The Heritage of the Coptic Orthodox Church

The Kiahk Sunday Vespers Praise

Albair Mikhail
January 31, 2010

A brief history of the Sunday Vespers Praise during the Month of Kiahk, as written by Albair and also recorded in the HCOC’s production of: The Rite and Hymns of the Kiahk Sunday Vespers Praise

A Brief History of the Sunday Vespers Praise during the Month of Kiahk

The Coptic Church inherited the tradition of praising with the Psalms from the Jewish worship in the synagogue. The Psalms were the basis of the vigils of the early Church, and later on the Church added more prayers from other books in the Bible, as well as from the saints and the gifted children of the Church.

All these inspired prayers are found in the Book of Psalmody, which is an old book in the Church, and is considered a primary source of the theology of the Orthodox Church. This book is known as the Annual Book of Psalmody, which was authored first by Nipos, bishop of Fayuum, in the age of Pope Dionysius, the 14th Patriarch of Alexandria in the third century A.D.

The Psalmody was published for the first time in Rome in 1744 A.D., through Rofael el- Toukh, under the name “The Book of Psali’s and Canticles.” This is the book that was published by the scholar Claudius bek Labib in Egypt for the first time in the year 1897 A.D.

As for the Kiahk Psalmody, it includes many additions of Psali’s, melodies and other parts that need to be revised and edited. The majority of these additions to the Annual Psalmody were done in the seventeenth century.

Rofael el-Toukh published the first book of the Kiahk Psalmody in 1764 A.D. in Rome, under the name “The Theotokia’s as per the Month of Kiahk.” In Egypt, Claudius Labib published it under the name “The Kiahk Psalmody,” and this was done in 1911 A.D.

As for the rite of the Vespers Praise in the month of Kiahk, after the Psali “Amoiny Teero,” the Psali “Ti-shelet en-katharos” is chanted, and it was written by the priest Abdel-Messih, who was well-versed in the Coptic language and was able to comprehend the Greek language. He referred to himself as a “priest of Antony and Abba Paul.” Some think that he was a priest around the Nag Hammadi. The Arabic Psali that follows was written by Abu-el-Sa’ad El-Abu-teegy.

After every part of the Saturday Theotokia, the Greek parts are chanted, and they were written by the priest Sarkis. The priest Sarkis lived in the fifteenth century A.D., and he was from Old Cairo. His father was the Father Armeia, a priest in the Church of Apakir and John in Old Cairo. Approximately after the year 1444 A.D., Fr. Armeia and his son Sarkis went to serve in Jerusalem in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where Cantor Sarkis was ordained a priest for the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. There, he mingled with the Greeks, learnt the Greek language, and was influenced by it, despite the fact that he did not follow all its grammatical rules. For this reason, the Greek parts had many linguistic mistakes, and as such Claudius bek Labib, before publishing the Kiahk Psalmody for the first time, asked the monk-priest Fr. Mikhail St. Macarius and Fr. Stephanos, the main translator of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate in Egypt, to correct those mistakes.

Cantor Sarkis was ordained a priest in Jerusalem by Pope Yoannis the thirteenth, the 94th Patriarch of Alexandria. Fr. Sarkis served as a priest from around the year 1484 A.D. to the year 1492 A.D., when he reposed in Lord.

After the Mo’akkab parts, the First Boheric parts are chanted, and they were written by Abba Yoannis son of Shenouda, the bishop of Assiut, who lived in the fifteenth century. In many books, these parts were titled as authored by Cantor Yohanna, which probably means that he wrote them before his ordination as bishop. Abba Yoannis was born in the city of Abuteeg in Assiut, and his service as bishop is thought to be between the year 1430 A.D. and 1460 A.D., but we are unsure of the exact dates.

As for the First Arabic parts, they were written by Abu-Sa’ad el-Abuteegy. The second, third, and fourth Arabic parts were written by Cantor Ghabriel, and the Fifth Arabic parts were written by the Patriarch Pope Morkos the eighth, the 108th patriarch of Alexandria, who was from the town of Tamma. He became a monk in the monastery of St. Antony by the name of Yohanna. Then he was ordained patriarch in 1779 A.D., and he was the Pope who moved the Patriarchate from the Greek Alley to the Azbakia. This Patriarch reposed in the year 1802 A.D. As for the sixth Arabic part, it was written by El-bardanohy.

According to popular opinion, the Theotokia was written by St. Cyril the Great, or it is a continuation of the spiritual tradition that the Church inherited through his writings. However, the priest Abu-el-barakat ebn Kabar said that the Theotokia’s were “attributed to the Patriarch Athanasius the Apostolic (may God provide us with his blessings), and that is an attribution that is not supported by any evidence. It is said that they were composed by a saintly, virtuous person who was a potter and was ordained in the Sheheet desert.”

After the Saturday Theotokia and its parts, the first and second Sherat are chanted, and the first few verses of each of them are taken from a part of the fourth homily by Pope Cyril the first, the 24th Patriarch of Alexandria, which he preached in the Church of the Virgin Mary in Ephesus between the 23rd and the 26th of June, 431 A.D.

This was a brief history of some of the hymns of the Vespers Praise in the month of Kiahk and their authors. To the Lord is due all glory now and always, Amen.