Lent 2014 in the Coptic Tradition

Monday, February 24 2014 marks the beginning of Lent in the Coptic Orthodox Tradition: it is Meshir 17, 1730, in the Coptic Calendar (for which, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coptic_calendar and http://orthodoxwiki.org/Coptic_Calendar and http://suscopts.org/coptic-orthodox/church/calendar/).
coptic cross 5
Great Lent consists of six weeks (40 days), which correspond to the 40 days that Christ fasted on the mountain. It precedes Palm Sunday, and the Holy Week, which precede Pascha. The seven days of the Holy Week is also a period of rigorous fasting. There are an additional seven days of fasting before the beginning of the Great Lent, which serve as a preparatory period, called “Pre-Lenten Fast” or “Preparatory Week”.

Although the Coptic calendar designates approximately 210 days of fasting during the year, the 55 days of fasting for Lent are the days most widely observed by members of the Coptic Church. When fasting strictly, the Copts can eat no animal products, including poultry, meat, fish, eggs, and milk. No food or drink is allowed between the hours of sunrise and sunset.
The duration and the ranking of the fast of Holy Lent is documented in the “Didascalia” [“Didascalia Apostolorum”, a composition of the 3rd century, perhaps around 230 CE], indicating that “the forty days that Jesus Christ our Saviour fasted are to be fasted until sunset, along with the abstaining from any flesh and anything that belongs to the flesh.” [see http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/didascalia.html – chapter XXI verses 13ff.]
Also, “the week preceding the Holy Forty Days (the Week of Preparation) is to be classified as one of the established fasts of the church, on which the rules of the Holy Forty Days are to be observed.” As for the Holy Pascha week, (the week following the Holy Forty days) the “Didascalia” states “it is to be fasted solely on bread, salt and water until the end of sunset.” With regards to Great Friday and Bright Saturday, “they are to be fasted with full abstinence until the cock crows very early Sunday morning.However, if one could not fast both days together, then it is acceptable to fast throughout Saturday alone.”

Church services, including the Divine Liturgy, have specific Lenten forms, as does Church music: see http://www.copticheritage.org/rites/10_the_great_lent


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