Through my being raised a Seventh-Day Adventist, I came into contact with much of the Protestant world, both fringe and mainline. As I converted to the Catholic Church, I insatiably sought anything and everything I could get my hands on when it came to the faith. For the last couple of years, I have also studied Eastern Orthodoxy and gained much wisdom and insight from that. But the one group within Christianity that has thus far largely escaped my studies are the Oriental Orthodox.
I beg forgiveness from any Oriental Orthodox readers if I make any ignorant statements below - I will do my best to give a brief overview from the little I know.
The Oriental Orthodox branch of Christianity, from what I can tell, began with the rejection of the Council of Chalcedon - hence, these churches only accept the first three ecumenical councils, rather than the first seven ecumenical councils accepted by the Eastern Orthodox and us, or the fourteen councils beyond the first seven that are accepted by us in the Catholic Church.
From what I have seen, the most obvious and well-known branch of Oriental Orthodoxy is the Coptic Orthodox Church, however, the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church has the most adherents. Other branches include the Armenian Church and the Syriac Orthodox Church. Here, I wish to explore in particular the world of Coptic Orthodoxy.
Several things fascinate me about this branch of Christianity which seems to be so often overlooked.
Firstly, the Coptic Orthodox Church in particular seems to have preserved the tradition of the Desert Fathers right on down to this day - we see this in such figures as the recently deceased Matthew the Poor, as well as in the present life and teachings of Fr. Lazarus El Anthony. Saints such as St. Anthony the Great and St. Macarius are huge and obvious influences here.
The aesthetic look of Coptic Orthodoxy is also very interesting to me. I remember distinctly, when my wife were exploring the grounds of Blarney Castle in Ireland, seeing a Coptic Orthodox monk or priest (I am too ignorant to know which) and remarking upon his unique garb.
The wisdom found within Coptic Orthodoxy, however, is what especially appeals to me. I like to think that every branch of Christianity has something to offer the inquiring Catholic - as anyone who has read this blog before might know, I take the approach of St. Thomas Aquinas, that truth is where it is found (I am paraphrasing here).
Being as my patron saint is St. Anthony of Egypt (along with St. Francis of Assisi), I can readily dive right into the writings of the Coptic Orthodox Church, which has been a haven for desert spirituality for centuries. Fr. Lazarus El Anthony is, to me, by far one of the wisest living Christians I have yet encountered in my life. If you have not inquired into his life and teachings, then watch this, and begin your journey:
May God grant us all unity in Him.