of the Church of St. George in Great Sahrajt, hegumen Fr. Wisa Hefzy, states that the sunrays fall on the altars of the church three times a year – first, on the 16th of Mesra, the day of the assumption of the body of Virgin Mary, as well as falling into the altar on the day of the feast of St. George (23rd of Baramouda, or May the 1st each year), and thirdly on the altar of Archangel Michael also on his feast on the 12th of Bawona (June the 19th) each year. These phenomena have been documented within several sources (please see below), and have been interpreted by archaeologists and engineers from various backgrounds (i.e. not only Coptic Christian).
Not only that, but through more research, the appraiser found that the same phenomenon occurs in the church of the Archangel Michael in Kafr El-Deir, Minya Elqamh in Elsharqiyah, whereby the sunrays fall into the altar, on the day of feast of martyrdom of St. George, on the 23rd of Baramouda, and the second time on the day of the feast of Archangel Michael (12th of Bawona). This discovery was made a few years ago when an engineer had asked why one of the openings had been blocked with bricks. These two dates (please note) are the same (excepting the day of assumption of the body of Virgin Mary at St. George’s Archaeological Church in Great Sahrajt) despite the geographical distance between the two churches. This is not surprising knowing that the Coptic calendar is only a continuation of the Egyptian civil calendar, by which ancient Egyptians used astronomy to create such phenomena, with the testimony of many scientists and scholars. So, should we now change the Coptic calendar, and lose all that our forefathers the Coptic Christians have done in honouring the Virgin, the angels, the saints and the martyrs? Or, more importantly, should we lose their place in our lives and their annual commemorations, undermining what our Coptic fathers did before us, which shows their greatness, their knowledge, and above all God’s reverence for them? Perhaps the reader and our hegumen father know that the Western Church celebrates the assumption of the body of Virgin Mary on August the 15th, not August the 22nd or even the 9th (www.wataninet.com; http://www.youm7.com; Sada Elbalad website, http://www.elbalad.new/2057545; Sout Elomma website, http://www.soutelomma.com; http://www.copts-united.com).
* The Nayrouz feast (Coptic New Year, 1st of Tout) will return to August the 29th, and the feast of the Cross will be on September the 14th. The Nativity fast will also return to an earlier date than what we are used to, and start on November the 12th (16th of Hatour).
†(C-34)† Certainly those days will continue to fluctuate and come on different dates every four years, as they fall after the month of Nasee’, except the beginning of the Nativity fast which changes after the Coptic leap year, and coincides then with the 15th of Hatour, in order for the length of the fast to remain fixed (43 days).
* All the feasts of the saints that would not change in the Coptic calendar, would be earlier than the time we have been used to in the Gregorian year, for example, the feast of martyrdom of St. Mark (30th of Baramouda) will return to April the 25th, as it was before 1582, and the martyrdom of St George (23rd of Baramouda) will come on April the 18th, the martyrdom of St Mina (15th of Hatour) will come on November the 11th, and so on..
† The feast of martyrdom of St. Mina will not always come on the 11th of November, as it will come on the 12th of November every four years (please note its falling between the 6th of Nasee’ and the 29th of February) – so it will coincide with the beginning of the Nativity fast every four years.
+ I present this humble research because of my love for the Coptic Orthodox Church, and my vision for its future of leadership among the Churches of the world, and my concern for its unity, salvation, peace and the building of every soul in it, especially the new generations, and my desire for us to advance even a simple step towards unity with all the Churches of the world.
† The appraiser does not have any doubts about the love of our father to the Church, but he can see many flaws, both scientific and non-scientific in this thesis, which fundamentally undermine the leadership of the Coptic Church as explained before. The appraiser wishes to repeat that the Coptic Church is graced with many blessings and miracles that have never been seen in any other denomination in the world, whether Orthodox or non-Orthodox. Our duty, then, is to increase the awareness of our children and the newcomers to the Coptic Orthodox faith, so that they too become witnesses to the status and rank of our Church before our Lord, the Virgin, the angels and the saints.
+ This amendment does not interfere with any other endeavour to unify the date of the Easter celebration.. This is another matter, and it is necessary that the two subjects do not interfere with each other, because fixing and unifying the date of the Easter is another worthwhile request, but it needs a different path to achieve, with a lot of effort in negotiations with many churches.. So I see that we start with the subject of the Nativity, as it is linked to the adjustment of our calendar and is within our reach..!
† The appraiser has addressed this point through analysis and elaboration in more than one place previously. Please refer to paragraphs †(C-12)†, †(C-20)†, and †(C-21)†.
+ One of the benefits of this amendment is that we will not need to change anything in church books, rituals or feasts..
†(C-35)† How can our hegumen father make such a statement? This is not one of the benefits of the amendment. Once again, the appraiser reiterates that the Coptic calendar has nothing to do with the Western calendar, and hence either renaming the years, renaming the days, or even abandoning what we know now about any kind of Western calendars, will not have any effect on the feasts of our church that follow our Coptic calendar and none other. But what would happen if the holy fire no longer coincides with the feast of Resurrection, which our forefathers established? It is clear that some other denominations will remain committed to the teachings of St. Athanasius the Apostolic, Pope Alexandros I, and St. Bafnotius, while we falter! This is not right. And what would also happen for the feast of the Virgin Mary, the angels and the saints, whereby the rays of the sun fall in on the altars of their churches in their feasts according to the examples presented above? The appraiser does not expect an answer to this rhetorical question.
+ Adjusting the Coptic calendar is an astronomical correction that has nothing to do with faith or denominations, and it is useful and natural to be done, whether in our generation or in future generations.. Therefore, it will be a great historic event, assigned to the current fathers of the Holy Synod, that it was completed in their era. (For more information on the subject, refer to the book “The Egyptian Calendar, Evolution of Its Cycles and its Amendment” by Prof. Joseph Sedky Michael).
† As the appraiser has mentioned before, the astronomical correction should not be based on a flawed basis, otherwise rectification will be needed on the principle of the revised Julian calendar or Persian calendar, that have been scientifically proven to be superior to the new style Gregorian calendar, unless the aim is to imitate the world as I mentioned before. For the sake of precision and truthfulness, the appraiser found one English source on Wikipedia, the free online encyclopaedia, stating that the Coptic Orthodox Church introduced the revised Julian calendar onto her Coptic calendar in October 1928 AD, but the appraiser could not find any other Arabic or English sources to confirm that. If this is true the appraiser wonders if it is wise to replace the correct with the flawed for non-spiritual purposes?
+ If the problem with the implementation of this proposal is the lack of conviction in the need for amendment in Egypt.. It is then necessary to take into account that the church is growing rapidly in the diaspora. If now there is about 20% of the Copts living outside Egypt, and more than 25% of the bishops who are members of the Holy Synod serving outside Egypt, I expect that within the next 20 years that number to double.. It is nice that the church remains one body whose members feel one another.. Therefore, I believe that adjusting the calendar will serve as a touch of love towards the beloved sons of the Church outside Egypt, and even a wonderful initiative for the future of the Church, preserving the core unity between the Coptic families whose members are distributed between Egypt and abroad..!
† The appraiser wonders why the need for the amendment in the first place? If our hegumen father expects or is aware that some people are not convinced, why then should we pursue the change? The appraiser views that the future of the Church is in her adherence to the teaching of the forefathers, and the unity achieved now, without a need for anyone to call on developing anything, and also for what purpose? The growth of the number of Copts in a particular geographical region should not mean a change in the Orthodox patristics, as I mentioned earlier.
Discussion and clarifications
When I published this research in its initial form two months ago on my Facebook page it was welcomed by thousands.. And I received a lot of comments.. Most of them positive, and some negative.. I also received many questions..
In the beginning I thank everyone who participated with opinions and comments, and everyone who sent me messages.. All of which reveal concern, love, and zeal for the interest of the Church.. So I am now pleased to clarify some of the points and queries that I received from my beloved readers in the form of question and answer, so that the research idea is covered from all aspects.
First: I would like for us to agree on some important principles:
1- Difference in opinion does not ruin mutual love.. We may disagree in our opinions or our views on things, but Christ taught us to love each other and we are committed to the love that is patient and kind, doesn’t keep account of wrongs, is not easily angered, does not boast and is not proud.. And so everyone knows that we are disciples of Christ if we have love for one another.
2- The eras, and the times, and the various astronomical calendars are matters of this perishable world and will perish with it. But we entered the circle of eternal life since our baptism, and the Bible invites us to hold on to this eternal life (1 Tm 6) and to worry about what is from above as we have been raised with Christ (Col 3).. So the topics such as adjusting the calendars are mere organisational matters in our short lives on earth, and should never be a cause of aggression or violence or confusion at the expense of our worry about our eternity.
† As the appraiser has repeatedly pointed out, this is the core of the critical analysis, agreeing to the words of our hegumen father that our vision must be fixed on the heavenly. As for the discrepancy, it is clear that what our hegumen father calls mere organisational matters, leads to confusion, aggression, and violence as he says – the question remains why then? To take a day off, and be happy on holiday? Indeed, if this is a test from our Lord in how we will act with our choice of either adhering to spirituality and the teachings of the forefathers or favouring the earthly, it is better to continue with our principles unchanged in order to pass this test.
3- We all love our Orthodox Church and embrace our faith and rituals and live in its essence and depth.. But the superficial understanding or simply adhering to the external appearance from some people leads to intellectual stalemate or non-objective opinions.. But when a person understands and enlightens his mind with knowledge he is then completely calm and reassured, and also stronger and firmer in the steadfastness of adhering to his Orthodox faith without arrogance towards anyone.. So I whisper in the ears of some that it is important that we transcend from the level of “we reject and denounce and condemn”.. Without even reading well, to the level of “we read and discuss and understand the facts together”..!
†(C-36)† (1) Firstly, with a deeper understanding, we find that what our hegumen father calls for is in essence the superficial understanding itself, for, as the appraiser explained, our forefathers did not adhere to the Coptic calendar either inadvertently or arbitrarily, but through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and that’s why this Coptic approach, resulting from the straight Orthodox faith by the testimony of historians from different nationalities, progressed over all modern science, or all what was created for non-spiritual purposes.
(2) Secondly, there is an English saying stating that superficial knowledge is more dangerous than ignorance. The appraiser encourages reviewing the above points in order for the reader to conclude that the thesis of our hegumen father, unfortunately, does not cover all what the sciences have attained. More importantly, as the appraiser mentioned earlier, sciences will continue to change, and will not stand still, and then the situation will become weaker, if for instance, the calendar was changed at a future time (i.e. in the next 2800 years, for example).
(3) Thirdly, there is no arrogance when we adhere to the words, teachings and wisdom of our Coptic Orthodox forefathers, than if we follow the Western scholars who have not been fully accurate in terms of patristic legacies, as well as the other errors and flaws mentioned above. They simply fell into a spiritual error that contravened the teaching of the Ecumenical Council of Nicaea, and perhaps this was not in their priorities for they had considered the Copts as dissidents against their faith. Psychologically speaking, as the appraiser has mentioned before, there is a danger that our children and newcomers to the Coptic Orthodox faith will look with dissatisfaction at the position of seeking external validation and appeasing others, such defence mechanisms that suggest mistrust in our straight path.
(4) Fourthly, the appraiser hopes that everyone will read well, as our hegumen father said, in order for the person to learn the facts of current sciences, and the falsity or the validity of what is written in various books. Let me also based on my work in the field of psychiatry remind the reader that the West believes in the validity of the theory of evolution, which Darwin continued to overhaul to a large extent until his death. The West also considers homosexuality to be a natural predisposition in some people, all of which have been scientifically proven through many researches and experiments. As St. Paul the apostle said, “All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful, but not all things edify” (1 Corinthians 10:23 – New American Standard Bible).
Second: let us review some of the points raised and questions about the subject of adjusting the calendar:
Question 1: I am afraid that changing the date of the celebration of the feast will diminish the status of the church.. It will become a follower church, not a leader or a distinguished church and has her distinctive position. What do you think?
The subject is not about the status of the Church.. The status is not in the astronomical calendar, but in the presence of God in the church.. In doctrine and mysteries and holy fathers and true faith and precious spiritual heritage, and in our holy spiritual life. The subject is also not in the fact that the Church is a leader or a follower, because in adjusting the calendar we are not answering to anyone. We only correct our own calendar, after the modern science revealed that it has a very simple error in calculation. We will remain a church who is a leader in her faith and authentic traditions, and her great forefathers, the teachers of the world.
† Please refer to the previous points in order to be able to ascertain the amendment of the calendar on all aspects of worship, and also the incorrectness and lack of precision of the new style Gregorian calendar in the first place.
Question 2: In my opinion, by changing the feast, we will destroy many chapters from the dialogues with the Chalcedonian Orthodox brethren. Also any convergence with the Catholics will lead to losing our approach to the Byzantines and we will not profit anything, but will lose much. What do you think about this?
We do not change the doctrines, but only adjust our own calendar, and this has no bearing to the theological dialogue with the churches altogether. As for the Chalcedonian Churches: some of them adjusted their calendars, and others did not, so for example, the Church of Greece and Bulgaria and most of the Eastern Orthodox Churches modified the calendar and they currently celebrate Christmas on the 25th of December, and the Serbs and the Russian Orthodox celebrate on the 7th of January.. These are all things that do not matter at the level of doctrines and do not affect unity, so be reassured that there will be no loss at the doctrinal level at all.. What I see regarding the subject of adjusting the calendar, from the viewpoint of a pastor who cares about his children, is that the amendment of the calendar will profit our children, and exempt them from confusion and bewilderment.. And I stress out that this is also not at the expense of the correctness of the faith or even the validity of the calendar, and also not for the sake of the Catholics.. But it is an amendment through which we will hit several birds with one stone.. And it is astronomically correct anyway.
† Please refer to the points that the appraiser mentioned regarding the fact that the Gregorian calendar is not astronomically correct, and that the desired result of our hegumen father’s research will increase bewilderment and confusion, not diminish it. The appraiser also found that the point mentioned by our hegumen father is inaccurate. According to Wikipedia, the free online encyclopaedia, and the website http://www.greekboston.com, the church in Greece does not celebrate Christmas on December the 25th as a whole. The fact is that there is a province called Mount Athos, with no fewer than twenty monasteries, which retains its old customs and continues according to the revised Julian calendar, and therefore, they celebrate Christmas with us on January the 7th according to the new style Gregorian calendar.
Question 3: What do we benefit if we reduce the 13 days? Why do we correct the mistake with another mistake? The Romans made a mistake in order to get some “privileges” such as holiday and non-fasting in this season.. Do we repeat the same mistake?
On what scientific basis do you say that the “Gregorian amendment” is a mistake? And you consider that by the “Coptic calendar amendment” we would correct a mistake with another mistake. The truth is that there is no error in this or that and I mean the “Gregorian amendment” and “adjusting the Coptic calendar”.. The goal of course is not eating non-fasting food or otherwise.. Let us be objective.. I will briefly explain to you the astronomical idea:
† The appraiser commends the presenter of this question, where if anything, it indicates the awareness of the readers and their understanding, and even their objectivity in the appraisal of scientific matters. The appraiser agrees with the question presenter in labelling the Gregorian amendment a flawed calendar (built on imperfect assumptions) but this is not the position of our hegumen father. The position of the question presenter is defined in philosophy as an absolutist moral position. Simply put, it describes the acts according to their value in themselves, regardless of their consequences or outcomes (examples: divine laws, the evaluation of theft and murder as intrinsically wrong). The other position taken by our hegumen father is the position of relativistic moral values (relativism), which states that the evaluation of things emanates from their consequences or outcomes. Simply put, this position states that nothing is right or wrong in its essence, but depends on society, contexts of action, and other factors. Perhaps this is not strange to the appraiser who understands that the words of our hegumen father alluding to the principle of the end justifying the means. The appraiser will address this point in the end of this response, commenting on our hegumen father’s position in the rhetorical component of the thesis (the emotional effect; “pathos”) and its relation to the recipient’s emotional state (and whether the recipient is as objective as the presenter of this question).
1- The earth revolves around the sun in a fixed orbit, and completes its cycle each year, that is it returns to the same point in the orbit every 365 days and six hours minus 11 minutes and 14 seconds.. At that point exactly the year is complete.
2- If we consider that the year consist of 365 days and a quarter, i.e. six full hours.. The earth will have moved in its orbit from the point from where we started calculating the beginning of the year by this 11 minutes and 14 seconds that is it reached in the orbit to a point different from the point from which we started calculating the year.. Here is the error to be modified, as in order for the calculation of the year to be valid it must start from the point and return to the same point in the orbit around the sun.
†(C-37)† Again, our hegumen father fails to explain an important matter, despite re-elaboration and clarifying such an explanation with figures. According to the Gregorian calendar, the year is calculated on an average of 365 days, 5 hours, 49 minutes and 12 seconds, while the earth takes an average of 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes and 46 seconds (45 seconds in other sources) to complete its orbit around the sun, i.e. what is called the tropical year, so from this it is clear that the calendar is inaccurate by 26 or 27 seconds (please refer to the points under paragraph †(C-3)†). Figure 3 explains this point more clearly. Thus, it becomes clear that our hegumen father’s statements are not scientifically accurate, since the earth does not return to the same point from where the calculation of the yearly earth’s orbit started at all. Otherwise, we would not have needed leap years in the first place! (www.independent.co.uk; Mitchell Krasnerman’s article on hypertextbook.com (1999); http://www.timeanddate.com; Zulfiqar Abbani’s article [possibly the correct spelling of the name is Zulfiqar Qabbani] on https://p.dw.com/p/1I2oa).
3- The sum of these minutes and seconds in which the earth moves forward, after hundreds of years, that is, after hundreds of cycles around the sun, makes days.. Precisely, every 400 years approximately it makes three days of a difference, meaning that the earth moved three days ahead.
4- When scientists discovered in the sixteenth century this calculation error that the earth was in a place on the orbit ahead of that calculated at the time (in 1582 AD). They moved to the appropriate timing relative to the place of the earth in its orbit and so they jumped from October the 4th to October the 15th the next day, and that was the proper calculation of the place of the earth in its orbit at the time. Of course we the Copts were in another point at that time in a dark era under the Ottoman occupation and without any communication with the developed world, and therefore we didn’t adjust our calendar, so the calculation error kept accumulating in the account of our Coptic calendar.. And also Egypt at that time used Coptic and Hijri calendars only, and had nothing to do with the Western calendar that was adjusted.. The Gregorian calendar entered Egypt for the first time in the middle of the nineteenth century, and began to be used in government offices instead of the Coptic calendar that was used before.
†(C-38)† The appraiser would like to expand, besides what he explained above, so that the reader can comprehend the inaccuracy of the statements of our hegumen father, who has probably relied more on Arabic language sources than English, as he indicated in the references section below. The fact is that the amendment was not made to correct the place of the earth in its orbit, but to recalculate Easter according to the “computus” method. For this reason, through the deletion of the ten days, the day of the vernal equinox in the sixteenth century became compatible with its counterpart in the fourth century, when the Council of Nicaea had convened to determine the canons of the calculating the feast of Resurrection. As I mentioned earlier, the day of the vernal equinox had moved from March the 25th in the first century BC when the old style Julian calendar started, to the 21st of March in the fourth century. When scientists in the era of Pope Paul III found that the day of the vernal equinox had moved by ten days, Pope Gregory XIII applied, five or six years after, that new style Gregorian calendar.
The appraiser takes exception to our hegumen father’s description, that the Copts were in a dark era with no communication with the developed world, and the appraiser does not understand either what this developed world is that our hegumen father describes. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, Europe was subject to internal conflicts (i.e. between European nations themselves), besides external wars that led to the occupation of many parts of the continent by the Ottomans and the Berbers in particular. The more important fact is that Europe lived in darkness and ignorance in this period of time, which was characterised by the control of the Catholic Church over all aspects of life, leading to the rejection of the Italian scientist Copernicus’ theory (which was accepted by Pope Paul III, relying upon which for the development of the Gregorian calendar) and the Danish scientist Kepler’s regarding heliocentrism, and even demoted the Italian scientist Galileo Galilei, charging him of being “vehemently suspect of heresy”, sentencing him to life imprisonment, although this punishment was downgraded to house arrest until his death. With more research by the appraiser, he also found that astronomers in Europe were strongly influenced by Chinese and Arabic astronomical theories, but there was not much mention of that, due to the stance of “eurocentrism”, as clarified in the writings of Joseph Needham, Justin Lin, and Arun Bala.
In any case, that was not the determining factor for us as Copts to consider changing the calendar and for what purpose? The appraiser is very confident that the fathers of such an age, even under Turkish, French or British occupation, have not wavered in following the teachings of the forefathers of the Alexandrian school, among whom I mention, for example, Pope Mark VIII, Pope Peter Elgawly, Pope Cyril IV the father of reform, Pope Cyril V, and many others. Most probably, the discussion regarding this new style calendar was made in the era of a number of them (if not all of them), even if only at a political level. Therefore, they managed one way or another, to maintain the straight Orthodox path of the Coptic Church, as the appraiser has mentioned before. Lastly, as far as this point of our hegumen father’s is concerned, the appraiser has found in many references, as mentioned earlier, that the Gregorian calendar was adopted in Egypt in the first quarter of the twentieth century, not as our hegumen father alluded to (Wikipedia, the free online encyclopaedia; Encyclopaedia Britannica).
5- The Coptic calendar now has a difference in timing, because according to this calendar, the length of the year is 365 and a full six hours without accounting for the few minutes making the difference, and these minutes and seconds have now cumulatively made a difference between the Coptic calendar and the adjusted Western calendar known as the Gregorian by 13 days and seven hours and a few minutes, and the difference will be 14 days in 2100 and 15 days in 2200 and so on..
† As the appraiser has mentioned before, this new style Gregorian calendar also shows a difference in timing, and the minutes and seconds will cumulatively make a difference of one full day in the fourth millennium AD, so perhaps it would be better to use the revised Julian calendar, or the Persian calendar, if we are so obsessed with science to that extent, neglecting the teachings of the forefathers, and the canons that they have laid down a long time ago.
6- Hence it is clear that the reduction of the days that I mentioned in the thesis is only to adjust this calculation error in the calendar once and for all so that the days correspond to the placement of the earth in its orbit now.
I hope that the idea has been clarified..
† Please refer to the discussion above, for clarification of how the appraiser has shown the inaccuracy of these statements fully and in detail.
Question 4: It has been proven over thousands of years that the Coptic calendar that follows the Sirius star is the most accurate calendar, and the proof, for example, is that the month of Amshir is considered to this day the appropriate month for a specific cultivation as its climate has not changed for thousands of years, since this calendar started to be used and to this day.. There is no room to claim that we follow the solar year because of our presence in the solar system.. Can you reconsider the thesis in the light of the discoveries of modern science?
+ The Coptic calendar is an ancient calendar and is older than the Western Julian calendar derived from it, but it is also related to the sun, as the said star disappears with sunrise, so they call it the heliacal rising of Sirius.. This can be reviewed scientifically from the book of Professor Joseph Sidqy Mikhaeel [The Egyptian Calendar – Evolution of its Cycles and Amendment] published by the National Institute of Astronomical and Geophysical Research in Cairo 2014, specially the introduction and the second and third chapters.
† The appraiser is of the view that our hegumen father has contradicted himself in what he had mentioned before, where he had mentioned that the Coptic calendar is astral in origin. Please refer to paragraph †(C-8)† that relates to the response to such a point made by our hegumen father. According to the appraiser’s understanding, our hegumen father does not refer to the Coptic calendar being solar-stellar, as there is no source mentioning that at all.
+ The timings of farming are always linked to climate.. Climate is linked to the rotation of the earth around the sun, where the seasons change as a result of this rotation.. Therefore logic confirms that the agricultural seasons must be related to the movement of the earth around the sun, i.e. through the solar calendar.. As for why the farmers feel the difference to this day despite a cumulative error in the Coptic calendar, it is because the error is not great yet, and it is also known that climate changes within any one season, so the date of plantation is not determined by the day and the hour, but it is determined only in a certain season ranging from one week to several weeks.. Therefore, this astronomical error that accumulated through the years is not noticeable to the farmers, but they only know when the farming season is upon them, i.e. for several weeks that they grow the crops in.. Also let us not forget that the methods and systems of agriculture have changed a lot from the past, and after the emergence of greenhouses agriculture became possible throughout all seasons of the year..!
† These statements lack scientific validity. The appraiser has indicated before the precision of the Coptic calendar, in spite of the passing of eras and generations. The appraiser has no experience, or references, entitling him to respond to the point on agriculture and the times of farming.
Question 5: If the 1st of Tout is the Coptic New Year, and it coincides with the appearance of the Sirius star, then would it be after the proposed amendment, that the star would not appear in Tout the 1st?
+ This is not the case at all.. No one awaits to see the heliacal rising of the star in order to start the Coptic year.. These are observations that had occurred in the past, and the beginning of the calendar and its system in general were based on it.. But now with the advancement of science it is not reasonable to rely on vision by the naked eye like those who await to see the moon in order to start their months in the lunar calendars, as there are modern devices that can locate the earth’s location, as it moves around the sun with unmatched accuracy hour by hour.
†(C-39)† In his manner of answering, it becomes clear to the appraiser that our hegumen father is not familiar with the Egyptian calendar in general and the Coptic in particular. The use of the Egyptian civil calendar (which is the precursor for the Coptic calendar) began in about 4241 BC (as other sources mention the fourth century, others third century BC). Since the beginning of such a calendar, Egyptians knew that the heliacal rising of Sirius moves one day every 4 years, as this calendar calculates the year to consist of 365 days (with no leap years at all). Therefore, they understood that with the heliacal rising, the star completes its cycle returning to the same day (the beginning of the Egyptian civil year) every 1460 years. So they described it as a cycle (Sothic cycle) which is repeated over time. But after the application of the modern Egyptian calendar in 25 BC, from which the Coptic calendar was derived, the place of Sirius had changed, and since then increasing by an extra day every four years (leap years), so the star no longer appears or completes its heliacal rising on the 1st of Tout – sources say it occurs between the 20th and the 21st of July (old style Julian calendar, that is, 2nd – 3rd of August according to the new style Gregorian calendar) in this century, and it continues to increase with the divergence of the Egyptian calendar that corresponds to the old style Julian from the new style Gregorian calendar (King, Bob (August, 2016): “A Real Scorcher! — Sirius at Heliacal Rising”, https://www.skyandtelescope.com/observing/a-real-scorcher-sirius-at-heliacal-rising/; Grandchamps, André (July, 2018): “The Heliacal Rising of Sirius”, http://m.espacepourlavie.ca/en/monthly-sky/heliacal-rising-sirius; http://www.lavia.org; Wikipedia, the free online encyclopaedia). So, in short, the star is not observed every year (and it has not been observed by our forefathers in any century before) because this never changes any calculations, whether churchly or astronomical. The Coptic calendar is an organisational calendar whose main purpose is to comply with our forefathers, and to apply our spiritual canons and rituals which we have received from them.
+ The difference between what had happened in the past from astronomical observations with the naked eye and what is now available through satellites, telescopes and modern science is similar to the difference between taking some herbal medicines in the past versus modern medicine with doses measured in fractions of milligrams along with measuring the medicine range in the blood every hour by developed analysis.. With the ingestion of herbal medicines, cure was achieved in many cases, but this level remains primitive in medicine compared to using the modern drugs… Despite the difference in the analogy, we find that the old Egyptian calendar is a very accurate calendar, but it needs to adjust only a little bit correcting the arithmetic error accumulated so far, and this does not diminish its value, and does not make us abandon it, but adjust it and adhere to it.
† As I mentioned earlier, even in ancient times there was no need for astronomical observations, because the astronomical calculation took precedence then and not the observations, and was accurately calculated by the Egyptians (please see above). Perhaps the reader with a scientific or medical background realises that the analogy of the using herbal medicines compared to modern drugs is not valid, because we are well aware that modern drugs are useful to some degree but have many serious side effects and any slight error in dosing may lead to death. Let the reader not wrongly perceive that appraiser encourages or discourages the use of modern drugs, but by virtue of his work in the medical field he has seen a lot of cases that have suffered greatly because of modern drugs (causing various ailments and deaths at times, in contrast to the use of the less effective herbal medicines in comparison nevertheless). The sole aim of the appraiser is to emphasise that there is no comparison between these two different things in terms of their characteristics, forms, and mechanisms of action.
Question 6: Which is the more accurate, the Coptic calendar or the Gregorian calendar?
The Gregorian calendar is more accurate. Because it is the most recent, and was calculated by modern means to know the location of the earth accurately in its orbit around the sun.. It has now been clearly proven minute by minute, and second by second and parts of the second with the progress of science in our time. But because the Coptic calendar is old, it has a simple temporal error that could not be discovered in its time because of the lack of sophisticated calculation tools available now. I repeat that this simple temporal error does not affect our Orthodox faith in any way.
† The appraiser does not need to repeat the explanation and elaboration to what was mentioned previously, but suffice it to say that the two calendars are not completely precise. Returning to the scientific aspect, as mentioned earlier, the reader would find out that the Egyptian calendar, from which the Coptic was derived, is a more advanced and precise calendar, but the adoption of the Gregorian calendar was built on the displacement of the vernal equinox, which continues to move despite such an amendment, and will continue to move due to the global warming. Please refer to the above arguments (especially the fourth point under paragraph †(C-3)†) relating to the factors affecting the earth’s rotation. It may also be useful to repeat the information explained above, that in our current time, the vernal equinox falls on the 20th of March according to the new style Gregorian calendar, and despite this, the appraiser could not find any indication that the Western Church aims to reconsider the computus calculation currently.
Question 7: Why do you waste your time on a topic that causes confusion in the church? And we have to print the katameros and the synexarium and write the church books once again?!
Adjusting the calendar does not cause confusion, but rumours and misunderstanding and false accusations are the things that cause confusion. None of the church books will change at all, and we will not need to reprint any book. Because we were and still are and will continue to use the Coptic calendar in all our feasts, our fasts and our celebrations, and we will still honour them on the same days of the Coptic calendar.. The only thing that will change after the adjustment of the calendar is the Western calendar days corresponding to the Coptic days, as they will return to what they were before the year 1582 AD. But we will still celebrate Christmas on the 29th of Kiahk, and the feast of Annunciation on the 29th of Baramhat and the feast of the Cross on the 10th of Baramhat and the 17th of Tout and so on. There is no need to spread rumours that have no basis.
† The appraiser mentioned before the confusion that may arise through adopting the new style Gregorian calendar onto the Coptic calendar, so there is no need for repetition. The only important point for the appraiser, which our hegumen father fails to note, is the presence of error that would occur to the apokty calculation, and determining the feast of Resurrection, in contravention to the canons of the apostles, and the forefathers of the Coptic Orthodox Church, and the effects of such on all other events, including the appearance of the holy fire, and the sun rays falling into the altars of Virgin Mary, the angels and the saints (please refer to the above discussion).
Question 8: Why do you want to change the shape of the church to be similar to Catholics..? And why the conformation to the Western influence?
+ Adjustment of the calendar does not change the shape of the Church, and there is no need for the unwarranted sensitivity to our Catholic brothers..
† The appraiser is surprised at the opinion of our hegumen father with regards this point. How does our hegumen father not see a change in the shape of the church, when we fast the Virgin Mary fast during the month of July? And when we celebrate the feast of Resurrection in March in some years? What will also happen to the miraculous phenomena, and the different natural phenomena that God graces our Coptic Church with, and honours her by, as explained above? It is such a miraculous thing that science states that the seasonal changes resulting from the usage of the new style Gregorian calendar, indicates the stability of the Coptic calendar, and the old style Julian calendar, and that means that such natural marvels will continue to occur with the passing of times, centuries, and generations – how can it be said then that the shape of the church will not change!
+ But about the Western influence, in reality the West here does not speak at all about the adjustment of the Coptic or any other calendar.. Here, they respect all the traditions coming from the East, and they know that there are churches that follow the old style calendar (so they call it) and others that follow the new style calendar in celebrating the feasts.. Society here respects everyone and does not interfere in these matters whether near or far..!
† The appraiser agrees with our hegumen father completely, in that the Western people respect the traditions coming from other parts of the world, by virtue of his living in one of the Western countries, that is Britain.
+ The main issue that made me research and work hard to find a solution for the unification of the feasts is my pastoral responsibility as a priest and servant for generations in the diaspora that I see suffering from this issue.. The proposed research is about an astronomical amendment, and how to implement it in an organised manner, and such does not affect anything from the church doctrine or rituals, or feasts, which will remain on their fixed Coptic dates.
† The appraiser expresses his surprise once again at the position of our hegumen father; the appraiser does not understand what could have happened if the church was widespread much more in countries of the Far East, like China and Japan? The adjustment of the calendar that is based on earthly temporal premises will affect the rank of the church from a psychological point of view, at a human subconscious level, which will allude to the position of a weak person, wishing to obtain approval from another, and/or seeking external validation, psychologically. This, certainly, should not be the position of the Coptic Orthodox Church in any way, shape, or form.
Question 9: How is unification of the feasts a reason for unity among the churches… We are the origin.. Is there no other than our Church to compromise?
+ No one has said that unification of the feasts will be a reason for unity of the churches, it is just a simple step for convergence, but the unity of faith needs a lot of effort in dialogue and returning to the fundamentals of the faith, with prayer and humility..
† Prayer and humility are important reasons in the convergence, if not the most important altogether. But the appraiser reminds the reader and our hegumen father once again that our Church did not cause the schism away from the Orthodox faith, and she is the one with the straight path – in deviating from this path, the convergence does not occur, rather leads to our divergence from the Orthodox faith. These are works facilitated by the evil one in this evil generation.
+ There are also churches united in the faith, but they celebrate at different times, because some use old calendars and the majority use the modern calendar.
† The appraiser does not view the majority using one thing as proof to its validity; on the contrary, and primarily on a spiritual level, our Lord Jesus Christ teaches us not to follow what others are doing. Once again this is a test, and the appraiser wishes to see all Orthodox Copts, especially the younger generations and the newcomers to the faith of our Coptic Orthodox Church, confident in our patristics, teachings, and above all else our doctrines, and heritages.
+ The process of adjusting the calendar shows no compromise of anything. So why use the word “compromise”?
† Indeed, the appraiser sees that there is a stark compromise away from the teachings of the fathers, their legacies, as explained above in detail, but it is not that surprising that our hegumen father has not felt this, as he did not wish to address the issue of calculating the feast of Resurrection, which indeed is the crux of the issue, and the main rationale in adopting the new style Gregorian calendar.
+ We love our Church and our authentic Orthodox faith, but we do not condescend to others. And we constantly review ourselves, and if there is a slight arithmetic error in our calendar, we must have the courage to adjust it, and that does not mean that there is a mistake in our Orthodox doctrine.
† The appraiser does not understand why our hegumen father confuses adhering to what we have received and arrogance. The truth is (which is clear and explicit that it does not require any analysis) that adherence to the values and teachings of the forefathers and thus preserving the Coptic Orthodox faith is the utmost humility, not the other way around. As the appraiser said before the courage is to correct the mistake by something which is correct, not correct the mistake with another mistake. More importantly, the question is whether there is a need for correction at all, for if our interest is always spiritual, we must follow our forefathers who did the same thing (i.e. the unconcern with the subject of the Gregorian calendar at the expense of the Coptic one).
Question 10: Why do we change the celebration away from the 7th of January, which is the shortest day of the year? I think that is the purpose of choosing this day because after it the day begins to lengthen after the birth of Christ the light of the world?
1- the 7th of January is not the shortest day of the year, but the shortest day falls between December the 20th and the 24th of each year in the northern hemisphere, and between the 20th and 24th of June of each year in the southern hemisphere.
2- In our celebration of the Nativity we are not mindful of the 7th of January, but with the 29th of Kiahk, and it is currently on January the 7th, and in 2101 it will be the 8th of January if we do not adjust the Coptic calendar, but if we do, 29th of Kiahk will fall on December the 25th without change until the second coming God willing.
† The appraiser wonders once again how can our hegumen father or any other person, predict this, and on what basis? Perhaps our hegumen father did not realise what the appraiser had mentioned before, with regards the objections, disputes, and suggestions for change, due to his lack of research in non-Arabic language resources.
Question 11: What could hinder all churches (Eastern and Western) from changing Christmas to January the 1st, since in the Western calendar the first day is naturally Christ’s birth, and we will no longer need any further changes. This will have a nice gesture that all churches change for the sake of unity in thinking?
1- The idea is good, but it is almost impossible to implement. Because it will need negotiations with all the churches, since everyone will be required to change their systems and calendars.
† The appraiser deduces from this point that the opinion of our hegumen father is that it is better for us to change our system according to the common one, until another change occurs that includes a larger number of churches, especially in the West, and then there will be an opportunity to change with them once again! This is a strange approach, indicating wavering and hesitancy in many aspects, not just the doctrinal. The appraiser commented on the potential psychological impact on younger generations and newcomers to the Coptic Orthodox (non-Chalcedonian) faith. Another point also is that by our hegumen father commenting such that there is an improbability for a change, the appraiser deduces that he may be of the opinion that other churches are more tenacious in their position than the position of the Coptic Orthodox Church for what he requests! This is also besides the subject of discussion, but the appraiser hopes that all the children of the Coptic Orthodox Church see her steadfast position and the genuineness in defending her heritage, doctrine, and rituals to the end of ages.
2- Also we, as a Coptic Church, do not agree to change the celebration of Nativity away from the 29th of Kiahk. As it is linked to Coptic rite as a whole.
† But the appraiser can see that by changing the 29th of Kiahk to correspond to the 25th of December, this will make it easy to change once again to correspond to the 1st of January, and so on and so forth.
3- Any change must be on sound scientific grounds to be respected by all, and this would not be applicable in this case.
† As the appraiser pointed out before there are no sound scientific grounds in determining the 25th of December as the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ in the first place. Please refer to paragraph †(C-15)† for more explanation.
4- The date of the celebration of the feast is not the problem in the unification of thought between the churches, but the problem is in the differences of doctrines, which need understanding, discussion, prayer, humility, love and return to origins as I mentioned before..
† The appraiser can see that our hegumen father goes back to contradicting himself once again, for he had said before with regards the adjustment of the calendar (and consequently the time of celebrating the feast) such a statement: ‘no one has said that the unification of the feasts will be a reason for unity of the churches, it is just a simple step for convergence’ (please refer to our hegumen father’s answer to question number 9). The appraiser does not need to reiterate that the Coptic Orthodox Church is actually adhering to her origins, and therefore by our hegumen father’s usage of expressions like “return to origins”, it misleads the audience and the reader, with the belief that we have abandoned our origins at some time, which has never happened as yet.
Question 12: Why is the idea put before the people before the Holy Synod decides, is that not confusing?
1- The research was delivered to his holiness the patriarch, and the Holy Synod before it was presented to the people.
† The appraiser is very confident in the spirituality of our father the patriarch Pope Tawadros II and the Holy Synod, and their rationality in dealing with many things concerning the Church in the diaspora in particular, and also in their emotional stability in relation to such matters. The appraiser is therefore certain that his holiness the pope and the Holy Synod have unmatched knowledge and awareness of patrology, and of course the origins of the dogma and the canons of the Coptic Orthodox Church, reassuring him that the Church will continue on her straight path always and ever, in the face of all evil wars and trickery that will lead to the apostasy of the faithful in the last days and the return of the Jews to believe in the Lord Jesus according to the fathers’ interpretations of the Bible. May the Lord save us and preserve His Coptic Church from all what attacks her, as He continued to preserve her to this day.
2- My goal of publishing is enlightenment, because I believe in the principle of “sow an idea and reap work”. I believe that the formation of a popular opinion will help the Holy Synod in the event of making a decision to adjust the calendar, because I do not imagine that the Synod would take a decision like this without creating a popular awareness first.
† The appraiser believes that our hegumen father’s comment had taken a political turn, as the appraiser does not think that matters ought to be treated in that manner at all.
3- The thrice holy Pope Shenouda III, used to say that “in some situations there is a noisy minority and a silent majority” and this of course does not help in making important decisions.. So it is very important for the people’s real pulse to reach the decision makers.
† Once again the appraiser wonders who are the decision makers, and what decision is it to make? Such statements are suggestive of some kind of a political system, that the Coptic Orthodox Church does not abide by, as the appraiser understands.
4- If the percentage of approval of the idea exceeds 90 percent according to preliminary polls, it is better for this to reach the Holy Synod, not for pressuring them, but to feel the pulse of the Coptic people clearly, and we trust that the Holy Spirit, who leads the church will guide the Synod fathers to what is for the good of the Church and its edification.
† The appraiser has full confidence in the work of the Holy Spirit in His church, and does not rule out either the allowance of tribulations on a churchly congregational level with the aim of spiritual vindication and justification. Therefore, the appraiser does not understand our hegumen father’s aim from the terms preliminary polls, or people’s pulse, because the doctrinal matters and the patristic legacies are not to be altered for the sake of some people’s preference! They are constants which we follow through obedience and humility and nothing else.
Question 13: Is it right that the idea of the research is based solely on the fact that the bodies are satisfied with pleasure and comfort and enjoy holidays and the clamour associated with Santa Clause on the claim of unity?
1- The idea of research is far from this absurdity. Food items are available here in the West at all times and at the cheapest prices, and no one thinks about eating as you say.
† Our hegumen father pointed out previously that one of the important outcomes of the amendment is to remove the burden of the long apostles fast on the faithful, from the younger generations, and the newcomers to the Coptic Orthodox faith, and therefore the appraiser views this answer as a retreat from his original position.
2- Christmas holidays in the West will not change whether we adjust our calendar or not, and this is also not important to begin with.
† No one can confidently claim this – the Christmas holidays could change, and a different date than the 25th of December may be implemented in the future.
3- What is important is the confusion and the recurring questions every year about why we do not celebrate together? And in the long term with some Coptic churches that are going to celebrate the feast of Nativity on December the 25th because their congregations are all second and third generation immigrants and most of them are married to foreigners.. The current situation then will cause fractures in the core unity of the church, as I mentioned before, but I expect that in a few years’ time, some will begin to call for a pastoral and administrative separation from the mother church in Egypt..
† Again, the appraiser does not want to repeat the psychological aspect not only for the people but for the church as a whole. In a psychological sense, the Church is a great organisation to which her children belong, with love, communion and humility, more than their belonging to geographical locations, or politically divided states. There is a danger from a psychological point of view for the church leaders in different places to encourage or to prefer a faction at the expense of another for any purpose whatsoever. This is what may result in fractures in the core unity of the Church, as our hegumen father said. Our real role as servants, as I have mentioned before, is to raise awareness and educate younger generations and the newcomers to the Coptic Orthodox faith of the principles of the Church, its canons, and the patristic legacies – it is not our role to change our course in order to submit to social or community demands (otherwise the Coptic Church would split up into various sects according to the communities in which they are in).
As for the spiritual aspect, the appraiser does not need to repeat the explanation of the status of the Bride of Christ in relation to the Coptic faith (which unfortunately is not shared by many other denominations) and also on a personal level – as this includes Coptic songs and melodies that were taken by other denominations for their magnificent appeal and deep Orthodox meanings, besides the status of their writers.
4- If the amendment is possible, and scientifically and astronomically correct, and will not cause any change in the church’s ritual or doctrine, what prevents it?!
† The appraiser has indicated in more than one place the change bound to occur to the church’s rituals, doctrine, in detail, and there is no need to repeat the same statements or explanations that the desired amendment is not correct scientifically or astronomically in the first place.
Question 14: Do you think that this amendment will contribute to convergence with Western churches, or serve the ecumenical ecclesiastical work in general?
Yes, but convergence is a step on a long road, while unity is not easy.. So we do what we are able to do as much as we can without changing our Orthodox faith.. As I mentioned before, there are many churches united in faith, but they celebrate Christmas at different times. This amendment will not bring us close to the faith of those who are celebrating on December the 25th and will not take us away from the faith with those who celebrate according to the old style calendar.
† The appraiser does not see a point in commenting again on the contradictions in our hegumen father’s statements, but wonders what is the aim of amending the calendar in the first place as long as our hegumen father is of the opinion ‘this amendment will not bring us close to the faith of those who are celebrating on December the 25th and will not take us away from the faith with those who celebrate according to the old style calendar?’ In spite of this not being a major issue to the appraiser, but even in Greece there are different practices for the Orthodox denominations, as some celebrate on the 7th of January (with the Catholic denominations there), and others on the 25th of December. Through the appraiser’s research, he found was no indication in the Greek denominations wishing to unite, in order to avoid wasting time in futile discussions for instance, as our hegumen father mentioned previously.
Question 15: The date of December the 25th in Western practice is characterised by Christ largely disappearing officially and socially to a great extent. Is it useful then to associate our children with a feast that every day loses its spiritual churchly character, or is it better to preserve a different date that is more spiritual in nature?
+ Indeed, Western practices in celebrating Christmas have lost their spiritual character to a great extent that many Western spiritual leaders shout out to not void the feast from its owner “Keep Christ in Christmas”.
+ We do not associate our children with the Western feasts.. Our celebration in the Church will continue to have a spiritual character and the original Eastern Coptic rituals, and the change will only be in the date.. This will benefit the service of the Church during the holidays, so that everyone can attend the Mass in the evening and celebrate with the Sunday schools in the morning.
† The appraiser believes that the presenter of question number 15 has hit the nail on the head. There are some psychological phenomena such as those called mental associations and cognitive adjustments. In time people find themselves regardless of their age or background, deviating from spiritual goals and resorting to distancing themselves further away from the church community as they tend to be psychologically prepared for breaking the fast with the onset of Western holidays and celebrations – this is mental association, while the cognitive adjustment is the psychological preparation for the ending the fasting, which unconsciously means giving free reign towards coveted items, and releasing the physical limits generally, and the spiritual ones particularly, especially with the onset of the Christmas shopping season, turkeys and desserts associated with such Western celebrations. In fact, in some communities, for example, the service will be more limited where means of transportation become more infrequent during that season. Also, we will find that some people prefer to spend time with their families that day, not in the church, especially those who are newcomers to the Coptic Orthodox faith from Western backgrounds.
Question No. 16: Is it the right of the Church to adjust the calendar, or is it a touristic Egyptian heritage that cannot be touched?
Yes, the Egyptian calendar is owned by all Egyptians.. And some scientific research and a decision from the state are necessary for its amendment.. But in practice, it is the Coptic Church that uses this calendar, and no one else is using it anymore.. And also, the farmers who know it, do not follow it as accurately as in the past, because farming circumstances and systems changed a lot.. Hence the church is the main body capable of moving stagnant waters, and leading the process scientifically of adjusting the calendar based on correct scientific premises.
† The appraiser dislikes the expression “stagnant waters” in describing adherence to the Coptic calendar. Will the straight Orthodox path be called an ignorant steadfastness? Will the traditions and fixed legacies be called lifeless tenacity? Perhaps, such descriptions have already been used, and therefore the appraiser requests that every person review themselves and their relationship to the Coptic Orthodox Church, not only on a spiritual level, but also on the level of edification and belonging more generally.
The most important references
+ Prof. Dr. Joseph Sidqy Mikhaeel [The Egyptian Calendar – Evolution of its Cycles and Amendment] published by the National Institute of Astronomical and Geophysical Research in Cairo 2014.
+ Free Encyclopaedia (Wikipedia).
+ Professor Ashraf Latif Tadros [Article entitled: Interpretation of difference of pharaonic/Coptic calendar on the Gregorian/Western.] Head of the Department of Astronomy – Ministry of Scientific Research – National Institute of Astronomical and Geophysical Research, Helwan – Cairo 2015 AD.
+ “Our Coptic Language (Egyptian)” book by Ms Pauline Tawdry.
+ “Calendar and Apokty Calculation” by Dr. Rushdi Wassef Behman.
The initial version of the research was published on the 28th of December, 2014 AD Second revised version of the research – 28th of December 2017 AD
Glory be to God in all things,,
Hegumen Youhanna Nassif
Critical appraisal discussion and conclusion:
† This thesis presented by our hegumen father Youhanna Nassif qualifies as an ideological article, representing a personal opinion of our hegumen father to the reader. Unfortunately, as the appraiser had mentioned before, this work lacks correct scientific material, due to the considerable reliance on resources written in the Arabic language, which had felled the thesis in what is called language bias.
† In researching the request of our hegumen father, and the extent of its rationality, the appraiser has clarified the presence of flaws in the presentation and deduction, and also the incompleteness of implementation aspects to such desired request, which led to (1) either that the mechanisms of implementation of our hegumen father for his request was lacking, or (2) that our hegumen father believed that the implementation is clear-cut despite the mistakes that the appraiser had found.
† With regards the three basic appeals (which form the bases) for the thesis, the appraiser deduces the following: (*) our hegumen father used the pathos appeal through a spiritual proposition and ecclesiastical expression by virtue of his rank, wholly aiming to draw the attention of the audience, who require such a religious stance in order to be persuaded by the idea presented; (*) the logos appeal remained lacking, and the appraiser mentioned in more than one place our hegumen father’s failings in his understanding of the scientific material which had negatively impacted on the logical and scientific analysis, leading to his deduction of impractical results as a whole; (*) the ethos appeal follows along the same lines as mentioned previously, i.e. our hegumen father’s use of his pastoral position in the Coptic Orthodox Church, and his love to his children, and service more generally, resulting in the deviation from spiritual principles and God’s commandments, in order to appeal to specific groups that may not possess the complete realisation the extent of such commandments, and their obligatory significance in Christian life in general, and the Coptic Orthodox in particular.
† It is such an important matter for the appraiser to reveal that he felt the urgent need to respond to the thesis of our hegumen father, due to what he noticed, from contradictions, and scientific flaws, on reading it coincidentally for the first time (in December 2018 AD). The appraiser will now present a summary to all the points that he listed before, in his response to our hegumen father, but before that he would like to repeat that among the positives felt in the original thesis, our hegumen father did not hesitate to answer some questions of those people who objected, but also chose his language and style carefully in dealing with such questions and people, showing love and patience, following by example our Lord Jesus Christ, in His dealings with man, as a Good Lover of Mankind, and that shows the appraiser the degree of our hegumen father’s tolerance, and his containment to other people’s opinions.
† The appraiser will now present his points in response to our hegumen father’s thesis in summary:-
- The first mention of the celebration of Christmas was in the fourth century AD, according to Arabic language sources (and also sources translated from the Coptic and Greek languages used at the time) as well as English language ones.
- Since the second century BC, some scientists had realized that the average year was calculated to be 365 days and a quarter, slightly longer than the absolute mean, but the appraiser did not find an explanation for why they had not corrected this mathematical discrepancy at the time.
- The Egyptian scientist Sosigenes was chosen to build the old style Julian calendar in the first century BC.
- The new style Gregorian calendar calculates the average length of the year as 365 days, 5 hours, 49 minutes and 12 seconds, making it more than the absolute mean by 26 or 27 seconds.
- The discovery of the ten-day difference and the decisions of Pope Gregory XIII was intended for recalculating Easter, as the day of the vernal equinox differed in the sixteenth century from that in the fourth century (the time when the Council of Nicaea was held).
- Regarding the Metonic cycle, we find that the mathematical calculation of the apokty calculation is more accurate than the current computus calculation, since the average of the metonic year is 365 + ¼ + 1/76, indicating that the new style Gregorian calendar was not fit for the purpose for which it was organised!
- Since then, the Western Easter has sometimes fallen with the Jewish Passover, and sometimes before it, violating the apostolic canons and the rules of the Council of Nicaea – perhaps there was no need to comply with such principles altogether, as the Western Catholic Church may have considered its Eastern Orthodox counterpart, especially the Coptic Church, dissident with the true faith.
- The scholars, and after them Pope Gregory XIII, fell in a grave error by deciding to move the date by ten days, not changing the names of days! So what happened was Thursday the 4th of October, and Friday the 15th of October came in the same year! This had a major impact in confusing and misleading various European nations, regardless of their denominations, thereby weakening the economy and causing many social problems (not counting the religious ones).
- Contemporary NASA scientists and scientists in the University of Toronto have shown that applying the proleptic Gregorian calendar results in a mistake calculating the vernal equinox, and also the leap years would all of a sudden not make sense on any level.
- In addition to the impact on both the economic and social aspects, the adjustment of the calendar resulted in divisions and disturbances in various European countries and sometimes regions within the same state.
- Modern science now confirms that the speed of the earth’s rotation is influenced by many factors, and scientists believe that speed will change faster than expected due to global warming, melting glaciers, and other factors, which have led them to think about introducing modifications to the calendar now! The appraiser realises with a spiritual perspective that nothing of this matters at all, no matter how many more centuries, how many years, how many days that life will remain on this earth, or that the earth may itself remain, and therefore such matters must not be of interest to us.
- In addition to the above, there are some countries that have aimed to suppress their people by applying this new style calendar, especially in the last two centuries.
- The appraiser also noted that the discovery of the ten days difference between the vernal equinox in the sixteenth century and its counterpart in the fourth century was made prior to the reign of Pope Gregory XIII, that is in the time of Pope Paul III, when the day of the vernal equinox fell on March the 11th (it had moved during the days of Pope Gregory XIII falling on March the 10th).
- The use of the new style Gregorian calendar was accompanied by a change to the day of the celebration of the Western Christmas and moving ten days forward, while all the people who rejected the amendment celebrated on the same day as usual; so all the people who celebrate the Nativity feast on January the 7th in the 20th and 21st centuries are still correct in terms of stability on a fixed principle, i.e. Orthodox.
- There are many scientists, whether contemporaneous or not, who have proved that the ancient Egyptian calendar from which the Coptic calendar was derived is superior to its counterparts, and it is not by chance that Julius Caesar chose the Egyptian scientist Sosigenes to build the Julian calendar in the first place.
- The modification that occurred with the adjustment of the old style Julian calendar into the new style Gregorian calendar is only a mathematical modification, because the seasons still oscillate, and the vernal equinox now falls on the 20th of March in most countries of the world in the Northern hemisphere, and it will fall on the 19th of March consistently in the second half of the twenty first century.
- The apokty calculation which was founded by the Egyptian scientist Ptolemy Elfaramawy during the reign of St. Demetrius the vinedresser, is a very accurate account in determining the date of the slaughter of the sheep by the Jews, and therefore the feast of Resurrection, which is agreed upon by all the churches of the world sine the third and fourth centuries, and acted as a basis for establishing the canons of determining the feast of Resurrection at the Council of Nicaea – the precision of the apokty calculation is due to the closeness between the average length of the Coptic year with its Metonic counterpart.
- When the West changed the Western calendar, Christmas had changed, as well as Theophany, and Easter (which was a major reason for the amendment) and all other days in their calendar had changed – that is to say, nothing had changed at all for the Coptic Orthodox Church.
- Therefore, the apostles’ fast was never affected by the introduction of the new style Gregorian calendar to Egypt in the first quarter of the twentieth century.
- Even if, for the sake of a pure hypothetical assumption, either fixing the date of the Resurrection feast, or even if it is attached to its Western counterpart (which is contrary to the canons of the Council of Nicaea in any case), while continuing to use the Coptic calendar, we would need 2900 years before Theophany falls during Lent, or 4500 years before the feast of Nativity occurs during Lent – please note that both of these cases are fictional, practically impossible, and above all contrary to the canons of the Council of Nicaea.
- Regarding the spiritual aspect that is of paramount importance to the appraiser, he does not accept the words of our hegumen father, which he may have used to deceive the devil, and not for practical application. No Christian, especially belonging to the Coptic Orthodox Church, should complain about the length of fasting. Our Coptic Church added a few days to the Nativity fast, and added Jonah’s fast (the fast of the people of Nineveh) when she was filled with holy zeal towards the Syriac Church, and also added the week of preparation at the beginning of the Great Lent as a result of the holy zeal towards the Greek Orthodox.
- In addition to all of this, even the Nativity fast which is a second degree fasting, ends with a paramoni, or a preparation for the feast, one, two, or three days of first-degree fasting.
- The Church does not conform to the communities in which it is located. As an assumption and for the sake of the argument, if she was found, for instance, in a pagan society, should rock and roll enter into worship? This matter is not surprising, since the appraiser is aware that certain concessions have occurred in other denominations, but he does not want to address the outcomes of such practices.
- On a psychological level, the appraiser finds that the suggestion of our hegumen father pulls the individual down to more lowly matters in terms of the need for belonging, and also weakens the confidence of our children and newcomers to the Coptic Orthodox faith, who may see a Church’s quest to please others (not God), as well as a lack of confidence from the pastors in the legacies of the forefathers, and their canons.
- Therefore, the appraiser believes that what our hegumen father suggests is a demotion, and not transcendence from non-useful matters, and that they are such matters at the core of steadfast adherence to principles, the willingness to explain the cause of our hope as instructed by St. Peter the apostle, and conveying a message of overcoming satan’s endless and unrelenting tricks.
- Our hegumen father failed by repeating the words of the length of the fast and its impact on the departure of believers from the Church, both younger generations and newcomers to the Coptic Orthodox faith.
- The appraiser explained in paragraphs †(C-20)† and †(C-21)† that the fast of the apostles would only be five or six days shorter if the new style Gregorian calendar was implemented (contrary to the teachings of the apostles and the forefathers), or if the feast of Resurrection was fixed on the same date as the Easter in the Western Catholic Church (which also contravenes the teachings of the apostles and forefathers).
- Our hegumen father neglected the miraculous events that God grants His Coptic Church with, especially the appearance of the holy fire according to the date of the feast of Resurrection that is determined by the Coptic Church based on the apokty calculation by the forefathers who grew up within her, or the sun rays falling on the altars of the Virgin, the angels and the saints through which God honours them and the forefathers, who established such acts, in order to honour the Mother of God, the angels, the martyrs, and the saints.
- Logic was not on our hegumen father’s side when he hinted at the possibility of the division of the Copts as a result of his comment on the request of some people with one thing and others with something else. Indeed, logic was still not on our hegumen father’s side, when he linked a few feasts with the feast of Nativity, not realising that all the Coptic feasts are linked to each other, including the feast of Resurrection, and the feast of the apostles.
- Our hegumen father committed a mistake by mentioning that the month of Kiahk starts on the 9th of December, rather than the 10th of December (or the 11th after Coptic leap years).
- Our hegumen father referred to the example of the amendment of the readings of the 23rd of Kiahk as an example of the vitality and progress of the Coptic Church, neglecting the Orthodox standards, and hoping that this will connect the younger generations more to the Church. The appraiser commented by virtue of his work in the field of psychiatry that this may actually weaken the adherence to patristics, and even all the doctrinal and religious heritages, because some people do not understand the correlation of the readings and the passages of different seasons in the church with each other, and even the loss of the one line that is clearly manifest throughout the Coptic year as a whole.
- Our hegumen father lacked objectivity once again, and practicality too when (1) he suggested that it would be quite insignificant for thirteen days to be removed from the Coptic year, and (2) was unaware of the mismatch of the leap days in the Coptic year with the Western counterpart according to his description ‘thus, after this amendment, the two calendars will be identical, and there will be no room for any difference at all’.
- Our hegumen father’s elaboration on informing the state/states, and the other churches, indicates to the appraiser his hastiness, which may suggest that the thesis had not taken enough time of reflection, or studying, even though our hegumen father had reviewed it over a period of three years. This is also evident in the lack of thorough verification of the accuracy of scientific information through consulting English language sources and references, and not only Arabic language ones (as mentioned earlier).
- As the appraiser mentioned before, our hegumen father’s usage of words such as “will return” and “will move”, it becomes clear that the pathos appeal, which is an attempt to draw on the recipient’s emotions and their feelings, was strong, and this may confirm our hegumen father’s position of love towards the church and all the congregation. However, the appraiser believes that the use of such terms has adversely affected the accuracy of the scientific material and the practical one as well as lacking the objectivity as mentioned earlier.
- Our hegumen father repeated the same mathematical errors mentioned in other places of the thesis, despite trying to clarify the points in numbers, whereby his elaboration in several examples illustrated again his confusion in terms of the Coptic leap year and the Western leap year assuming their complete congruency in terms of dates.
- Once again, our hegumen father relied on the pathos appeal in his expression: ‘therefore, it will be a great historic event, assigned to the current fathers of the Holy Synod, that it was completed in their era’, which again adversely affects the validity of the scientific material, as well as its potential usage, in addition to the thesis containing non-spiritual matters, and incomplete information altogether.
- Our hegumen father’s addition of the paragraph on readers’ questions shows again his positivity and his love for others, and indeed his tolerance through the thorough answers to those questions in that much detail.
- Our hegumen father used expressions that suggested praising Western scientists, underestimating the Egyptian scientists, and even the Copts in general, indicating his unawareness of the history of Europe at that time.
- Our hegumen father contradicted himself several times in the answers to some questions, weakening the rationale of his proposal, and its purpose.
- Moreover, our hegumen father used some analogies that point to his superficiality in the analysis of some of the scientific matters in their essence, and of course, it is understandable that such is not his area of specialty as a spiritual man in the first place, for he has embellished the thesis by requesting prayers in many places, as well as his mention of organising prayers for the Church and her congregation.
- Our hegumen father mentioned his pastoral responsibility towards the younger generations in the diaspora, which is gratifying for the appraiser who sees the dedication in his vocation, in addition to his rank in praying and guiding Copts and the newcomers to the Coptic Orthodox Church. The negative point that disturbs the appraiser as mentioned earlier is the request of our hegumen father to lighten the fasting, and even reduce the days of the fast of the apostles, as he indicated in the main thesis and in his response to questions he had received on Facebook.
- Our hegumen father was not correct in his repetitively stating that the new style Gregorian calendar will continue to be used until the second coming.
- At first glance, some of our hegumen father’s statements seem to stem from a political angle, not a churchly one, which appears in its entirety as an encouragement to abandon patristic heritages, and apostolic canons.
- Our hegumen father repeated the pastoral division within the Coptic Church, which superficially seems to be a scaremongering act of what could inevitably happen to the Coptic Orthodox Church in the diaspora.
- Our hegumen father has withdrawn from discussing the impact of Western practices over Christmas on younger generations and only summarised what such societies need in general terms. By virtue of living in a Western country, the appraiser can deduce with some clarity that the Coptic communities in the United States and Canada (probably also in Australia) are more steadfast in adhering to the Orthodox Christian life – yes Christianity is life. Perhaps one of the reasons is that those countries welcome immigration, compared to the European countries. But for the sake of precision and honesty, the appraiser admits that he may have a rather narrow view that may be influenced by the size of these societies in Europe.
† From the above, the appraiser concludes that the quality of the thesis through (a) the presentation of the idea, (b) the methodology, and (c) the effect on the recipient, would be rated as medium to good, especially due to the use of our hegumen father the pathos appeal in many discussions, in which his love and pastoral responsibility were revealed. As for the quality in terms of (d) the depth of the scientific material, (e) familiarity with the figures and their explanation, and (f) the spirituality of the suggested objective, those would be rated as weak, because of the lack of research by and large, and also the discrepancy of the suggested objective with the teachings of God – the appraiser realises that the reader clearly understands why our hegumen father presented these points in such a manner.
Therefore, the appraiser can describe the reliability of the thesis and its validity as not benefiting the spirituality of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the first place, nor does it adopt an obedient approach to her heritage and canons, and finally, it does not present a precise or correct scientific premise, failing to discuss any alternatives logically (in the logos appeal particularly, and credibility generally).
† The appraiser does not know our hegumen father Youhanna Nassif personally, but he can deduce from reading this thesis, and critically appraising it, that our hegumen father Youhanna Nassif is a very lovable and loving man. What was written in this thesis, shows the appraiser and the reader too the love of our hegumen father towards the Church and her children, Egyptians and newcomers to the Coptic Orthodox faith alike. It is perfectly clear that he wants to bring together the people of the Church, like our Lord Jesus Christ, who wanted to gather His children as the chicken gathers the chicks under its wings. However, the appraiser finds faults with the thesis for the lack of accuracy in the scientific material, and lack of precision in the desired facts, despite reviewing the thesis within three years of its publication for the first time, which indicates the lack of reliability and validity of the points, which were not presented in an adequate manner. In addition, our hegumen father’s reliance on Arabic language sources has led to confusing many things, listing misinformation in this thesis.
In terms of the spiritual views, the appraiser sees a great danger in leaving such points unaddressed or not fully explained, and therefore it was necessary for him to expand in addressing such matters – the appraiser is fully aware of the fact that many saints used similar dialogues to mislead the devil with such skilful deception, and he is certain of the rank of our hegumen father Youhanna Nassif being so great that he needs to mislead the devil by making up statements that are opposite to the spiritual principles, with his continued belief that the Holy Spirit will not allow such arguments to affect the reader or the recipient at all. The appraiser wishes to open a wider perspective for the reader to weigh up all things positively and negatively, and their impact on the Church as a whole, and on the spirituality of her congregation, and the newcomers, who seek protection in her from the horrors of this fierce world. One thing remains that our Lord taught us to choose the narrow gate leading to life, so we must not do what others do in any way, shape or form.
About the appraiser: –
† The appraiser is called Dr. Fady Nabih Kamel, and has lived in England for more than 15 years, working in the field of psychiatry for about 14 years. The appraiser was born in Egypt and lived there until the age of 28, before moving to England. His life in a Western country greatly interested in scientific evidence, and in appraising all the sources of information regardless of the presenter, inclined him to respond quickly to the thesis of our hegumen father Youhanna Nassif, especially due to his attachment to the Coptic Church, and the true Orthodox faith. It is worthwhile noting that the appraiser found the thesis of our hegumen father by coincidence through social media, and therefore wanted to research and study the material thoroughly, in order to be well equipped to respond to our hegumen father’s thesis accurately. Indeed, the appraiser learned through his training in the field of psychiatry and studying a branch of philosophy, that the analysis of such matters from different angles, confers objectivity on what is searched and bears fruits in building a person scientifically and pragmatically, in addition to the spiritual edification that occurs as a result of this approach, and above all, the grace of God that He grants to His children without reservation. The appraiser has found countless references from various sources, even distant in their perspectives, suggesting that the Coptic Church is very rich and genuinely powerful, and that has attracted satan’s wars over the centuries to her until this very day, while she is still steadfast. The appraiser asks the Lord to preserve him in the Orthodox faith, and to keep the walls of this Bride of Christ strong, fortified, and immune to the attacks of the devil. Pray for me.
(The appraiser would like hereby to apologise for the spelling mistakes, or the inarticulacy of his style, as English is not his first language. It took nearly ten months for the appraiser to give himself the opportunity to research carefully and adequately, so that he can benefit from and give a scientific benefit to the reader to a high standard (and a meticulous revision of the responses – this is the fourth edit). Finally, in translating this response (and the thesis included) from the Arabic language, the appraiser followed the same style, that is marking the statements of our hegumen father in bold font, and the responses in regular font besides using the shape of the cross “†”).
With the grace of the Lord
Finished in Tubah 1736 AM, January 2020 AD
Fr. John Ramzy’s article:-
The Glorious Feast of Nativity:-
7 January? 29 Kiahk? 25 December?
Written by: Fr. John Ramzy
The first Church did not celebrate the birth of Christ. And the actual date of his birth was and still is unknown. The earliest known indication to such a celebration comes in a passing statement by St. Clement of Alexandria who mentions that the Egyptians of his time celebrated the Lord’s birth on May 20. At the end of the 3rd century, the Western Churches celebrated it in the winter, and this was only accepted in Rome in the middle of the 4th century.
Around that time it was agreed by the Church all over the world to celebrate the nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ on 25 December (29 Kiahk in the Coptic calendar), most probably to take the place of a pagan feast that even Christians continued to celebrate until then.
At that time, and until the sixteenth century, the civil calendar in use the world over was the Julian calendar, introduced by Julius Caesar in the year 46 B.C. This calendar considered the year to be 365.25 days 4 and thus had a leap year every four years, just like the Coptic calendar. Therefore, until the sixteenth century, 25 December coincided with 29 Kiahk, as the date of the celebration of the Lord’s nativity.
Towards the end of the sixteenth century, Pope Gregory XIII of Rome took interest in studying astrology, dates and feasts. He noticed that the vernal equinox, the point at which the sun crosses the equator, making day and night of equal length, starting the spring, used to fall on 21 March (25 Baramhat) around the time of the council of Nicaea (A.D. 325) which set the times for the ecclesiastical feasts. The vernal equinox at his time however fell on 11 March.
After consultation with scientists, he learned that the equinoctial year (or solar year), which is the time the earth takes to revolve around the sun from equinox to equinox, was slightly shorter than the Julian year. It was 365.2422 solar days (approximately 11 minutes and 14 seconds shorter). This makes a difference of a full day every 128.2 years, hence the difference of 10 days in the beginning of spring between the fourth and sixteenth centuries.
Pope Gregory XIII decreed the following:
In A.D. 1582, October 5th will be called October 15th.
The Julian calendar should be shortened by 3 days every 400 years, by making the centenary year a normal 365-day year, not a leap year, except if its number is divisible by 400.
Thus the year 1600 remained a leap year as usual, while 1700, 1800 and 1900 had only 365 days each and the year 2000 was a leap year of 366 days.
This new calendar came to be known as the Gregorian calendar, and is the common civil calendar in use in our world today.
Following these decrees, as the Church of Rome celebrated Christmas 25 December 1582 A.D., the Eastern Churches still fasted as they showed 15 December or 19 Kiahk on their Julian and Coptic calendars. As the Church of the East celebrated the feast of Nativity, it was already 4 January 1583 A.D. on Pope Gregory’s new calendar. That gap widened by 3 more days over the next 4 centuries. This is why the Churches who still celebrate on 25 December according to the ancient Julian calendar (such as most of the Byzantine Churches and the non-Chalcedonian churches, except the Armenians) find themselves, in the 21st century, celebrating the Nativity on 7 January of the civil Gregorian new calendar. This will become 8 January after the year 2100 A.D.
Now the questions present themselves:
Is it necessary that the liturgical calendar be adjusted to a scientifically correct solar year?
Why did Pope Gregory correct the calendar to its status at the fourth century?
Why not we do it to resemble the status at Christ’s birth or at the beginning of the world?
Should we, as Christians, take the liberty to change a calendar established and recognized by our fathers of the ecumenical councils to be the basis of our liturgical life, just because of mere scientific data?
Should we adjust our calendar to coincide with the western calendar, or should the Catholics go back to the calendar of the fathers?
Is it important to have one Nativity day the world over or is it preferable to unite really in doctrine first, and then look at these secondary issues?
Isn’t it better, now that the Western Christmas has been so commercialized and paganized, that we have a separate date where we worship in spirit and in truth, away from the noise, drunkenness, gluttony and immorality of the December Christmas practices? Many of our children and youth, born and raised here, have voiced this opinion.
May the ever-renewed birth of the Lord of glory in our hearts, every day of every year, be unto our salvation to eternal life. Amen
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With gratitude and request for prayers,
Dr. Fady Nabih Kamel,
Tubah 1736 AM, January 2020 AD