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Full text of "The Legacy Of Egypt"

The Egyptian Contribution to Christianity 327
based on the regular recitation of the Psalter, which now figure
so largely in Christian worship, were purely monastic in origin
and trace back to the ascetes of the Egyptian deserts.
So far we have seen monasticism growing and prospering, but
it also had to pass through its troubles. In the days of St.
Athanasius the monks were the patriarch's loyal supporters
against Arius. Perhaps in those and later disputes the Nitrian
monks were rather inclined to violence and civic disturbance:
certainly the civic authorities in Alexandria sometimes found
them a trouble. When Theodosius ordered the closing of pagan
temples but forbade their destruction, groups of monks in
Lower Egypt led mobs to wreck the buildings and destroy the
images in the temples, and many of the temples in Lower
Egypt show traces of almost incredible force used in breaking
into pieces immense monoliths of granite. Then came the great
schism of the Church following the Council of Chalcedon in
451. The Byzantine Church and a ma j ority of the Syrian Church
accepted the decisions of that council, the Egyptian Church and
a strong minority of the Syrian refused to do so, and thus arose
a bitter strife between the State Church, armed with all the
resources of the law, and the recalcitrant Egyptian Church.
Egyptian patriarchs were removed and replaced by obedient
Greek clergy, but these were rejected, sometimes murdered, by
the Egyptians. This state of affairs lasted from 451 to 641, when
the Muslim Arabs were welcomed as deliverers to set Christian
Egypt free from Greek persecution. In 551 Byzantine oppress-
ion was very sorely felt and the Patriarch of Alexandria left his
episcopal city and settled amongst the monks in the Wadi el-
Natrun, which forthwith became the seat of government for
the Egyptian Church. There the consecrations of bishops and
the consecration of the Holy Chrism took place, and there the
Coptic liturgy was shaped and took its final form.
As in all such cases imperial persecution was not always main-
tained with equal severity. The Emperor Justinian (527-65)