Saints of the Coptic Orthodox Church

The Synaxarium, the collection of the “lives of Saints,” consists of autobiographies of the lives of church saints and martyrs. The Saints are listed in order of the day they passed away rather than their birthdays to commemorate the day they started their lives in heaven. The Synaxarium includes the details of the lives of martyrs and Saints, visions, and famous events. It used to be a reference for biblical lessons in the early church, but now it is used to teach the history of the church elders. Its purpose is to be read in times of public worship, such as during the Divine Liturgy, in order to nurture the spiritual lives of the believers. The Synaxarium is a living collection which the Church continues to update with more and more Saint stories as each generation passes. Every Saint has a special and unique story to be told, in which a specific message is to be learned. The purpose of reading the Synaxarium is to learn from these Saints and to use their lives and strong faith as examples to follow and live by. As St. Paul the Apostle wrote,

Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.

Hebrews 13:7

In the early church, Christians would meet in small groups within their communities and cherish the Saints who have passed, but in secrecy due to fear of persecution. The Copts have learned the faith, doctrine, and how to act as witnesses and messengers of Christ. The Copts glorify the Saints to address that these men and women were able to overcome the earthly life in order to live wholeheartedly with God. The Copts do not worship Saints, but pray to them to intercede on their behalf before Christ and to use their lives as a daily motivator to know that it is possible to live a Christian life.

The Saints and martyrs are everyday, normal humans who led a spiritual life with Christ without fear of persecution, and dedicated their lives fully to God. To become a Saint, first they are venerated by the congregation, and their memory is admired. Later on, there is a request made to recognize this specific person as a Saint to the bishop of the respective diocese. Church committees meet to research the lives of these people and to really analyze and consider all aspects of their lives. They then make a request to the Holy Synod, a group of bishops, stating reasons why someone should be recognized. The Holy Synod has the final decision on whether or not the person is formally addressed as a Saint. This is all done in the will and grace of God.

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