I was looking through all my drafts (I have 14, so be excited), and I don’t feel like they are perfect enough to be posted yet. However, I did realize that I have never explained my tattoo, which is a pretty basic right-of-passage post that all bloggers have to write. So here goes…
I was raised a Coptic Orthodox Christian. Yea, it’s a mouthful. So let us dissect that a bit.
The running joke among Copts is when we explain the kind of Christian we are. Ask any Coptic what Coptic Orthodox means, and every one will tell you “It’s like Greek Orthodox, but Egyptian.” So for the sake of simplicity, I’m using the same definition. Coptic is the ancient language of the Egyptians, which I understand, sounds confusing because then what the heck were Hieroglyphs? Hieroglyph was the original language of the people of pagan Egypt. But in 42 AD, St. Mark, an apostle of Christ, came to Egypt and brought Christianity, and at the time the language was Coptic. Coptic was the official language of Egypt until about the late 17th century, when the Muslim conquest of Egypt replaced Coptic with Egyptian Arabic. Coptic is still used as the liturgical language of the Coptic Church, and has a handful of fluent speakers.
That explains the Coptic part of the name. The Orthodox part can be explained in the simplest way by comparing it to Greek, Syrian, or Antiochian Orthdoxy. Although we are considered Oriental Orthodox and they are Eastern Orthodox, for the most part, we are very similar. We all use the same liturgical calendar, have basically the same holidays, and can intermarry with each other. The only difference is how we incorporate our different cultures and heritages in our Liturgies (Masses), feasts, and customs, and our popes are different.
Ok, now that we have that down, I can go on about my tattoo.
It is custom in Egypt for a Coptic Christian to get the Coptic cross tattooed on their wrist to show their Christian pride. In Egypt today, Christians are persecuted daily for being just that–Christian. Rape, murder, mass bombing, and daily shaming occurs every day for being Christians, and instead of hiding who they are, they permanently ink their bodies with the greatest symbol of our faith. [For more information on Egyptian persecution, visit: http://www.persecution.org/category/countries/africa/egypt/]
Although Coptic Christians in America are not persecuted like our family in Egypt, we still show our pride by tattooing a cross on our wrists. But while most Coptics get the Coptic Cross (Traditional Coptic Cross Tattoo), I chose to get a simple cross–not because it is more fashionably relevant, but because it better reflects my relationship with God.
I was raised a Coptic Orthodox Christian. My family, my family’s family, and so on, were Copts. I was raised with that culture at home, a close-knit “Church Family,” and an enforced religious discipline. However, from second grade to senior year of high school, I was enrolled in a Catholic School. Being exposed to Catholicism during the week, and Coptic Orthodoxy during the weekends and weeknights, my relationship with God was influenced by both denominations equally. Although the two are different in terms of liturgical practices, calendars, church leaders, and even some core beliefs, one of the biggest difference is their focus. Coptic Orthodoxy’s main focus is on the afterlife. A Coptic priest emphasizes how abiding by the Bible’s teachings affected our chances of eternal life, and a Catholic priest emphasizes the effect of them on our life now.
Being exposed to both focuses of faith has enriched my relationship with God in so many ways. Now, I am not saying that I’m a saint, and people that know me, know that all too well. But having a cross tattooed on my wrist, reminds me that no matter how much I may deviate from the Christian image, I will never stop being a Christian.