Coptic Orthodox Diocese of the Southern United States

Sowing the Seeds

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"Holiness adorns your house O Lord" (Ps 93:5).

After the ordination of Father Pishoy Kamel he went, as is custom, to the monastery for forty days to be trained in the duties of the priesthood, how to administer the sacraments, and to spiritually prepare himself for his service.

During this time he found great difficulty in memorising the hymns of the church. He did not give up but continued trying. He knew how important it was to learn these hymns to the extent that he would always say, "the truth is hymns of the Coptic Church is an enjoyment and personal pleasure which as a way of worship lifts us up to a spiritual highness and allows us to join with the angels."

So he would repeatedly ask God in many prayers to help him in memorising these hymns and God answered his request and gave him the talent to memorise the hymns and melodies of the church. We know this from the diary he kept during the forty days of his stay in the monastery.

When Father Pishoy went to serve in the United States in 1969 he found a problem in that the children who only understood English and were unable to participate in the Holy Liturgy which was prayed in Arabic and Coptic.

Father Pishoy was not pleased with this situation because he wanted everybody to participate in the Holy Liturgy. He would say, "Praising and hymns are in the nature of the angels, they attained it through their existence and being ever in the presence of God."

By the blessing of Our Lord Jesus Christ he began teaching the children the Coptic Language and the hymns of the church so that they could enjoy it in the Holy Liturgy saying to them, "The Coptic hymn is not just another hymn it is a dialogue with Our Lord Jesus Christ."

With assistance of his wife Angel he also wrote many English hymns and put them to Coptic tunes, and translated many of the Arabic and Coptic hymns so that the English speakers could enjoy them. He also translated parts of the Holy Liturgy and he taught the people the love of prayer and the love of the rites of the church.

When he arrived in the United States he also found that no one did the Kiahk praises and prayer vigils and he was told that they did not do that sort of thing outside Egypt and that no one would come. However he started the Kioahk praises and prayer vigils praying them completely until the morning and ending with a Holy Liturgy. Many people came to enjoy these nights of praise and the traditions of their church. He would never fall short or cut the praying in any service but he would say all the rites to completion.

In these nights of praise, Father Pishoy would say, "Our Coptic fathers really magnified the repetition of the name of Jesus for the salvation of men till it became the core and heart of their worship, to the point where they breathed it and said, 'for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved' (Acts 4:12)."

People would come to these nights of praise in Kiahk forgetting all the worries of the world and losing themselves to a night of worshipping and praising God and a night of honouring St. Mary His Mother. People walked in and out of the churches feeling joyous and lifted by their church hymns and rites.

He also instilled in all the people whom he served the importance of the feasts of the saints, he would spend many feasts in prayer vigils during the night, honouring the saint and trying to learn and teach from this saints life so that the congregation may benefit from it and gain the blessings of this saint. If there was a monastery carrying the name of the saint then he would take as many people as would come and they would spend the night there. From this the people learned the blessings of visiting the monasteries and honouring God through his saints.

He also started the evening vigil for both the New Coptic year and A.D. All this was done in the ten months he served in the United States and accompanied him wherever he served whether in Egypt or abroad.

So he sowed throughout the world the seeds of the joy of worshipping God in the feasts and in the fasts, how to spend good and effective spiritual time with God praising him in the occasions rather than in the world wasting our lives away. How to love the House of the Lord as a House of Prayer?

I wish my brothers and sisters that we start to learn to love the hymns of the church and its wonderful traditions and our Coptic language of our church. We should ask God with honest hearts to help us learn and to open our hearts to these wonderful treasures which we have and how about we start with Kioahk?

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