Coptic Orthodox Diocese of the Southern United States

The Coptic New Year 1734

print Print  |  send Send to a friend  |  bookmark Bookmark  |   |   |  back Back

"Christians have a glory and a beauty and a heavenly wealth which is beyond words, and it is won with pains, and sweat, and trials, and many conflicts, and all by the grace of God" (St. Macarius the Great).

Every year since the year 284 A.D., the Coptic New Year has been celebrating our Christian martyrs as illustrious heroes and champions. Neither systematic persecution, nor harassment, nor oppression, nor threats dissuaded these faithful people from refusing to deny their faith in Christ, the Savior of the world, for which they willing gave up their lives. These heroes include a gamut of distinguished theologians, clergy, laymen, laywomen, elderly, and even children. Their strength of character emerged at the most pivotal times in their lives. When confronted with a life or death decision based on their faith, they perceived the ultimatum of choosing death a far more lucrative choice than an extension of life on earth by denying Christ. Thus, they endured tortures, pains, separation from loved ones, and a brutal death for their love for Christ and an eternal life with Him.

The persecution of Christians began with Christ and will end with His Second Coming. Before the Apostle Paul's conversion to Christianity, he exhausted every means to imprison and kill Christians. A form of fanatic zeal stirred him. "As for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering every house, and dragging off men and women, committing them to prison" (Acts 8:3). One might imagine how terrifying that must have been for these early Christians—to suddenly be dragged out of their homes and imprisoned, just for their faith. However, the response to this persecution produced a different kind of reality. "Therefore those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word" (Acts 8:4). These are the real heroes. Despite the price that keeping their faith would culminate in martyrdom, they did not cease to waste time wallowing in self-pity, nor did these forms of intimidation shake their faith. Rather, St. Luke, the writer of the Book of Acts distinctly highlights their resilience and perseverance in these consecutive sentences [Acts 8:3-4].

Every country pays tribute to their heroes. Usually these are men and women who were admired or feared rulers, proficient athletes, brilliant scholars, or charismatic celebrities. Rather, we ought to search for real heroes that endured until the end. Research the history of Christianity within one's own regions. Christian heroes can be found in every corner of the earth. Oppressors vary from people of different faiths to rulers of opposing political ideologies. The Copts have dedicated the first of the Coptic month of Thoout [September 11th] to honor our genuine heroes. Alongside with the Copts are many other honorable Christian martyrs throughout the world. Sometimes, these were individuals, and other times, they were groups of martyrs. In addition to the noble martyrs at the hands of the evil Diocletian in the early centuries, history books reveal the atrocities of the Armenian Genocide, the Hundred Thousand Martyrs of Tbilisi, Georgia, the Martyrs of Nagasaki, Japan, and thousands of others.

Today, the Internet has exposed how the same form of violence against Christians continues in many countries. The result is still the same as mentioned in Acts 8:3-4. The persecution of Christians still upsurges more people accepting Christianity. New martyrs have had a tremendous evangelizing impact, which has increased the spread of Christianity. Even the martyrs' families rejoice for their honorable loved ones' crowns of martyrdom. According to the Apostle Peter, "God shows no partiality. But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him" (Acts 10:34-35).

The Coptic Orthodox Church has delivered our glorious Christian faith without sword, or threats, or finances, or persuasion, or enticement. Let us persevere and be resilient in our great faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. The more we love our Lord, the more He will reveal Himself to us. The more we know our Lord, the more we will gladly submit our will to His will. The more we serve our Lord, the more we will happily tell the world about Him. They will see Him in us. They will see Him in our endurance, perseverance, and resilience, and they will understand our steadfast faith and desire it for themselves. They will hear His words from us and desire to follow Him. Make Christ evident in your life, and in all your ways—in peace and in trials, in joy and in sadness, and in every challenge set before you, because you are different. You are His.

May the Coptic New Year 1734 be filled with many blessings and many, many more persons and nations joining God's family.

God bless you.

Bishop Youssef
Bishop, Coptic Orthodox Diocese of the United States

print Print  |  send Send to a friend  |  bookmark Bookmark  |   |   |  back Back