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The Struggle for English in the Church Services

Father Athanasius Iskander

I came to Canada in 1968 as an immigrant from Egypt. I was 30 years old and the church I came to was Saint Mark’s Coptic Orthodox Church in Toronto. The church was established by Father Marcos Marcos four years earlier in 1964. I graduated as a medical doctor from Ain Shams University in Egypt in 1962. I started working within two months after arriving as a resident in the Toronto Western Hospital.

At that time we were moving from one place of worship to another since we did not yet have a church of our own. The services at the church were totally in Arabic and Coptic. The deacons, afraid to lose the church tradition in a foreign land, made sure that every hymn in the book (and even some not in the book) was sung during the Liturgy. Accordingly the Liturgy ended at 1 pm!

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THE BIRTH OF MOSES AND THE MYSTERY OF CHRIST by St. Cyril

When at some point famine was afflicting (the children of Israel) ... they descended from the land of Canaan to Egypt; about seventy five souls, as it is written. And as the time crept, their race multiplied. For it has been written: “And the children of Israel were fruitful, and increased abundantly, and multiplied, and waxed exceeding mighty; and the land was filled with them.” (Ex 1:7) And because the one who happened to be the ruler of the land of the Egyptians was not unaware of the growth of the Jews, he plotted against them and appointed for them overseers of the labours so that they maltreat them at work. And the way of being maltreated was the sweat over digging, a lengthy construction of bricks without compensation and building strong cities for the Pharaoh. ...

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THE ROLE OF WOMEN IN THE CHURCH

Saint Paul tells us in 1 Cor 11:11-12 “neither is man independent of woman, nor woman independent of man, in the Lord. For as woman came from man, even so man also comes through woman; but all things are from God.” To God both are equal and indispensable but God assigned different roles for each. A woman was given a unique role that no man can match, that of being able to bring forth into the world men and women (with a little help from the man) Only a woman can bring forth as part of herself a priest, a bishop and even a pope. Not only that, but a woman was given the honour of being called the Mother of God, while no man was ever called the “father of God”

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St. John Chrysostom on Wedding Receptions

Marriage is a bond, a bond ordained by God. Why then do you celebrate weddings in a silly and immodest manner? Have you no idea what you are doing? ... What is the meaning of these drunken parties with their lewd and disgraceful behaviour? You can enjoy a banquet with your friends to celebrate your marriage; I do not forbid this, but why must you introduce all these excesses? Camels and mules behave more decently than some people at wedding receptions! 
 

St. John Crysostom on Fasting

8. I speak not, indeed, of such a fast as most persons keep, but of real fasting; not merely an abstinence from foods; but from sins too. ... "For the wrestler," it is said, "is not crowned unless he strive lawfully." To the end then, that when we have gone through the labour of fasting, we forfeit not the crown of fasting, .... since that Pharisee also fasted, but afterwards went down empty, and destitute of the fruit of fasting. 

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Saint Theophilus on Fasting and Repentance

The prophet has said, “My tears have been my food day and night” (Ps. 42 {41}:3), and again, “A worn and humble heart God will not despise” (cf. Ps. 51 {50}:17). Let us therefore, my dear brethren, afflict our souls now with fasting while giving our bodies over to death through many kinds of suffering, until we have become companions to the angel of repentance, that he may direct his path towards us.

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St. Cyril on the Circumcision of Christ

Christ therefore ransomed from the curse of the law those who being subject to it, had been unable to keep its enactments. And in what way did He ransom them? By fulfilling it. And to put it in another way: in order that He might expiate the guilt of Adam's transgression, He showed Himself obedient and submissive in every respect to God the Father in our stead: for it is written, "That as through the disobedience of the One man, the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the One, the many shall be made just." He yielded therefore His neck to the law in company with us, because the plan of salvation so required: for it became Him to fulfil all righteousness. For having assumed the form of a slave, as being now enrolled by reason of His human nature among those subject to the yoke, He once even paid the half shekel to the collectors of the tribute, although by nature free, and as the Son not liable to pay the tax. When therefore them seest Him keeping the law, be not offended, nor place the free-born among the slaves, but reflect rather upon the profoundness of the plan of salvation. ...

St. Cyril on the Birth of Christ

He found man reduced to the level of the beasts: therefore is He placed like fodder in a manger, that we, having left off our bestial life, might mount up to that degree of intelligence which befits man's nature; and whereas we were brutish in soul, by now approaching the manger, even His own table, we find no longer fodder, but the bread from heaven, which is the body of life. 

St. Cyril on the Perpetual Virginity

But in answer to those who argue that, if He were brought forth in the flesh, the Virgin was corrupted: and if she were not corrupted, that He was brought forth only in appearance, we say; the prophet declares, "the Lord, the God of Israel, hath entered in and gone out, and the gate remaineth closed." If, moreover, the Word was made flesh without sexual intercourse, being conceived altogether without seed, then was He born without injury to her virginity.

 
In what sense then her firstborn? By firstborn she here means, not the first among several brethren, but one who was both her first and only son: for some such sense as this exists among the significations of "firstborn." For sometimes also the Scripture calls that the first which is the only one; as "I am God, the First, and with Me there is no other." To shew then that the Virgin did not bring forth a mere man, there is added the word firstborn; for as she continued to be a virgin, she had no other son but Him Who is of the Father.
 
COMMENTARY OF ST. CYRIL, PATRIARCH OF ALEXANDRIA, UPON THE GOSPEL OF ST. LUKE.(1859) BOOK I, PAGE 9

A New Year's Wish from Theophan the Recluse

I wished you a Happy New Year in passing, and then it occurred to me to give you a special wish for it. What, specifically? That you become new. New in what way? In the way that a new dress is new: Everything is in its place, there is not the slightest little spot or wrinkle; it billows with freshness. That is what I wish for your soul to be like. You, in body, like the dress that we are talking about, fresh from the needle, will be completely new. Our soul, however, even upon its arrival in the world, brings the old;  if this oldness is not removed from it, then it will remain old, without having tasted the new. Vanity and passions-that is what is old in the soul. Drive these out, and you will become new.