Pop Songs and Prayers


Warning: This entry is not for the traditionalist or the ascetic. If you belong to one of those categories, better to stop reading now.

It is for the sincere Christian striving to reconcile their life in the world with their faith in Christ. 

There are certain similarities between formal prayer to God and listening to a song you like. By formal prayer I mean a prayer that is written down somewhere, such as Agbia prayers, the liturgy and so on. By song I mean a song you listen to on the radio, or more likely nowadays, on your portable electronic thingummy. 

In both cases you are paying attention to someone else’s words. Ideas, thoughts, experiences and feelings that someone else has had are embodied in language an melody and thus communicated far beyond the immediate proximity of the author. Across the oceans or across the ages, in both song and formal prayers, we share something with someone we have never met and often know very little about. 

In both cases the words and melody are not the whole story. They are not like a mathematical equation Continue reading “Pop Songs and Prayers”

Blood and Courage

Getting Blood from a Rose


It was such a pleasure to watch them stressing.

 Our young Sunday School class, just turned sixteen years old, had bravely decided they wanted to celebrate this milestone by donating blood for the first time at the Red Cross Blood Bank. Sixteen of course is the minimum age for donating blood. Tasoni and I were there to join and encourage them.

 It may not sound like much to many people, but it took a lot for some of these youth to do this, and their determination to see it through tells me something very important about them: they are serious about living out the true message of the Gospel.

 Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. John 15:13  

OK, they weren’t actually dying (though one or two seemed to come pretty close), but they were giving up their lifeblood in order to save the life of another.

What’s even nicer is that when you donate blood you have no idea who’s going to get it. It is not necessarily a ‘friend’. Continue reading “Blood and Courage”

Why Christianity?

Why Christianity Poster 2011 IMPORTANT – CHANGE OF VENUE:
“Why Christianity?” will not be held at St Joseph’s
Instead it will be held at
St Abanoub Youth Centre
49 Fourth Ave, Blacktown
All other details remain the same.

You’re only a Christian because you were born a Christian. If you were born a Muslim, you’d be a Muslim today. So why should you think your faith is the right one? It’s purely a matter of chance.

I have discussed that challenge with many people over the years. On the face of it, it sounds pretty convincing. But that’s only on the face of it. When we dig a little deeper, you might be surprised at just how strong the case for Christianity against that of all other religions.

Now there are some who will say that we shouldn’t even be considering a question like this, that it is dangerous and might weaken the faith of some, or that it is disrespectful or blasphemous to even think about such things. But I follow the principle that if Christianity is true, then you should be able to throw anything at it, absolutely anything at all, and it should be able to stand up to it. If it can’t, then I want to know, by gum! That is, if I really care about Truth; and Truth is the very thing that Jesus not only promised would set us free, but even used as His own title (“I am the Way, the Truth and the Life”).

But it turns out that those who worry need not do so. Christianity is unique in so many ways that it really does stand alone among all the religions of the world. I know that’s a politically incorrect thing to say nowadays, but I believe it is true.

Next Saturday, we hope to explore this topic in some depth. St Abanoub’s Church, Archangel Michael Church and the Coptic Apologetics Group are organising a day where we will examine the question: “Given that God exists, why should we believe that Christianity is the right faith in contrast with all the other faiths in the world?” Last year we had an Atheism Day where we looked at the arguments for and against the existence of God. The ‘Why Christianity’ Day is the logical follow up to that.

Just to whet your appetite, here are some of the reasons why I find Christianity to be quite worthy of the title, “The True Faith”. Continue reading “Why Christianity?”

Of All Nations

NCO origins AAM June 2011










One of the nicest things about living in Australia is that you don’t really have to go out and visit the world – the world comes to you. Being a multicultural society, Australians are born or trace their heritage to nearly every country in the world. Our society is enriched by a multitude of languages, accents, and forms of dress, not to mention the delicious cuisines and tastes of scores of cultures. 

Through marriage and through the blossoming Outreach Service to the neighbours at our parish, we now count as members of our Christian family people from a rich variety of backgrounds. The map shown illustrates the various countries from which members of our parish have come, and they are listed at the end of this post.

The Apostles’ Fast is all about celebrating the incredible work of the Holy Spirit in spreading the Good News of Christ to all the nations. Whereas the Old Testament chosen people tended to be isolated and keep to themselves, the New Testament Christian is commanded to “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19).

That is not to say that this is an easy command to carry out. One of our experiences over the years has been a certain tension between our history and our destiny. On the one hand, there is fourteen centuries of being a relatively insulated faith community that was beaten into submission by hostile Muslim suppression, so much so that we lost the desire or the skill to evangelise others. When we came to Australia, much of this mindset came with us, and we found ourselves being suspicious of ‘outsiders’, mistrusting their motivations and their morals. On the other hand, younger generations of Copts have been imbued with the Australian ethic of respect for others as equals regardless of their race or colour, and a desire to connect and interact with the Australian society of which we are a part. Continue reading “Of All Nations”

Attachment Styles


In the January/February edition of Scientific American Mind there was an interesting article about ‘Attachment Styles’. Apparently getting married and living under the same roof means that things like your heart rate, breathing rate and hormone levels all come to be regulated by your partner. The two ‘form one physiological unit’. That’s what the Church has been saying for centuries: “And the two shall become one flesh”.

The premise of the article is that we all fall into one of three attachment styles; patterns of behaviour in our relationship with our spouse. The compatibility of these styles is a big determinant of how successful and happy a marriage is. Here is an excerpt defining the three styles:

SECURE Attachment Style
I find it relatively easy to get close to others and am comfortable depending on them and having them depend on me. I don’t often worry about being abandoned or about someone getting too close to me

AVOIDANT Attachment Style
I am somewhat uncomfortable being close to others: I find it difficult to trust them completely and difficult to allow myself to depend on them. I am nervous when anyone gets too close, and often romantic partners want me to be more intimate than I feel comfortable being. Continue reading “Attachment Styles”

Gentlemen: Please be Gentlemen.


As a student at university in the 80s I had a traumatic experience. One day, as I was walking out of the library, I noticed a female student, a complete stranger, walking out right behind me. So I did the courteous thing and held the door open for her to go out first. What followed still haunts my nightmares! How dare I do such a thing! She launched into an aggressive tirade about how patronising I was being; did I think that she was incapable of opening a door for herself? Who did I think I was? Welcome to the world of late twentieth century feminism! I did the only the only thing I could: I apologised for my thoughtlessness and walked out the door. 

In a world where relationships have changed in so many ways, I find it sad that good old fashioned courtesy has been one of the casualties. It hasn’t been totally eradicated of course, but it has certainly decreased greatly in importance. There are some who argue that this is not such a bad thing. Courtesy can certainly be used a cloak for anger, insults or sarcasm. But that is misuse – it is not the courtesy’s fault, but the user’s. 

Others complain that courtesy encourages insincerity. Isn’t it better to just be honest about our feelings rather than hide them under a formal disguise of good manners? Again, one must distinguish between use and misuse. There is nothing inherent in courtesy to make us act insincerely. It should always be practiced from the heart, with feelings of love towards others. And that same love dictates that we must be honest with each other. All courtesy does is ensure that when we are honest, we do so with respect, kindness and consideration. 

For me, one of the images that epitomises the sublime nobility of courtesy is the famous 1500m race in 1956 where John Landy went back to help fellow runner Ron Clarke who had tripped over. Incredibly, Landy went on to catch up to the rest of the field and win the race! I wonder how many people today would do what he did? And what does that tell us about how we deal with each other?

Courtesy is Biblical. To love one another is the core command that Christ gave us, and again and again in the Bible we find that agape love expressed through courtesy. In that most famous of passages about love, we learn that among other things, “Love … is kind …  does not behave rudely, does not seek its own …” 1 Corinthians 13:4,5.

God is courteous towards even those who evil: Continue reading “Gentlemen: Please be Gentlemen.”

Lent Generously

As Lent fasting begins once more and we settle in to that lovely atmosphere that comes with it, I am reminded by the traditional threefold focus of Lent in the Coptic Church: Fasting, Prayer and Charity. In Arabic, this triad is a delightful alliteration – “Soam, Salla, Sadaka”, but all my efforts to come up with an English version have failed. The best I could do was Abstinence, Adoration, Almsgiving, which of course is a terribly inaccurate translation.

This triad actually comes from the Gospel for the preparatory Sunday of Lent (which we read last Sunday)…

Matthew 6:1  “Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men…

Matthew 6:5  “And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites…

Matthew 6:16  “Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites…

The emphasis, as is clear from the snippets above, is to practice these three things sincerely. If you wish your gift to God to be acceptable to Him, then it must come from the heart. How I yearn that we could banish ‘routine’ spiritual practices from our lives!

No doubt the dear reader will find a wealth of appropriate spiritual guidance regarding their prayers and fasting from their confession fathers. Our charitable deeds of course includes donating our tithes on a regular basis, but that does not mean we shouldn’t give over and above that where we see a need.

People sometimes ask for advice on where to pay one’s tithes and charitable donations. Continue reading “Lent Generously”

The Burden of Knowledge


Life today in a western society is very different to the life our parents and grandparents knew. As a result, our whole world view is quite different, and as such, I propose, our faith needs to also adapt to the new and ever changing circumstances.

 One important area where this applies is the relationship between faith and knowledge. Extremes often help to illustrate a point more conveniently: think of your ancestors of centuries ago, most likely living in rural village somewhere along the majestic Nile. Let us imagine Folla, your great, great, great grandmother. She has grown to be a young woman without the benefit of formal education, for very few Egyptians can afford a formal education, and the vast majority would not want it even if they could afford it. It would be a waste of time and would not in any way help in running the family farm. Thus she is blissfully unaware of any formal laws of nature, of anything but the most basic mathematics, she cannot read or write, so she has no access to books or newspapers, and the only history she knows is the local legends of her village and the stories she hears read out in Church from the Bible and the Synaxarion every Sunday. She does not understand what the priest prays in Church every Sunday, for he prays in Coptic while she only knows Arabic. Sunday School has not yet been introduced to Egypt and the priest has only slightly more education than her, so he does not give sermons or conduct Bible studies; in fact her chief source of religious knowledge is her mother, the kindly woman who would sit her on her lap when she was a young girl and tell her stories that she had heard from her mother before her.

 Folla’s faith is a very simple one. It is not based on outright reason so much as on trust. Continue reading “The Burden of Knowledge”

Egypt Rejoices, But What Comes Next?

 Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak

This is an historic moment. A few hours ago, President Hosni Mubarak resigned after thirtyyears of apparently untouchable rule. He took what was perhaps his last opportunity to depart with dignity. No one can deny that he has done much that is good for his people over the decades, regardless of the damage that he also presided over. Our Lord, who is the true judge of hearts, will no doubt deal with him with justice and mercy.

The great thing about this change in Egypt is that it took place largely peacefully and it was not engineered by foreigners, the army, Islamic radicals or any other narrow interest. It came about because the people of Egypt finally found their voice.

The 1952 Egyptian Revolution that ousted the monarchy began with great idealism. Opinion is divided as to how closely its leaders adhered to that idealism, although most would agree that Egypt has degenerated rather than improved over the past sixty years. This time, there are no obvious leaders like Gamal Abd El Nasser to garner the love and trust of the people and turn it into dictatorship. Perhaps this time Egypt will give birth to a system rather than a leader, a far more stable and beneficial state of affairs!

I cannot help feeling a deep thrill of joy today. Continue reading “Egypt Rejoices, But What Comes Next?”

Egypt in Crisis.

 Amazing protest picture, 2 Feb 2011, Heliopolis

As Egypt broils with turmoil, we in Australia watch and wait and pray. Here are a couple of interesting items that have come my way:

This picture warms my heart! It was apparently taken on February 2 in Heliopolis, Cairo. Two Coptic priests are seen marching with the protestors for change in Egypt, and one of them (I think he may be Fr Dawoud Lamei?) is arm in arm with what looks like a Muslim sheikh. Isn’t that the true spirit of Christianity – to stand up for truth and to love all people? If only this spirit would spread through the whole country! It is early days yet, but one cannot help wondering whether there will be a voice for the Copts in the new Egypt.

A gentleman in Cairo is sharing his journal of events he is experiencing in the comments section of this interesting article. It provides a snapshot of how the Egyptian on the street sees these historic events. Very interesting indeed.

We pray for a quick and safe resolution that results in a better, freer and more equitable Egypt.

Fr Ant

PS Another ray of light amidst the darkness – Christians showing real love towards Muslims. An article in the Daily Mail.