We believe in one God, God the Father the Pantocrator, Who created the heaven and the earth, and of all things seen and unseen. We believe in One Lord Jesus Christ, The Only Begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all ages.
Light of Light; True God of True God, begotten, not created; of one essence with the Father, by whom all things were created. Who, for us men and for our salvation, came down from the heaven and was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, and became man. And He was crucified for us under Pontious Pilate, suffered, and was buried. And the third day He rose from the dead, according to the Scriptures; and ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of His Father.
And He shall come again with glory to judge the living and the dead, whose Kingdom shall have no end. And we believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of Life, Who proceeds from the Father; Who with the Father and the Son is worshipped and glorified, Who spoke by the prophets in one Holy Katholik and Apostolic Church. We confess one baptism for the remission of sins. We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come.
The Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed is a comprehensive summary of the beliefs of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria. This Creed, built on the foundation of the Apostle’s Creed, defines the belief in the Holy Trinity, the incarnation of the Logos and the four pillars of the Church, i.e., that it is One, Holy, Universal and Apostolic.
The Nicene Creed should be called the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed since it was formally drawn up at the first ecumenical council in Nicea (325) and at the second ecumenical council in Constantinople (381).
The word creed comes from the Latin credo which means “I believe.” In the Orthodox Church the creed is usually called The Symbol of Faith which means literally the “bringing together” and the “expression” or “confession” of the faith.
In the early Church there were many different forms of the Christian confession of faith; many different “creeds.” These creeds were always used originally in relation to baptism. Before being baptized a person had to state what he believed. The earliest Christian creed was probably the simple confession of faith that Jesus is the Christ, i.e., the Messiah; and that the Christ is Lord. By publicly confessing this belief, the person could be baptized into Christ, dying and rising with Him into the New Life of the Kingdom of God in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
As time passed different places had different credal statements, all professing the identical faith, yet using different forms and expressions, with different degrees of detail and emphasis. These credal forms usually became more detailed and elaborate in those areas where questions about the faith had arisen and heresies had developed.
In the fourth century a great controversy developed in Christendom about the nature of the Son of God (also called in the Scripture the Word or Logos). Some said that the Son of God is a creature like everything else made by God. Others contended that the Son of God is eternal, divine, and uncreated. Many councils met and made many statements of faith about the nature of the Son of God. The controversy raged throughout the entire Christian world.
It was the definition of the council which the Emperor Constantine called in the city of Nicea in the year 325 which was ultimately accepted by the Orthodox Church as the proper Symbol of Faith. This council is now called the first ecumenical council, and this is what it said:
We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible. And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the only-begotten, begotten of the Father before all ages. Light of Light; true God of true God; begotten, not made; of one essence with the Father, by whom all things were made; who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven, and was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, and became man. And He was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate, and suffered, and was buried. And the third day He rose again, according to the Scriptures; and ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of the Father; and He shall come again with glory to judge the living and the dead; whose Kingdom shall have no end.
The doctrine of the church is the same one that is cited in the New Testament according to the teaching of Jesus Christ and his Apostles (Mt. 16:18; 24:14). The Church believes in Jesus Christ, the Son of Man (Mk. 8:31, 38), Son of God (Mt. 3:17), and God (Jn. 14: 8-11), who was born through the Spirit of God to St. Mary 2,000 years ago (Mt. 1:18-23). He came to our earth to give salvation to mankind through his crucifixion on the cross (Mt. 27:27-44). After his death, Jesus was buried for three days in a tomb (Mt. 27:57-61), and on the third day his resurrection took place (Mt. 27:62-63). He appeared to his disciples (Mt. 28:16-20) relatives, and others. After 50 days, Jesus ascended to Heaven (Mk. 16:19). St. Paul emphasized such faith as follows: “He [God] was manifested in the flesh, vindicated in the Spirit, seen by angels, preached among the nations, believed on in the word, taken up in glory” (I Tim. 3:16). The Fathers of the Church summarize their faith according to the teaching of Jesus and the New Testament: “In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (Mt. 28:16-20), Three in One.”
The Council in Constantinople in 381 AD
Following the controversy about the Son of God, the Divine Word, and essentially connected with it, was the dispute about the Holy Spirit. The following definition of the Council in Constantinople in 381, which has come to be known as the second ecumenical council was added to the Nicene statement:
And [we believe] in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of Life, who proceeds from the Father; who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified; who spoke by the prophets. In one Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins. I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.
Council of Ephesus 431 AD
Another theological dispute in the 5th century occurred over the teachings of Nestorius, a bishop of Constantinople who taught that God the Word was not hypostatically joined with human nature, but rather dwelt in the man Jesus. As a consequence of this, he denied the title “Mother of God” (Theotokos) to the Virgin Mary, declaring her instead to be “Mother of Christ” (Christotokos). When reports of this reached the Apostolic Throne of Saint Mark, the Bishop acted quickly to “correct” this breach with orthodoxy. Requesting that Nestoriusrepent. When he would not the Synod of Alexandria met in an emergency session and a unanimous agreement was reached. Pope Cyril I of Alexandria, supported by the entire See, sent a letter to Nestorius known as “The Third Epistle of Saint Cyril to Nestorius.” This epistle drew heavily on the established Patristic Constitutions and contained the most famous article of Alexandrian Orthodoxy: “The Twelve Anathemas of Saint Cyril.” In these anathemas, Cyril excommunicated anyone who followed the teachings of Nestorius. For example, “Anyone who dares to deny the Holy Virgin the title Theotokos is Anathema!” Nestorius however, still would not repent and so this led to the convening of the First Ecumenical Council of Ephesus (431), presided by Pope Cyril I of Alexandria.
The First Ecumenical Council of Ephesus confirmed the teachings of Saint Athanasius and confirmed the title of the Holy Ever-Virgin Mary as “Mother of God”. It also clearly stated that anyone who separated Christ into two hypostases was anathema, as Saint Athanasius had said that there is “One Nature and One Hypostasis for God the Word Incarnate” (Mia Physis kai Mia Hypostasis tou Theou Logou Sasarkomeni). Also, the introduction to the creed was formulated as follows:
“We magnify you O Mother of the True Light and we glorify you O saint and Mother of God (Theotokos) for you have borne unto us the Saviour of the world. Glory to you O our Master and King: Christ, the pride of the Apostles, the crown of the martyrs, the rejoicing of the righteous, firminess of the churches and the forgiveness of sins. We proclaim the Holy Trinity in One Godhead: we worship Him, we glorify Him, Lord have mercy, Lord have mercy, Lord bless us, Amen.”
The Council of Chalcedon 451 AD
We treasure, and follow, the Tradition as the proper interpretation and application of the teachings of our Lord and the Apostles, as understood and practiced by the early Christians and leaders of the Church during the period of the One Universal Church until the division of the Council of Chalcedony in 451 AD.
The Coptic Orthodox Church is one of the group called Oriental, or Non-Chalcedonian, Orthodox Churches. The separation between these churches and Europe took place in 451 AD at the Council of Chalcedon. The controversy was about the nature of our Lord, whether He would be described as having one or two natures. The Oriental Churches clung to the idea of the One Nature in Him, and are therefore called Monophysites, in contrast with the Duophysites of the West. Recently, in 1991, a declaration derived by theologians from the Eastern Orthodox and the Oriental Orthodox more accurately described our faith as Miaphysites, which means two natures in One. At the Council of Chalcedon, the Western Churches adopted Pope Leo of Rome which spoke about two natures of the Lord. The one, the Divine, is resplendent with miracles, the other, the Human, submits to insults. The Orientals felt that this Duophysitism meant that there was in Christ only a fellowship between the divinity and the humanity of Jesus, not an unity. This belief shook the foundation of our Salvation which could only be based on the ground that Christ has one composite nature.
Pope Discorus of the fifth century A.D. as well as all the Alexandrian Fathers believed in and taught the pure Orthodox faith of their predecessors. Pope Discorus says the following concerning the Faith of the Coptic Orthodox Church: “If a piece of iron, heated to white heat, be struck on the anvil, it is the iron which receives the blows and not the white heat, though the iron and the heat form an indivisible whole. The unit of the iron and the white heat is symbolic of our Saviour’s incarnation, whose divinity never parted from his humanity, not even for a moment nor the twinkling of an eye. Yet though His divinity parted not from His humanity, their union was without mixing nor fusion, nor change, like unto the union of the iron and the white heat.” The Fathers of the Alexandrian School define this union as “The one Nature of God the Word made “flesh” and is synonymous with St. John’s saying “the Word was made flesh” (Jn. 1:14).
We believe that there was no moment in history at which existed a separate human nature of the Lord to be united to His Divine nature, “not even for a twinkle of the eye”, as we pray in our Liturgy. This is true from the moment of His incarnation into the womb of the Virgin, through baptism, crucifixion, burial, resurrection, ascension and henceforth until His Second Coming (Revelation 1: 17-18).