THE ORIENTAL ORTHODOXY PORTAL
Oriental Orthodoxy is the fourth largest communion of Christian churches, with about 76 million members worldwide. As one of the oldest religious institutions in the world, it has played a prominent role in the history and culture of Armenia, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Sudan and parts of the Middle East and India. An Eastern Christian communion of autocephalous churches, its bishops are equal by virtue of episcopal ordination, and its doctrines can be summarised in that the communion recognizes the validity of only the first three ecumenical councils.
The Oriental Orthodox communion is composed of six autocephalous churches: the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria, the Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch, the Armenian Apostolic Church, the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, the Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Church, and the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church. Collectively, they consider themselves to be the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic church founded by Jesus Christ in his Great Commission, and that its bishops are the successors of Christ's apostles. Most member churches are part of the World Council of Churches. All member churches share a virtually identical theology, with the distinguishing feature being Miaphysitism. Three very different rites are practiced in the communion: the western-influenced Armenian Rite, the West Syrian Rite of the two Syriac churches, and the Alexandrian Rite of the Copts, Ethiopians and Eritreans.
A Copt (Coptic: ⲟⲩⲣⲉⲙ'ⲛⲭⲏⲙⲓ 'ⲛ'Ⲭⲣⲏⲥⲧⲓ'ⲁⲛⲟⲥ ou.Remenkīmi en.Ekhristianos, literally: Egyptian Christian) is a native Egyptian Christian. Today, more than 95% of the Copts belong to the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria. The remaining (around 500,000) are divided between the Coptic Catholic and the Coptic Protestant churches. The Copts are by far the largest Christian community in North Africa and the Middle East. The word "Coptic" was originally used in Classical Arabic to refer to Egyptians in general (see etymology section), but it has undergone semantic shift over the centuries to mean more specifically Egyptian Christian after the bulk of the Egyptian population converted to Islam. In modern usage, it is frequently applied to members of the Coptic Orthodox Church irrespective of ethnic origin. Thus Ethiopian and Eritrean Christians (and Nubians before their conversion to Islam) were traditionally referred to as Copts, though this has been falling out of use since their Tewahedo Churches were granted their own patriarchs.
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"You victorious martyrs who endured torments gladly for the sake of the God and Savior, you who have boldness of speech toward the Lord himself, you saints, intercede for us who are timid and sinful men, full of sloth, that the grace of Christ may come upon us, and enlighten the hearts of all of us that so we may love Him."
- --St Ephrem the Syrian, As quoted in Ancient Christian Commentary: Mark, (1999) Thomas C. Oden and Christopher Hall, editors
"This is true perfection: not to avoid a wicked life because we fear punishment, like slaves; not to do good because we expect repayment, as if cashing in on the virtuous life by enforcing some business deal. On the contrary, disregarding all those good things which we do hope for and which God has promised us, we regard falling from God’s friendship as the only thing dreadful, and we consider becoming God’s friend the only thing truly worthwhile."
- --St Gregory of Nyssa, As quoted in Gregory of Nyssa: The Life of Moses, (1978) Abraham Malherbe and Everett Ferguson, translators, p. 137
"Prayer is the inspiration of childhood, the refuge of youth and peace during old age."
- --St Gregorios Geevarghese of Malankara, As quoted in VISION - a magazine of the Syrian Orthodox Archdiocese of Greater India, (Nov. 2000)