Egyptian Church Order ( Coptic Language) 450 CE


We have duly completed what needed to be said about “Gifts”, describing those gifts which God by His own counsel has bestowed on men, in offering to Himself His image which had gone astray. But now, moved by His love to all His saints, we pass on to our most important theme, “The Tradition”, our teacher. And we address the churches, so that they who have been well trained, may, by our instruction, hold fast that tradition which has continued up to now and, knowing it well, may be strengthened. This is needful, because of that lapse or error which recently occurred through ignorance, and because of ignorant men. And the Holy Spirit will supply perfect grace to those who believe aright, that they may know how all things should be transmitted and kept by them who rule the church.


Election of Bishop

Let the bishop be ordained after he has been chosen by all the people. When he has been named and shall please all, let him, with the presbytery and such bishops as may be present, assemble with the people on a Sunday. While all give their consent, the bishops shall lay their hands upon him, and the presbytery shall stand by in silence. All indeed shall keep silent, praying in their heart for the descent of the Spirit. Then one of the bishops who are present shall, at the request of all, lay his hand on him who is ordained bishop, and shall pray as follows, saying:

God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who dwellest on high yet hast respect to the lowly, who knowest all things before they come to pass. Thou hast appointed the borders of thy church by the word of thy grace, predestinating from the beginning the righteous race of Abraham. And making them princes and priests, and leaving not thy sanctuary without a ministry, thou hast from the beginning of the world been well pleased to be glorified among those whom thou hast chosen. Pour forth now that power, which is thine, of thy royal Spirit, which

thou gavest to thy beloved Servant Jesus Christ, which he bestowed on his holy apostles,

who established the church in every place, the church which thou hast sanctified unto unceasing glory and praise of thy name. Thou who knowest the hearts of all, grant to this thy servant, whom thou hast chosen to be bishop, to feed thy holy flock and to serve as thy high priest without blame, ministering night and day, to propitiate thy countenance without ceasing and to offer thee the gifts of thy holy church. And by the Spirit of high-priesthood to have authority to remit sins according to thy commandment, to assign the lots according to thy precept, to loose every bond according to the authority which thou gavest to thy apostles, and to please thee in meekness and purity of heart, offering to thee an odour of sweet savour. Through thy Servant Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom be to thee glory, might, honour, with the Holy Spirit in the holy church, both now and always and world without end. Amen.

And when he is made bishop, all shall offer him the kiss of peace, for he has been made worthy. To him then the deacons shall bring the offering, and he, laying his hand upon it, with all the presbytery, shall say as the thanksgiving:

The Lord be with you.

And all shall say

And with thy spirit.

Lift up your hearts.

We lift them up unto the Lord.

Let us give thanks to the Lord.

It is meet and right.

And then he shall proceed immediately:

We give thee thanks, O God, through thy beloved Servant Jesus Christ, whom at the end of time thou didst send to us a Saviour and Redeemer and the Messenger of thy counsel. Who is thy Word, inseparable from thee; through whom thou didst make all things and in whom thou art well pleased. Whom thou didst send from heaven into the womb of the Virgin, and who, dwelling within her, was made flesh, and was manifested as thy Son, being born of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin. Who, fulfilling thy will, and winning for himself a holy people, spread out his hands when he came to suffer, that by his death he might set free them who believed on thee. Who, when he was betrayed to his willing death, that he might bring to nought death, and break the bonds of the devil, and tread hell under foot, and give light to the righteous, and set up a boundary post, and manifest his resurrection, taking bread and giving thanks to thee said: Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you. And likewise also the cup, saying: This is my blood, which is shed for you. As often as ye perform this, perform my memorial.

Having in memory, therefore, his death and resurrection, we offer to thee the bread and the cup, yielding thee thanks, because thou hast counted us worthy to stand before thee and to minister to thee.

And we pray thee that thou wouldest send thy Holy Spirit upon the offerings of thy holy church; that thou, gathering them into one, wouldest grant to all thy saints who partake to be filled with the Holy Spirit, that their faith may be confirmed in truth, that we may praise and glorify thee. Through thy Servant Jesus Christ, through whom be to thee glory and honour, with the Holy Spirit in the holy church, both now and always and world without end. Amen.

If anyone offers oil, he shall give thanks as at the offering of the bread and wine, though not with the same words but in the same general manner, saying:

That sanctifying this oil, O God, wherewith thou didst anoint kings, priests and prophets, thou wouldest grant health to them who use it and partake of it, so that it may bestow comfort on all who taste it and health on all who use it.

Likewise, if anyone offers cheese and olives, let him say thus:

Sanctify this milk that has been united into one mass, and unite us to thy love. Let thy loving kindness ever rest upon this fruit of the olive, which is a type of thy bounty, which thou didst cause to flow from the tree unto life for them who hope on thee.

But at every blessing shall be said:

Glory be to thee, with the Holy Spirit in the holy church, both now and always and world without end. Amen.

Ordination of presbyter

But when a presbyter is ordained, the bishop shall lay his hand upon his head, while the presbyters touch him, and he shall say according to those things that were said above, as we have prescribed above concerning the bishop, praying and saying:

God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, look upon this thy servant, and grant to him the Spirit of grace and counsel of a presbyter, that he may sustain and govern thy people with a pure heart; as thou didst look upon thy chosen people and didst command Moses that he should choose presbyters, whom thou didst fill with thy Spirit, which thou gavest to thy servant. And now, O Lord, grant that there may be unfailingly preserved amongst us the Spirit of thy grace, and make us worthy that, believing, we may minister to thee in simplicity of heart, praising thee. Through thy Servant Jesus Christ, through whom be to thee glory and honour, with the Holy Spirit in the holy church, both now and always and world without end. Amen.

Ordination of Deacon

But the deacon, when he is ordained, is chosen according to those things that were said above, the bishop alone in like manner laying his hands upon him, as we have prescribed. When the deacon is ordained, this is the reason why the bishop alone shall lay his hands upon him: he is not ordained to the priesthood but to serve the bishop and to carry out the bishop’s commands. He does not take part in the council of the clergy; he is to attend to his own duties and to make known to the bishop such things as are needful. He does not receive that Spirit that is possessed by the presbytery, in which the presbyters share; he receives only what is confided in him under the bishop’s authority.

For this cause the bishop alone shall make a deacon. But on a presbyter, however, the presbyters shall lay their hands because of the common and like Spirit of the clergy. Yet the presbyter has only the power to receive; but he has no power to give. For this reason a presbyter does not ordain the clergy; but at the ordination of a presbyter he seals while the bishop ordains.

Over a deacon, then, he shall say as follows:

O God, who hast created all things and hast ordered them by thy Word, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, whom thou didst send to minister thy will and to manifest to us thy desire; grant the Holy Spirit of grace and care and diligence to this thy servant, whom thou hast chosen to serve the church and to offer

in thy holy sanctuary the gifts that are offered to thee
by thine appointed high priests,

so that serving without blame and with a pure heart he may be counted worthy of this exalted office, by thy goodwill, praising thee continually. Through thy Servant Jesus Christ, through whom be to thee glory and honour, with the Holy Spirit, in the holy church, both now and always and world without end. Amen.

Deliverance of a Confessor

On a confessor, if he has been in bonds for the name of the Lord, hands shall not be laid for the diaconate or the presbyterate, for he has the honour of the presbyterate by his confession. But if he is to be ordained bishop, hands shall be laid upon him.

But if he is a confessor who was not brought before the authorities nor was punished with bonds nor was shut up in prison, but was insulted casually or privately for the name of the Lord, even though he confessed, hands are to be laid upon him for every office of which he is worthy.

The bishop shall give thanks in all ordinations as we have prescribed. It is not, to be sure, necessary for anyone to recite the exact words that we have prescribed, by learning to say them by heart in his thanksgiving to God; but let each one pray according to his ability. If, indeed, he is able to pray competently with an elevated prayer, it is well. But even if he is only moderately able to pray and give praise, no one may forbid him; only let him pray sound in the faith.

Engagement of Widow

When a widow is appointed, she shall not be ordained but she shall be appointed by the name. If her husband has been long dead, she may be appointed without delay. But if her husband has died recently, she shall not be trusted; even if she is aged she must be tested by time, for often the passions grow old in those who yield to them.

The widow shall be appointed by the word alone, and so she shall be associated with the other widows; hands shall not be laid upon her because she does not offer the oblation nor has she a sacred ministry. Ordination is for the clergy on account of their ministry, but the widow is appointed for prayer, and prayer is the duty of all.

Appointment of Reader -Virgin-Sub deacon

The reader is appointed by the bishop’s giving him the book, for he is not ordained.

Hands shall not be laid upon a virgin, for it is her purpose alone that makes her a virgin.

Hands shall not be laid upon a subdeacon, but his name shall be mentioned that he may serve the deacon.

If anyone says, “I have received the gift of healing”, hands shall not be laid upon him: the deed shall make manifest if he speaks the truth.


Inquiry about new converts

New converts to the faith, who are to be admitted as hearers of the word, shall first be brought to the teachers before the people assemble. And they shall be examined as to their reason for embracing the faith, and they who bring them shall testify that they are competent to hear the word. Inquiry shall then be made as to the nature of their life; whether a man has a wife or is a slave. If he is the slave of a believer and he has his master’s permission, then let him be received; but if his master does not give him a good character, let him be rejected. If his master is a heathen, let the slave be taught to please his master, that the word be not blasphemed. If a man has a wife or a woman a husband, let the man be instructed to content himself with his wife and the woman to content herself with her husband. But if a man is unmarried, let him be instructed to abstain from impurity, either by lawfully marrying a wife or else by remaining as he is. But if any man is possessed with demons, he shall not be admitted as a bearer until he is cleansed.

Inquiry shall likewise be made about the professions and trades of those who are brought to be admitted to the faith. If a man is a pander, he must desist or be rejected. If a man is a sculptor or painter, he must be charged not to make idols; if he does not desist he must be rejected. If a man is an actor or pantomimist, he must desist or be rejected. A teacher of young children had best desist, but if he has no other occupation, he may be permitted to continue. A charioteer, likewise, who races or frequents races, must desist or be rejected. A gladiator or a trainer of gladiators, or a huntsman in the wild-beast shows, or anyone connected with these shows, or a public official in charge of gladiatorial exhibitions must desist or be rejected. A heathen priest or anyone who tends idols must desist or be rejected. A soldier of the civil authority must be taught not to kill men and to refuse to do so if he is commanded, and to refuse to take an oath; if he is unwilling to comply, he must be rejected. A military commander or civic magistrate that wears the purple must resign or be rejected. If a catechumen or a believer seeks to become a soldier, they must be rejected, for they have despised God. A harlot or licentious man or one who has castrated himself, or any other who does things not to be named, must be rejected, for they are defiled. A magician must not even be brought for examination. An enchanter, an astrologer, a diviner, a soothsayer, a user of magic verses, a juggler, a mountebank, an amulet-maker must desist or be rejected. A concubine, who is a slave and has reared her children and has been faithful to her master alone, may become a hearer; but if she has failed in these matters she must be rejected. If a man has a concubine, he must desist and marry legally; if he is unwilling, he must be rejected.

If, now, we have omitted anything (any trade), the facts as they occur will instruct your mind; for we all have the Spirit of God.


Let catechumens spend three years as hearers of the word. But if a man is zealous and perseveres well in the work, it is not the time but his character that is decisive.

When the teacher finishes his instruction, the catechumens shall pray by themselves, apart from the believers. And all women, whether believers or catechumens, shall stand for their prayers by themselves in a separate part of the church.

And when the catechumens finish their prayers, they must not give the kiss of peace, for their kiss is not yet pure. Only believers shall salute one another, but men with men and women with women; a man shall not salute a woman.

And let all the women have their heads covered with an opaque cloth, not with a veil of thin linen, for this is not a true covering.

At the close of their prayer, when their instructor lays his hand upon the catechumens, he shall pray and dismiss them; whoever gives the instruction is to do this, whether a cleric or a layman.

If a catechumen should be arrested for the name of the Lord, let him not hesitate about bearing his testimony; for if it should happen that they treat him shamefully and kill him, he will be justified, for he has been baptized in his own blood.


They who are to be set apart for baptism shall be chosen after their lives have been examined: whether they have lived soberly, whether they have honoured the widows, whether they have visited the sick, whether they have been active in well-doing. When their sponsors have testified that they have done these things, then let them hear the Gospel. Then from the time that they are separated from the other catechumens, hands shall be laid upon them daily in exorcism and, as the day of their baptism draws near, the bishop himself shall exorcise each one of them that he may be personally assured of their purity. Then, if there is any of them who is not good or pure, he shall be put aside as not having heard the word in faith; for it is never possible for the alien to be concealed.

Then those who are set apart for baptism shall be instructed to bathe and free themselves from impurity and wash themselves on Thursday. If a woman is menstruous, she shall be set aside and baptized on some other day.

They who are to be baptized shall fast on Friday, and on Saturday the bishop shall assemble them and command them to kneel in prayer. And, laying his hand upon them, he shall exorcise all evil spirits to flee away and never to return; when he has done this he shall breathe in their faces, seal their foreheads, ears and noses, and then raise them up. They shall spend all that night in vigil, listening to reading and instruction.

They who are to be baptized shall bring with them no other vessels than the one each will bring for the eucharist; for it is fitting that he who is counted worthy of baptism should bring his offering at that time.

At cockcrow prayer shall be made over the water. The stream shall flow through the baptismal tank or pour into it from above when there is no scarcity of water; but if there is a scarcity, whether constant or sudden, then use whatever water you can find.

They shall remove their clothing. And first baptize the little ones; if they can speak for themselves, they shall do so; if not, their parents or other relatives shall speak for them. Then baptize the men, and last of all the women; they must first loosen their hair and put aside any gold or silver ornaments that they were wearing: let no one take any alien thing down to the water with them.

At the hour set for the baptism the bishop shall give thanks over oil and put it into a vessel: this is called the “oil of thanksgiving”. And he shall take other oil and exorcise it: this is called “the oil of exorcism”. The anointing is performed by a presbyter. A deacon shall bring the oil of exorcism, and shall stand at the presbyter’s left hand; and another deacon shall take the oil of thanksgiving, and shall stand at the presbyter’s right hand. Then the presbyter, taking hold of each of those about to be baptized, shall command him to renounce, saying:

I renounce thee, Satan, and all thy servants and all thy works.

And when he has renounced all these, the presbyter shall anoint him with the oil of exorcism, saying:

Let all spirits depart far from thee.

Then, after these things, let him give him over to the presbyter who baptizes, and let the candidates stand in the water, naked, a deacon going with them likewise. And when he who is being baptized goes down into the water, he who baptizes him, putting his hand on him, shall say thus:

Dost thou believe in God, the Father Almighty?

And he who is being baptized shall say:

I believe.


holding his hand placed on his head, he shall baptize him once. And then he shall say:

Dost thou believe in Christ Jesus, the Son of God, who was born of the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary, and was crucified under Pontius Pilate, and was dead and buried, and rose again the third day, alive from the dead, and ascended into heaven, and sat at the right hand of the Father, and will come to judge the quick and the dead? And when he says:

I believe,

he is baptized again. And again he shall say:

Dost thou believe in the Holy Ghost, and the holy church, and the resurrection of the flesh?

He who is being baptized shall say accordingly:

I believe,

and so he is baptized a third time.

And afterward, when he has come up out of the water, he is anointed by the presbyter with the oil of thanksgiving, the presbyter saying:

I anoint thee with holy oil in the name of Jesus Christ.

And so each one, after drying himself, is immediately clothed, and then is brought into the church.

Then the bishop, laying his hand upon them, shall pray, saying:

O Lord God, who hast made them worthy to obtain remission of sins through the laver of regeneration of the Holy Spirit, send into them thy grace, that they may serve thee according to thy will; for thine is the glory, to the Father and the Son, with the Holy Spirit in the holy church, both now and world without end. Amen.

Then, pouring the oil of thanksgiving from his hand and putting it on his forehead, he shall say:

I anoint thee with holy oil in the Lord, the Father Almighty and Christ Jesus and the Holy Ghost.

And signing them on the forehead he shall say:

The Lord be with thee;

and he who is signed shall say:

And with thy spirit.

And so he shall do to each one.

And immediately thereafter they shall join in prayer with all the people, but they shall not pray with the faithful until all these things are completed. And at the close of their prayer they shall give the kiss of peace.

And then the offering is immediately brought by the deacons to the bishop, and by thanksgiving, he shall make the bread into an image of the body of Christ, and the cup of wine mixed with water according to the likeness of the blood, which is shed for all who believe in him. And milk and honey mixed together for the fulfillment of the promise to the fathers, which spoke of a land flowing with milk and honey; namely, Christ’s flesh which he gave, by which they who believe are nourished like babes, he making sweet the bitter things of the heart by the gentleness of his word. And the water into an offering in a token of the laver, in order that the inner part of man, which is a living soul, may receive the same as the body.

The bishop shall explain the reason of all these things to those who partake. And when he breaks the bread and distributes the fragments he shall say:

The heavenly bread in Christ Jesus.

And the recipient shall say, Amen.

And the presbyters—or if there are not enough presbyters, the deacons—shall hold the cups, and shall stand by with reverence and modesty; first he who holds the water, then the milk, thirdly the wine. And the recipients shall taste of each three times, he who gives the cup saying:

In God the Father Almighty;

and the recipient shall say, Amen. Then:

In the Lord Jesus Christ;

and he shall say, Amen. Then:

In the Holy Ghost and the holy church;

and he shall say, Amen. So it shall be done to each.

And when these things are completed, let each one hasten to do good works,

Hand to please God and to live aright, devoting himself to the church, practising the things he has learned, advancing in the service of God.

Now we have briefly delivered to you these things concerning the holy baptism and the holy oblation, for you have already been instructed concerning the resurrection of the flesh and all other things as taught in Scripture.Yet if there is any other thing that ought to be told to converts, let the bishop impart it to them privately after their baptism; let not unbelievers know it, until they are baptized: this is the white stone of which John said: “There is upon it a new name written, which no one knoweth but he that receiveth the stone”.


Service of Blessing

Widows and virgins shall fast frequently and shall pray for the church; presbyters, if they wish, and laymen may fast likewise. But the bishop may fast only when all the people fast.

For it constantly happens that some one wishes to make an offering—and such a one must not be denied—and then the bishop, after breaking the bread, must in every case taste and eat it with the other believers. At such an offering each shall take from the bishop’s hand a piece of this bread before breaking his own bread. This service has a special ceremonial for it is “a Blessing”, not “a Thanksgiving”, as is the service of the Body of the Lord.

But before drinking, each one,
as many of you as are present,
must take a cup and give thanks over it,
and so go to your meal.

But to the catechumens is given exorcised bread, and each of them must offer the cup. No catechumen shall sit at the Lord’s Supper.

But at each act of offering, the offerer must remember his host, for he was invited to the latter’s home for that very purpose. But when you eat and drink, do so in an orderly manner and not so that anyone may mock, or your host be saddened by your unruliness, but behave so that he may pray to be made worthy that the saints may enter his dwelling: “for ye”, it is said, “are the salt of the earth”.

If the offering should be one made to all the guests jointly, take your portion from your host and depart. But if all are to eat then and there, do not eat to excess, so that your host may likewise send some of what the saints leave to whomsoever he will and so may rejoice in the faith.

But while the guests are eating, let them eat silently, not arguing, attending to such things as the bishop may teach, but if he should ask any question, let an answer be given him; and when he says anything, everyone in modest praise shall keep silence until he asks again.

And even if the bishop should be absent when the faithful meet at a supper, if a presbyter or a deacon is present they shall eat in a similar orderly fashion, and each shall be careful to take the blessed bread from the presbyter’s or deacon’s hand; and in the same way the catechumens shall take the same exorcised bread.

But if only laymen meet, let them not act presumptuously, for a layman cannot bless the blessed bread.

Let each one eat in the name of the Lord; for this is pleasing to the Lord that we should be jealous of our good name even among the heathen, all sober alike.

If anyone wishes to give a meal to widows of mature years, let him dismiss them before evening. But if, on account of existing conditions, he cannot feed them in his house, let him send them away, and they may eat of his food at their homes in any way they please.

As soon as first-fruits appear, all shall hasten to offer them to the bishop. And he shall offer them, shall give thanks and shall name him who offered them, saying:

We give thee thanks, O God, and we offer thee the first-fruits; which thou hast given us to enjoy, nourishing them through thy word, commanding the earth to bring forth her fruits for the gladness and the food of men and all beasts. For all these things we praise thee, O God, and for all things wherewith thou hast blessed us, who for us adornest every creature with divers fruits. Through thy Servant Jesus Christ, our Lord, through whom be to thee glory, world without end. Amen.

Only certain fruits may be blessed, namely grapes, the fig, the pomegranate, the olive, the pear, the apple, the mulberry, the peach, the cherry, the almond, the plum. Not the pumpkin, nor the melon, nor the cucumber, nor the onion nor garlic nor anything else having an odour.

But sometimes flowers too are offered; here the rose and the lily may be offered, but no other.

But for everything that is eaten shall they who eat it give thanks to the Holy God, eating unto His glory.

Let no one at the paschal season eat before the offering is made, otherwise he shall not be credited with the fast. But if any woman is with child, or if anyone is sick and cannot fast for two days, let such a one, on account of his need, at least fast on Saturday, contenting himself with bread and water. But if anyone on a voyage or for any other necessary cause should not know the day, when he has learned the truth he shall postpone his fast until after Pentecost. For the ancient type has passed away, and so the postponed fast of Numbers . in the second month has ceased, and each one ought to fast in accord with his knowledge of the truth.

Each of the deacons, with the subdeacons, shall be alert on the bishop’s behalf, for the bishop must be informed if any are sick so that, if he pleases, he may visit them; for a sick man is greatly comforted when the high priest is mindful of him.

Let the deacons and the presbyters assemble daily at the place which the bishop may appoint; let the deacons in particular never fail to assemble unless prevented by sickness. When all have met they shall instruct those who are in the church, and then, after prayer, each shall go to his appointed duties.

Service of burial

No exorbitant charge shall be made for burial in the cemetery, for it belongs to all the poor; only the hire of the grave-digger and the cost of the tile for closing the niche in the catacombs shall be asked. The wages of the caretakers are to be paid by the bishop, lest any of those who go to that place be burdened with a charge.


Let all the faithful, whether men or women, when early in the morning they rise from their sleep and before they undertake any tasks, wash their hands and pray to God; and so they may go to their duties. But if any instruction in God’s word is held that day, everyone ought to attend it willingly, recollecting that he will hear God speaking through the instructor and that prayer in the church enables him to avoid the day’s evil; any godly man ought to count it a great loss if he does not attend the place of instruction, especially if he can read.

If a specially gifted teacher should come, let none of you delay to attend the place where the instruction is given, for grace will be given to the speaker to utter things profitable to all, and thou wilt hear new things, and thou wilt be profited by what the Holy Spirit will give thee through the instructor; so thy faith will be strengthened by what thou hearest, and in that place thou wilt learn thy duties at home; therefore let everyone be zealous to go to the church, the place where the Holy Spirit abounds.

But if on any day there is no instruction, let everyone at home take the Book and read sufficiently in passages that he finds profitable.

If at the third hour thou art at home, pray then and give thanks to God; but if thou chance to be abroad at that hour, make thy prayer to God in thy heart. For at that hour Christ was nailed to the tree; therefore in the old covenant the law commanded the showbread to be offered continually for a type of the body and blood of Christ, and commanded the sacrifice of the dumb lamb, which was a type of the perfect Lamb; for Christ is the Shepherd, and he is also the Bread that came down from heaven.

At the sixth hour likewise pray also, for, after Christ was nailed to the wood of the cross, the day was divided and there was a great darkness; wherefore let the faithful pray at that hour with an effectual prayer, likening themselves to the voice of him who prayed and caused all creation to become dark for the unbelieving Jews.

And at the ninth hour let a great prayer and a great thanksgiving be made, such as made the souls of the righteous ones, blessing the Lord,

the God who does not lie, who was mindful of his saints and sent forth his Word to enlighten them. At that hour, therefore, Christ poured forth from his pierced side water and blood, and brought the rest of the time of that day with light to evening; so, when he fell asleep, by making the beginning of another day he completed the pattern of his resurrection.

Pray again before thy body rests on thy bed.

At midnight arise, wash thy hands with water and pray. And if thy wife is with thee, pray ye both together; but if she is not yet a believer, go into another room and pray, and again return to thy bed; be not slothful in prayer.

He who has used the marriage bed is not defiled; for they who are bathed have no need to wash again, for they are clean. By signing thyself with thy moist breath, and so spreading spittle on thy body with thy hand, thou art sanctified to thy feet; for the gift of the Spirit and the sprinkling with water, when it is brought with a believing heart as it were from a fountain, sanctifies him who believes.

It is needful to pray at this hour; for those very elders who gave us the tradition taught us that at this hour all creation rests for a certain moment, that all creatures may praise the Lord: stars and trees and waters stand still with one accord, and all the angelic host does service to God by praising Him, together with the souls of the righteous. For this cause believers should be zealous to pray at this hour; for the Lord, testifying to this, says: “Behold at midnight is a cry, Behold the Bridegroom cometh! Rise up to meet him!”; and he adds insistently: “Watch ye therefore, for ye know not at what hour he cometh”.

And at cockcrow rise up and pray likewise, for at that hour of cockcrow the children of Israel denied Christ, whom we have known by faith; by which faith, in the hope of eternal life at the resurrection of the dead, we look for his Day.

And so, all ye faithful, if ye thus act, and are mindful of these things, and teach them to one another, and cause the catechumens to be zealous, ye can neither be tempted nor can ye perish, since ye have Christ always in your minds.

But imitate him always, by signing thy forehead sincerely; for this is the sign of his Passion, manifest and approved against the devil if so thou makest it from faith; not that thou mayest appear to men, but knowingly offering it as a shield. For the adversary, seeing its power coming from the heart, that a man displays the publicly formed image of baptism, is put to flight; not because thou spittest, but because the Spirit in thee breathes him away. When Moses formed it by putting the blood of the Paschal lamb that was slain on the lintel and anointing the side-posts, he signified the faith which now we have in the perfect Lamb.

And so, if these things are accepted with thanksgiving and right faith, they give edification in the church and eternal life to believers. I counsel that these things be kept by all who know aright; for over all who hear the apostolic tradition keep it, no heretics or any other man will prevail to lead them astray. For the many heresies have increased because their leaders would not learn the purpose of the apostles but acted according to their own wills, following their lusts and not what was right.

Now, beloved, if we have omitted anything, God will reveal it to those who are worthy, guiding the holy church to its mooring in God’s quiet haven.


General Instruction

On Saturday and Sunday the bishop shall whenever possible give the people the bread with his own hand, while the deacons break it. The presbyters too shall break the bread to be delivered; and whenever a deacon approaches a presbyter he shall hold out his robe, and the presbyter shall take the bread and deliver it to the people with his hand.

On other days they shall give the bread as the bishop determines.

In time of need the deacon shall be diligent in giving the blessed bread to the sick. If there is no presbyter to give out what is to be distributed, the deacon shall pronounce the thanksgiving and shall supervise those who carry it away, to make sure that they attend to their duty and properly distribute the blessed food; the distributors must give it to the widows and the sick. Whoever is entrusted with the duty by the church must distribute it on the same day; if he does not, he must at least do so on the next day with the addition of what is then given him. For it is not his own property; it is given him only in trust as bread for the poor.

When evening has come and the bishop is present, the deacon shall bring in a lamp. Then the bishop, standing in the midst of the believers, before giving thanks shall first give the salutation:

The Lord be with you all.

And the people shall say:

And with thy spirit.

And the bishop shall say:

Let us give thanks to the Lord.

And the people shall say:

It is meet and right:

Majesty, exaltation and glory are due to Him.

But they shall not say “Lift up your hearts”, for that belongs to the oblation. And he prays thus, saying:

We give thee thanks, O God, because thou hast enlightened us by revealing the incorruptible light. So we, having finished the length of a day, and being come to the beginning of the night, satisfied with the light of the day that thou hast created for our satisfaction; and now, since by thy grace we lack not a light for the evening, we sanctify thee and we glorify thee. Through thine only Son our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom be to thee with him glory and might and honour with the Holy Spirit, now, etc.

And they shall all say: Amen.

Then, rising up after supper, the children and virgins having prayed, they shall sing psalms. Then the deacon, holding the mixed cup of the offering, shall say a Hallelujah Psalm. Then, the presbyter having commanded, “And also such-and-such Psalms”, after the bishop has offered the cup with the proper thanksgiving, all shall say “Hallelujah” as the Psalms are sung. And they shall say:

We praise Him who is God most high;

Glorified and praised is He,

Who founded the world with a single word.

Then, when the Psalm is completed, he shall give thanks over the bread, and shall give the fragments to all the believers.

The faithful, early in the morning, as soon as they have awaked and arisen, before they undertake their tasks shall pray to God and so may then go to their duties. But if any instruction in the word is held, let each give first place to that, that he may attend and hear the word of God, to his soul’s comfort; so let each one hasten to the church, where the Spirit abounds.

But let each of the faithful be zealous, before he eats anything else, to receive the eucharist; for if anyone receives it with faith, after such a reception he cannot be harmed even if a deadly poison should be given him. But let each one take care that no unbeliever taste the eucharist, nor a mouse nor any other animal, and that nothing of it fall or be lost; for the body of Christ is to be eaten by believers and must not be despised. The cup, when thou hast given thanks in the name of the Lord, thou hast accepted as the image of the blood of Christ. Therefore let none of it be spilled, so that no alien spirit may lick it up, as if thou didst despise it; thou shalt be guilty of the blood, as if thou didst scorn the price with which thou hast been bought.