In the Coptic Orthodox Churches, the congregations are blessed in the divine services, not only with the participation of the priests but also of the deacons. I thank God, that I personally have been touched by the participation of the wonderful deacons, especially during the Holy Week of Pascha and the Feast of Resurrection in St Mark’s of Jersey City, for many years. I thank God for the gift of having such wonderful deacons, as they are really amazing.
I really love the deacons and value the presence and the role of every single one of them, young or old. But I fear that somehow their pure and undivided devotion to Christ will be corrupted, just as Eve was deceived by the cunning ways of the serpent (2 Corinthians 11:3). For this reason I wrote this message, in all fatherly love, to all the deacons in all the churches!
The rites and the prayers of the Holy Pascha Week are amazing tools in the hand of God to portrait before the eyes of the people the crucified and risen Christ (Galatians 3:1). Such remembrance of Christ’s death and resurrection is intended to bring the hearts of the worshipers into a living fellowship with Christ in His death and resurrection. We would miss the point of the Holy Week of Pascha if the portrait of the crucified and risen Lord disappeared from our conscious and hearts.
Every Divine service of the Pascha Week is a real worship before the throne of God. It has to be offered by the Spirit of grace and prayers, in fear and reverence (Zechariah 12:10). We should not be intimidated with the limit of time verses the many prayers, readings and hymns. It is better to read, pray and chant little with understanding than doing this without understanding (1 Corinthians 14:19). Moreover, let your humble voices be heard in heavens, in Spirit and truth.
The Holy week is about the Christ who emptied Himself and obeyed the Father until the death of the Cross (Philippians 2:8). So let us be in harmony with Him through emptiness ourselves. God is looking for our obedience to the priests, the elder deacons and our parents. He is also looking for our kind affections to the younger deacons and the weak with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another (Romans 12:10). Whoever wants to be first must take last place and be the servant of everyone else (Mark 9:35). In this Holy Week, and always, learn the meaning of washing the feet of your brother as Christ washed your feet (John 13:14).
Beloved Deacons, please be aware of this: Either we are going to work with Holy Spirit to portrait the crucified and risen Christ or we are going to be deceived by the cunning ways of the serpent and portrait a false image of ourselves. I am looking forward to the day when I kneel down kissing and washing the feet of every one of you. I wish you a blessed Holy Pascha Week and the joy of His Holy resurrection.
Fr Abraam Sleman