The rite of the Feast of the Nayrouz (Coptic New Year – Feast of the Martyrs), and until 16 Thoout.
The Feast of Nayrouz marks the beginning of the Coptic New Year: the first of Thoout. The readings on this day all relate to this celebration. In the Psalm of the Liturgy, the deacon reads,“Bless the Crown of the Year with Your goodness.” Similarly, in the reading of the Gospel, the Savior blesses the New Year in abundance, saying, “to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord” (Lk. 4:19).As for the reading of the Pauline, St. Paul writes: “the old has passed away, behold, the new has come” (2 Cor. 5:17). In the Catholic Epistle, St. John delivers a similar message in his first Epistle saying that “the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining” (1 Jn. 2:8). It is, therefore, our obligation to repent and return to God with all our hearts, offering to Him a blessed New Year. St. Luke emphasizes this point in the Book of Acts, “The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all men everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30). It is worth mentioning that the readings of the first of Thoout, the Feast of the Nayrouz, must be read on that day, regardless of what day it is in the week, including Sundays. If the Nayrouz falls on a Sunday, the month of Thoout will still include four other Sundays.
Some believe the word Nayrouz is of Persian origin, from the same word meaning “the beginning of the Year,” and that it was used in Egypt following the invasion of the Arabs. Others believe that it has its origin from the English language, from the words “New Rose”; that view, however, seems unlikely. A third view suggests the word originated from the Coptic word niiarwou , meaning rivers, and related to the word `cmou , meaning bless. The Ancient Egyptians repeatedly used these words in their temples for their gods to bless the Nile River and the crops. This latter view is considered the most correct.
The Christian Copts adopted the Coptic Calendar specifically for the Church during the persecution of the Romans under Emperor Diocletian (283 to 305 A.D.). Because of the severity of the persecutions during his time, the Copts called it the Era of Martyrs, Anno Martyri, establishing the new calendar specific to the Coptic Church, the Calendar of the Martyrs, in September 283 A.D. when the Emperor ascended to his throne. At the start of every year, the Copts celebrate the Feast of Nayrouz, honoring the martyrs of the Church, as Nayrouz has become strongly affiliated with the martyrs. The Coptic Calendar remained in use by the government until the Khedive Ishmael abolished it in September 1875 – largely as a result of Western influence. He instated the Gregorian calendar in its stead.
The rite of the Feast of the Nayrouz is as follows: the prayers are all done in a joyful tune, and this joyful rite continues until the sixteenth day of the month of Thoout. In the Vespers and Prime Raisings of Incense, the Verses of the Cymbals and the Doxologies are chanted in a joyful tune, and they begin with the verses specific to the Nayrouz. The Psalm is chanted in the minor joyful tune, followed by the Tawwaf Psalm, and the Psalm Response. After the reading of the Gospel, the Gospel Response for the feast is chanted. At the end of the prayer, the Concluding Canon of the Feast of the Nayrouz is chanted.
In the Divine Liturgy, the Agpeya prayers of the Third and Sixth hours only are prayed. After the Offering of the Lamb, the hymn Alleluia fai pe pi is chanted, and after the absolution of the servants, the hymn Tai shouri is chanted. Before the reading of the Praxis, the Praxis Response of the Feast of the Nayrouz is chanted; and after the Gospel Litany, the Psalm is chanted in the Singary tune, followed by the major Psalm Response. When the Gospel is read, the Gospel Response of the Feast of the Nayrouz is chanted, and the Divine Liturgy continues as usual, taking into consideration the Adam Espasmos and Watos Espasmos. Towards the end, the Annual Fraction is prayed, and Psalm 150 is chanted in a joyful tune during communion. At the end of the prayer, the Concluding Canon of the Feast of the Nayrouz is chanted.
May the blessings of this feast be with us all. Amen.
Mikhail, Deacon Albair Gamal, The Essentials in the Deacon’s Service, (Shobra, Egypt: Shikolani, 2002), p. 182, 183. Translated from Arabic by Bishoy K. R. Dawood and Ragy Sharkawy, edited by Mena Rizkalla.