Today—10 Kiahk on the Coptic calendar, 19 December Gregorian—the Coptic Church marks the feast of St Nicholas, the 4th-century Bishop of Myra in Asia Minor—present-day Turkey—whose loving, giving character metamorphosed into that of the popular Santa Claus.
The Church of St Nicholas in Banha, Qalyubiya, some 50km north of Cairo, has celebrated its patron saint with a week-long programme of spiritual activity that began on 12 December, led by Anba Maximos, Bishop of Banha and Quessna. The programme included Vespers services held every evening, sermons and praises for the saint, and daily Mass. On the sideline, a book fair of the publications of the Bible Society was held.
During Vespers, the relics of St Nicholas were carried around the church, three rounds in the sanctuary followed by three rounds in the nave and a final round back in the sanctuary, in a procession of deacons chanting praises for the saint. The congregation joined enthusiastically in the chanting, peppering it with bouts of joyful ululations.
The Church of St Nicholas in Banha is the only Coptic Orthodox church in Egypt consecrated in the name of the saint. It was established in 1910 as a Greek Orthodox church but, as the congregation gradually dwindled, was purchased by the Coptic Orthodox Anba Maximos in 1980.
The church houses the relics of St Nicholas as well as a portion of ‘mann’, an oil of miraculous healing power that drops from the saint’s tomb in the Italian city of Bari.
19 December 2017