The Church of Alexandria, founded according to the constant tradition
of both East and West by St. Mark the Evangelist, was the centre from which Christianity
spread throughout all Egypt,
the nucleus of the powerful Patriarchate of Alexandria. Within its jurisdiction,
during its most flourishing period, were included about 108 bishops; its territory
embraced the six provinces of Upper Libya,
Lower Libya (or Pentapolis), the Thebaid, Egypt,
Acadia (or Heptapolis), and Augustamnica.
In the beginning the successor of St. Mark was the only metropolitan, and he governed ecclesiastically the entire territory. As the Christians multiplied, and other metropolitan sees were created, he became known as the arch-metropolitan. The title of patriarch did not come into use until the fifth century. Up to the time of the second ecumenical council (381) the Patriarch of Alexandria ranked next to the Bishop of Rome. By the third canon of this council, afterwards confirmed by the twenty-eighth canon of the Council of Chalcedon (452), the Patriarch of Constantinople, supported by imperial authority and by a variety of concurring advantages, was given the right of precedency over the Patriarch of Alexandria. But neither Rome nor Alexandria recognized the claim until many years later.
During the first two centuries of our era, though Egypt enjoyed unusual quiet, little is known of the ecclesiastical history of its chief see, beyond a barren list of the names of its patriarchs, handed down to us chiefly through the ecclesiastical historian Eusebius. They were, in order: Anianus (d. 84); Abilius; Cerdon, Primus, also called Ephraim, Justus (d. 130); Eumenes; Mark II; Celadion; Agrippinus; Julian (d. 189).
With the successors of Julian we have something more than a mere list of names. Demetrius governed the Church of Alexandria for forty-two years, and it was he who deposed and excommunicated Origen, notwithstanding his great work as a catechist. Heraclas (d. 247) exercised his power as arch-metropolitan by deposing Ammonius, Bishop Thmuis, and installing a successor. Maximus and Theonas (282-300) were followed by Peter, the first occupant of the See of St. Mark to die a martyr (311 or 312). Then came Achillas, who ordained Arius through ignorance of the man's real character. On the death of Achillas, Alexander, who proved himself a zealous defender of the orthodox faith in the contest against Arius, was elected bishop by unanimous consent of clergy and people, and in spite of the interested opposition of Arius.
Of the ante-Nicene bishops who ruled this church, Dionysius and Alexander were the most illustrious, as also were St. Athanasius and St. Cyril among those who subsequently filled the see. The interval between the death of Athanasius and the accession of St. Cyril (412) was filled by Peter II, a zealous bishop, who was obliged to seek refuge in Rome from the persecuting Arians (d. 381); Timothy I (381-385), Theophilus (385-412), the immediate predecessor of Cyril. Under St. Cyril (412-444) the Patriarchate of Alexandria reached its most flourishing epoch. The decline of his office dates from the middle of the fifth century. Under Dioscurus (444-451), the unworthy successor of St. Cyril, the Church of Alexandria became embroiled in the Monophysite heresy. Dioscurus was deposed, and later banished.
The election of Proterius as Catholic patriarch was followed by an open schism. Proterius was murdered in 457, and Timothy Aelurus, a Monophysite, was intruded into the see. The schism thus began by Dioscurus and Timothy gave rise to two factions, the orthodox, or Catholic, party, which maintained the faith of the two natures in Christ, as prescribed by the Council of Chalcedon (451), and the Monophysites, who followed the heresy of Dioscurus. The former came to be known as Melchites or Royalists, i. e., adherents or favourites of the emperor, and the latter as Jacobites.
The possession of the See of Alexandria alternated between these parties for a time; eventually each communion maintained a distinct and independent succession. Thus the Church of Alexandria became the scene of serious disturbances, which finally brought about its ruin. The Saracen domination, so gladly welcomed by the Jacobites, proved to them more of a curse than a blessing. They suffered many bitter persecutions under successive Moslem rulers. Many among the clergy and laity apostatized. Nor did the Melchites escape. Indeed they were worse off, ground as they were between the upper and nether millstones, the Jacobites and the Saracens.
By the eleventh century Alexandria had ceased to be the sole place where the patriarch was consecrated. From this date Cairo claimed that honour alternately with Alexandria, though the enthronement took place in the latter city. The revolutions which subsequently befell the Greek Empire of Constantinople had little effect on the fortunes of the Church of Alexandria. The same may be said of the Crusades; though closely connected with local Alexandrian history, they do not seem to have had much influence upon its internal ecclesiastical affairs.
Joseph M. Woods, ed.
Transcribed by: Thomas J. Bress
This extract is cited June 2003 from The Catholic Encyclopedia, New Advent online edition URL below.
In 231 a council of bishops and priests met at Alexandria, called
by Bishop Demetrius for the purpose of declaring Origen unworthy of the office
of teacher, and of excommunicating him.
In 306, a council held under St. Peter of Alexandria deposed Meletius, Bishop of Lycopolis, for idolatry and other crimes. The schism then begun by him lasted fifty years and was the source of much sorrow for the Church of Egypt.
In 321 was held the council that first condemned Arius, then parish priest of the section of Alexandria known as Baucalis. After his condemnation Arius withdrew to Palestine, where he secured the powerful support of Eusebius of Caesarea.
At the Council of 326, St. Athanasius was elected to succeed the aged Alexander, and various heresies and schisms of Egypt were denounced. In 340, one hundred bishops met at Alexandria, declared in favour of Athanasius, and vigorously rejected the calumnies of the Eusebian faction at Tyre.
At a council in 350, St. Athanasius was replaced in his see. In 362 was held one of the most important of these councils. It was presided over by St. Athanasius and St. Eusebius of Vercelli, and was directed against those who denied the divinity of the Holy Ghost, the human soul of Our Lord, and His Divinity. Mild measures were agreed on for those apostate bishops who repented, but severe penance was decreed for the chief leaders of the great heresies that had been devastating the Christian Church.
In 363, another council met under St. Athanasius for the purpose of submitting to the new Emperor Jovian an account of the truth faith. Somewhat similar was the purpose of the Council of 364. That of 370 approved the action of Pope Damasus in condemning Urascius and Valens, and expressed its surprise that Auxentius was yet tolerated at Milan.
In 399, the council of Alexandria condemned, without naming himself, the writings of Origen.
In 430, St. Cyril of Alexandria held to make known to the bishops of Egypt the letter of Pope Celestine I, in which a pontifical admonition was conveyed to the heresiarch Nestorius. In this council the bishops warned him that unless he retracted his errors, confessed the Catholic faith, and reformed his life, they would refuse to look on him as a bishop.
In 633, the patriarch Cyrus held a council in favour of the Monothelites, with which closed the series of these deliberative meetings of the ancient Church of Egypt.
Thomas J. Shahan, ed.
Transcribed by: Christine J. Murray
This text is cited June 2003 from The Catholic Encyclopedia, New Advent online edition URL below.
A most valuable Greek manuscript of the Old and New Testaments, so
named because it was brought to Europe from Alexandria and had been the property
of the patriarch of that see. For the sake of brevity, Walton, in his polyglot
Bible, indicated it by the letter A and thus set the fashion of designating Biblical
manuscripts by such symbols. Codex A was the first of the great uncials to become
known to the learned world. When Cyril Lucar, Patriarch of Alexandria, was transferred
in 1621 to the Patriarchate of Constantinople,
he is believed to have brought the codex with him. Later he sent it as a present
to King James I of England;
James died before the gift was presented, and Charles I, in 1627, accepted it
in his stead. It is now the chief glory of the British
Museum in its manuscript department and is on exhibition there.
Codex A contains the Bible of the Catholic Canon, including therefore the deuterocanonical books and portions of books belonging to the Old Testament. Moreover, it joins to the canonical books of Machabees, the apocryphal III and IV Machabees, of very late origin. To the New Testament are added the Epistle of St. Clement of Rome and the homily which passed under the title of II Epistle of Clement -- the only copies then known to exist. These are included in the list of New Testament books which is prefixed and seem to have been regarded by the scribe as part of the New Testament. The same list shows that the Psalms of Solomon, now missing, were originally contained in the volume, but the space which separates this book from the others on the list indicates that it was not ranked among New Testament books. An “Epistle to Marcellinus” ascribed to St. Athanasius is inserted as a preface to the Psalter, together with Eusebius's summary of the Psalms; Psalm 151 and certain selected canticles of the Old Testament are affixed, and liturgical uses of the psalms indicated. Not all the books are complete. In the Old Testament there is to be noted particularly the lacuna of thirty psalms, from 5:20, to 80:11; moreover, of Genesis 14:14-17; 15:1-5, 16-19; 16:6-9; I Kings 12:20-14:9. The New Testament has lost the first twenty-five leaves of the Gospel of St. Matthew, as far as chapter 25:6, likewise the two leaves running from John 6:50, to 8:52, and three leaves containing II Corinthians 4:13-12:6. One leaf is missing from I Clement and probably two at the end of II Clement.
Codex A supports the Sixtine Vulgate in regard to the conclusion of St. Mark and John 5:4, but, like all Greek manuscripts before the fourteenth century, omits the text of the three heavenly witnesses, I John 5:7. The order of the Old Testament books is peculiar. In the New Testament the order is Gospels, Acts, Catholic Epistles, Pauline Epistles, Apocalypse, with Hebrews placed before the Pastoral Epistles. Originally one large volume, the codex is now bound in four volumes, bearing on their covers the arms of Charles I. Three volumes contain the Old Testament, and the remaining volume the New Testament with Clement. The leaves, of thin vellum, 12 3/4 inches high by 10 inches broad, number at present 773, but were originally 822, according to the ordinary reckoning. Each page has two columns of 49 to 51 lines. The codex is the first to contain the major chapters with their titles, the Ammonian Sections and the Eusebian Canons complete. A new paragraph is indicated by a large capital and frequently by spacing, not by beginning a new line; the enlarged capital is placed in the margin of the next line, though, curiously, it may not correspond to the beginning of the paragraph or even of a word. The manuscript is written in uncial characters in a hand at once firm, elegant, simple. The handwriting is generally judged to belong to the beginning or middle of the fifth century or possibly to the late fourth. An Arabic note states that it was written by Thecla the martyr; and Cyril Lucar the Patriarch adds in his note that tradition says she was a noble Egyptian woman and wrote the codex shortly after the Nicene Council. But nothing is known of such a martyr at that date, and the value of this testimony is weakened by the presence of the Eusebian Canons (d. 340) and destroyed by the insertion of the letter of Athanasius (d. 373). The character of the letters and the history of the manuscript point to Egypt as its place of origin.
The text of Codex A is considered one of the most valuable witnesses to the Septuagint. It is found, however, to bear a great affinity to the text embodied in Origen's Hexapla and to have been corrected in numberless passages according to the Hebrew. The text of the Septuagint codices is in too chaotic a condition, and criticism of it too little advanced, to permit of a sure judgment on the textual value of the great manuscripts. The text of the New Testament here is of a mixed character. In the Gospels, we have the best example of the so-called Syrian type of text, the ancestor of the traditional and less pure form found in the textus receptus. The Syrian text, however, is rejected by the great majority of scholars in favour of the "neutral" type, best represented in the Codex Vaticanus. In the Acts and Catholic Epistles, and still more in St. Paul's Epistles and the Apocalypse, Codex A approaches nearer, or belongs, to the neutral type. This admixture of textual types is explained on the theory that A or its prototype was not copied from a single manuscript, but from several manuscripts of varying value and diverse origin. Copyist's errors in this codex are rather frequent. Codex Alexandrinus played an important part in developing the textual criticism of the Bible, particularly of the New Testament.
John F. Fenlon, ed.
Transcribed by: Sean Hyland
This extract is cited June 2003 from The Catholic Encyclopedia, New Advent online edition URL below.
The tradition of the Church of Egypt
traces its origin to the Evangelist St. Mark, the first Bishop of Alexandria,
and ascribes to him the parent liturgy from which all the others used by Melchites,
Copts, and by the daughter-Church of Abyssinia are derived. These three bodies
possess the three groups of liturgies used throughout the original Patriarchate
of Alexandria. There is the Greek Liturgy of St. Mark, the oldest form of the
three, used for some centuries after the Monophysite schism by the orthodox Melchites;
there are then three liturgies, still used by the Copts, translated into Coptic
from the Greek and derived from the Greek St. Mark, and, further, a number of
Abyssinian (Ethiopic) uses, of which the foundation is the “Liturgy of the
Twelve Apostles”, that also descends from the original Greek Alexandrine
rite. By comparing these liturgies and noticing what is common to them, it is
possible in some measure to reconstruct the old use of the Church of Alexandria
as it existed before the Monophysite schism and the Council of Chalcedon
(451). There are, moreover, other indications of that use. Clement of Alexandria
(d. c. 217) makes one or two allusions to it, St. Athanasius (d. 373) has many
more; the Prayer Book of Serapion, Bishop of Thmuis in the middle of the fourth
century, and the descriptions of Pseudo-Dionysius, at about the same time, in
Egypt, make it possible to
reconstruct the outline of the Egyptian Liturgy of their time, which is then seen
to coincide with the Liturgy of St. Mark.
I. THE LITURGY OF ST. ATHANASIUS, SERAPION, AND PSEUDO-DIONYSIUS
The Mass was divided into two chief parts, the Mass of the Catechumens and that of the Faithful. The Mass of the Catechumens consisted of Lessons from Holy Scripture, Psalms sung alternately, and Homilies. Then follow the blessing and dismissal of various kinds of people who are not allowed to be present at the Holy Eucharist, the catechumens, penitents, and energumens. In Serapion and Pseudo-Dionysius the Mass of the Faithful begins with the bringing of the oblations to the altar; they are then covered with a veil. The deacon reads out a litany for various causes (he katholike), to each petition of which the people answer “Kyrie eleison”, and the bishop sums up their prayers in a collect. Then follows the kiss of peace. St. Athanasius appears to place the offering of the gifts at this point. The diptychs are read, followed by another collect and a prayer for the people. The bishop washes his hands and begins the Eucharistic Prayer. The opening of the Eucharistic Prayer has always been very long in the Egyptian Liturgy and the diptychs are read before the Consecration. These two notes are characteristic of all the Egyptian uses.
II. THE GREEK LITURGY OF ST. MARK
This rite as it now exists has already undergone considerable development. A Prothesis (preparation of the oblations before the beginning of the actual liturgy) has been added to it from the Byzantine Liturgy; the Creed is said as at Constantinople just before the Anaphora; the Epiklesis shows signs of the same influence; and the Great entrance is accompanied by a Cherubikon. Since the Monophysite schism this use was more and more affected by the Byzantine Liturgy, till at last it entirely gave way to it among the Melchites. However, it is possible to disengage it from later additions and to reproduce the original Greek Alexandrine Liturgy, the parent rite of all others in Egypt.
After the Prothesis, the Mass of the Cathechumens begins with the greeting of the priest: “Peace to all”, to which the people answer: “And with thy spirit.” The deacon says “Pray” and they repeat Kyrie eleison three times; the priest then says a collect. The whole rite is repeated three times, so that there are nine Kyrie eleisons interspersed with greeting and collects. During the Little Entrance (processions of the priest and deacon with the books for the lessons) the choir sings the Trisagion (Holy God, Holy Strong One, Holy Mortal One, have mercy on us). The lessons begin with the usual greeting: “Peace to all”. Response: “And with thy spirit”. “The Apostle” is read, and then, after incense has been put into the thurible, follows the Gospel. The deacon tells the people to stand while they hear it. After the Gospel follows the Homily. Before the Catechumens are dismissed a litany (the great Ekteneia) is said by the deacon. He tells the people to pray for the living, the sick, travellers, for fine weather, and the fruits of the earth, for the “regular rise of the waters of the river” (the Nile, an important matter in Egypt), “good rain and the cornfields of the earth” for salvation of all men, “the safety of the world and of this city”, for “our Christ-loving sovereigns”, for prisoners, “those fallen asleep”, “the sacrifice of our offerings”, for the afflicted, and for the Catechumens. To each clause the people answer: “Kyrie eleison.” The priest meanwhile is praying silently for the same objects, and when the deacon's litany is finished, he ends his prayer aloud with the doxology. The “verse” is sung, and the deacon says “The Three”, that is, three prayers for the whole Church, the Patriarch, and the local Church; in each case the priest ends with a collect.
The catechumens are then dismissed, and the Mass of the Faithful begins with the “Great Entrance”. The priest and deacon bring the offerings from the Prothesis to the altar while the people sing the Cherubikon. The kiss of peace follows, with the prayer belonging to it; then the Creed is said and the Offertory prayer at the altar. The Anaphora begins, as always, with the greeting to the people. The peculiarity of all the Egyptian Liturgies is that the Supplication for various causes and people, which in all other rites follows the Sanctus and the Consecration, comes at this point, during what we should call the Preface.
The Alexandrine Preface then is very long; interwoven into it are a series of prayers for the Church, the Emperor, the sick, fruits of the earth, and so on. Again the priest prays God to “draw up the waters of the river to their right measure”; he remembers various classes of Saints, especially St. Mark, says the first part of the Hail Mary, and then goes on aloud; “especially our all-holy, immaculate, and glorious Lady Mary, Mother of God and ever Virgin”. The deacon here reads the diptychs of the death; the priest continues his supplication for the patriarch, the bishop, and all the living; the deacon calls out to the people to stand and then to look towards the east; and so at last comes the Sanctus: “the many-eyed Cherubim and the six-winged Seraphim. . . sing, cry out, praise Thee, and say: Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts”. And then aloud he goes on: “Sanctify all of us and receive our praise, who with all who sanctify Three, Lord and Master, sing and say” (and the people continue): “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord.”
After the long Preface the Canon up to the words of Institution is very short. The priest, as usual, takes up the people's words and almost at once comes to “Our Lord, God, and great King (pambasileus), Jesus Christ, who in the night in which he gave himself to a most dreadful death for our sins, taking the bread in His holy, pure, and immaculate hands, and looking up to heaven to Thee, His Father, our God and God of all things, gave thanks, blessed, broke, and gave it to His holy and blessed Disciples and Apostles, saying [aloud]: Take, eat [the deacon tells the concelebrating priests to stretch out their hands], for this is My Body, broken and given for you for the forgiveness of sins.” Response: Amen. The words of Institution of the Chalice are said in the same way. The priest lifts up his voice at the end, saying: “Drink of this all”; the deacon says: “Again stretch out your hands”, and the priest continues: “this is My Blood of the New Testament, shed for you and for many and given for the forgiveness of sins.” Response: Amen. “Do this in memory of Me, . . . ”And the Anamnesis follows, referring to Our Lord's death, resurrection, ascension, and second coming and going immediately on to the Epiklesis: “Send down upon us and upon this bread and chalice Thy Holy Ghost that He as Almighty God may bless and perfect them [aloud] and make this bread the Body.” Response: “Amen.” “And this chalice the Blood of the New Testament, the Blood of our Lord, and God, and Saviour, and great King, Jesus Christ.” . . . The Epiklesis ends with a doxology to which the people answer: “As it was and is”.
Then follow the Our Father, said first by the priest silently and then aloud lay the people, with the usual Embolismos, the Inclination before the Blessed Sacrament -- the deacon says: ”Let us bow our heads before the Lord”, and the people answer: “Before Thee O Lord”; the Elevation with the words: “Holy things to the Holy”; and the answer: “One Holy Father, one Holy Son, one Holy Ghost, in the union of the Holy Ghost. Amen”. Then come the Breaking of the Bread, during which Psalm is sung, and the Communion. The form of Communion is: “The holy Body” and then “the precious Blood of Our Lord, God and Saviour”. A short thanksgiving follows, and the people are dismissed with the blessing quoted from II Cor., xiii, 13. Some more prayers are said in the Diakonikon, and the liturgy ends with the words: “Blessed be God who blesses, sanctifies, protects, and keeps us all through the share in His holy mysteries. He is blessed forever. Amen.”
The characteristic points of this rite are the nine Kyrie eleisons at the beginning, the Offertory prayers said at the altar instead of at the Prothesis, and especially the place of the great Supplication before the Sanctus. In the Antiochene use, and in all those derived from it, the whole Supplication comes after the Epiklesis.
III. THE COPTIC LITURGIES
After the Monophysite schism the Copts composed a number of liturgies in their own language. Three of these became the most important and are still used: those of St. Cyril, St. Gregory (of Nazianzus), and St. Basil. They differ only in the Anaphoras which are joined to a common Preparation and Mass of the Catechumens. The Anaphora of St. Cyril, also called that of St. Mark, together with the part of the liturgy that is common to all, corresponds exactly to the Greek St. Mark. When it was translated into Coptic a great part of the formulas, such as the Trisagion, the deacon's litany, said at the beginning of the Mass of the Faithful, nearly all the short greetings like eirene pasin ano hymon tas kardias ta hagia tois hagiois, and everything said by the people had already become universally known in Greek. These parts were then left in that language and they are still written or printed in Greek, although in Coptic characters, throughout the Coptic Liturgy. A few prayers have been added to the original Greek Liturgy. There are also Greek versions of the other two Coptic Anaphoras: those of St. Basil and St. Gregory.
V. THE PRESENT USE
Of these three groups two, the Copts and Abyssinians, still keep their own liturgies. The Copts use that of St. Basil throughout the year on Sundays and weekdays, and for requiems; on certain great feasts they substitute the Anaphora of St. Gregory; that of St. Cyril is kept for Lent and Christmas eve. This order is common to the Monophysite and Uniate Copts. Very soon after the Arabs conquered Egypt (641) their language became the only one used ever by the Christians; in less than two centuries Coptic had become a completely dead language. For this reason the rubrics of the Coptic liturgical books have for a long tine been written in Arabic as well; sometimes Arabic translations of the prayers are added too. The Coptic and Abyssinian Uniates have books specially printed for them, which differ from the others only inasmuch as the names of Monophysites are omitted, that of Chalcedon is inserted, and the Filoque is added to the Creed. The Orthodox Church of Egypt has long sacrificed her own use for that of Constantinople. For a time after the Monophysite schism she still kept the Liturgy of St. Mark in Greek. But there were very few Orthodox left in the country; they revere nearly all officials of the Imperial government, and, after the Arab conquest especially, the influence of Constantinople over them, as over the whole Orthodox world, grew enormously. So eventually they followed the Ecumenical Patriarch in their rites as in everything else. The Orthodox Patriarch of Alexandria even went to live at Constantinople under the shadow of Caesar and of Caesar's Court Bishop. The change of liturgy took place at the end of the twelfth century. Since then the Greek Liturgy of St. Mark has no longer been used by anyone.
Adrian Fortescue, ed.
Transcribed by: Fred Dillenburg
This extract is cited June 2003 from The Catholic Encyclopedia, New Advent online edition URL below.
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