Cleansing Fire

Defending Truth and Tradition in the Roman Catholic Church

Coptic Christmas Liturgy

January 9th, 2012, Promulgated by Bernie

A local Coptic (Egyptian) Church celebrated Christmas last Friday night (January 6) with a five hour liturgy at Sts. Peter and Paul Church on West Main Street in Rochester. (This “Liturgy of St. Gregory” is special to Christmas. The usual Sunday Liturgy is only one to two hours).

My wife and I were priviledged to be be invited. Unlike the rest of the congregation we were there for the entire five hours, mostly because we wanted to experience everything. The bulk of the congregation didn’t arrive until the liturgy of the Word (Gospel). The first hour was the Raising of Incense and the second was the Procession of the Lamb (and ritual surrounding the selection and preparation of the bread and wine for use in the Eucharist -the Prothesis).

What is somewhat interesting here is that the Liturgy took place in the former Catholic church of Sts. Peter and Paul, a stunning Italian basilica style church. The local Coptic congregation, which has a monestary (St. Shenouda’s) and church (St. Mark’s) in Henrietta, bought it from the Diocese of Rochester when the Catholics closed the parish and put the church up for sale. The Copts purchased the building for a couple of reasons but one  was to ensure that the building remain a house of God. They were a little scandalized that the Catholic diocese was willing to sell it to just anyone. They believe that “once a church, always a church.”

The Coptics have kept the church exactly as it was as a Catholic Church -they did not install an iconostasis screen, for example; the entire interior has the original decoration and religious art work. A former parishioner of Sts. Peter and Paul ‘Catholic’ Church located the original communion rail that had been removed after Vatican II and stored in the basement and had it reinstalled in the sanctuary for the new congregation. The beautiful elevated pulpit that had been abandoned after the Council is now back in service and being used by the Copts. You will see that in the video.

You can Google “Coptic Church”  for background information on Coptic theology and he Church’s place in the Christian family. I won’t get into it all here except to mention that, in Egypt, there are some (Catholic) Copts who are united with Rome but who use the Coptic Liturgy.

What follows are a few very brief video clips I put together from the Litugy.  Father Shenouda Maher Ishak is the pastor of Sts. Peter and Paul Coptic Church and the celebrant in the video.


11 Responses to “Coptic Christmas Liturgy”

  1. Ben Anderson says:

    Great post, Bernie! Thanks for sharing. Also, Mike took some good pics of this church a little while back

  2. Susan of Corning says:

    What an impressive church!

  3. snowshoes says:

    Thank you, Bernie! How beautiful. The wonderful charity of the Coptic community of Rochester in reference to this venerable church, and by extension, to us, warms my heart, having served Mass there back in the 70s a few times. Even then, it was in a state of genteel dilapidation. The restoration undertaken by our brother Copts is no less than miraculous. It makes me pray more ardently for the fulfillment of Our Lord’s prayer that we all be one in Him. But in the meantime, we have a champion in the Coptic community, and I pray for them, here, and in Egypt, and around the world, that Our Lord deliver them and protect them. AMEN! Happy Feast of the Baptism of the Lord.

  4. JLo says:

    Many thanks, indeed, Bernie! I was privileged to attend school there K (first Kindergarten class) through 8th in the 50s when daily attendance at Holy Mass was required of we children, so I had that beauty all around me school mornings all through those years… such a blessing in my life. I wish the Coptics in Rochester were in communion with Rome… I’d be attending the Liturgy at SSPP every Sunday! +JMJ

  5. Choir says:

    JL0 – I went to school there also. Was an altar boy, sang in the adult choir and studied organ. I have some pictures of the church, convent and nuns from that era, if you’re interested.

  6. Raymond F. Rice says:

    VERY nice post/ gave me the impression that, while the diocese may have vacated StS Peter and Paul Church, Jesus stayed behind for the new group!!!

  7. Mike says:

    Excellent, Bernie! Thank you.

    The Copts purchased the building for a couple of reasons but one was to ensure that the building remain a house of God. They were a little scandalized that the Catholic diocese was willing to sell it to just anyone.

    It does seem a scandal that non-Catholics would value our patrimony more highly than we do.

  8. JLo says:


    I graduated from there in 1958. I sure am interested in obtaining some pictures!! How do I go about it?


  9. Choir says:

    Just give me an email address and I’ll send them along. So you were there when Sister Veronica was principal. You can send your email address to my CF email.

  10. Mike says:


    My photos (referenced in the 1st comment, above) are here.

    To download the high resolution version of any photo:

    1 – Doubleclick on the thumbnail image of the photo you want

    2 – On the next page press the magnifying glass icon above the right side of the image

    3 – On the next page press “View all sizes” above the right side of the image

    4 – On the next page click on “Original” above the right side of the image

    5 – Right click and choose “Save image as”

    That’s it!

  11. Choir says:

    JLO – I just sent you the pics from SSPP. Enjoy them. Let me know what you think.

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