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Jos Strengholt

Desert Prayers

In the week of 20-25 October we prayed the Coptic Agpeya (also known as the Horologion) in Anafora. This Coptic Orthodox Retreat Centre in Egypt is based in what used to be part of the desert, west of the Delta. Bishop Thomas has almost singlehandedly transformed the place into a green oasis of I do not know how many acres.

The Agpeya is a cycle of seven daily prayers that have been prayed since the early times of Christianity. They carry the monks through the day, from sunrise to sunset (Prime to Compline) and then there is the midnight prayer.

What I find so striking is the enormous number of Psalms that is used in these prayers. And how they are linked with events surrounding the life and death of Jesus. They are very Christ-centered. And they are prayers of great humility: seven times per day the monks confess their sins, and their need for forgiveness. The Trinitarian character of the prayers is also striking.

These prayers can be prayed anywhere, but Anafora is certainly a wonderful place for it. We are surrounded here by God’s wonderful nature, by friendly people, by churches with amazing icons, by a very healthy organic kitchen, and more good things.

In The Netherlands we will, the Lord willing, set up a ‘Friends of Anafora’ organisation to bring people to Anafora and to bring Anafora to The Netherlands. Wait and see!