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Trip Around the Sun

43 of 52 – The Serbian Orthodox Church

Thoughts during the week:

The Israeli woman who spoke week before last – when she referred to the mask gas –

I just figured that out. The masks most likely are American military equipment. It’s always labeled that way, with the main noun first and then the modifiers. It would be labeled: MASK, GAS. So she referred to it with her children as a mask gas rather than as a gas mask. (Are details like that interesting? They are to me, as they are discovered.)

 

 

The Visit: The Serbian Orthodox Church

 

I entered the “lobby” area – and immediately was a little lost as to what to do. I found a man who appeared friendly and asked if there were any things a visitor should do to be proper. He indicated that perhaps I should buy two candles – ($1.00 each) light them and place one on the right for “The Living,” and one on the left side for “The Dead.” I did that. There were large areas filled with sand – so that the candles could be pushed a little into the sand to stand. There were perhaps twenty candles lit on each side. It appears equal – and I supposed that each person always honors both the living and the dead at once. I could see through the glassed doorway that several people were seated in the “pews.” Yet no one had gone through the door as I was watching yet. So I asked if it was ok to go in, and was told it was.

 

I entered and sat in the third row. By the time the meeting started, there were perhaps 50 present – almost all of them senior citizens. (This is getting to appear rather common in many churches.) There were perhaps a half dozen who were not seniors – and I saw only one child – a girl about 10 years old.

 

The “chapel” was very ornately decorated – with many icon-like pictures of Jesus and Mary – and what appeared to be maybe the wise men – or apostles. Each was holding an ornate lamp. There was a wall in front, and behind that I could see the Priest at a table – and it became evident that the sounds I could hear from side speakers were coming from him. There was essentially no English – and the entire meeting was sung – no regular speech but for a short reading of scripture by someone who came up from the congregation.

 

The Priest would chant a few notes – then off to the right was a trio of men with wonderful voices who would sing about twice as many notes as did the Priest. Then the Priest again – then the trio – over and over – different words – none English.

 

This went on for about half an hour – and then a man slowly came up toward the trio from the congregation. He was a great tall man – perhaps 6’ 6” He stood near the trio for several minutes as they sang – appeared like a naive person who just wanted to be part of it. But then he began singing with them, and they were now a quartet. He was as good as the rest. They were dressed one in a suit – one a sports coat and tie – one in leather jacket – one in short-sleeved shirt.

 

It seemed a curious mix of very almost extreme formality – and then mixed with totally informal additions.

 

Read from a card:

 

“And in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, begotten, not made.”

 

“In one holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.”

 

(Exactly the same words as found on the stone plaque in front of the Episcopalian Church – Visit 1 of 52)

 

None other than the Priest were miked – the acoustics of this domed building were remarkable – and the singing was very clear and without echoes.

 

During the singing, there were many times that people knew it was time to “cross” themselves. The crossing was Up-Down-Right-Left. I think this is the opposite of the Catholic Church – that is – the regular Catholics go Up-Down-Left-Right.

 

The following found from a Catholic site on the internet:

“We mark our foreheads with the sign of the cross.”

On the whole it seems probable that the ultimate prevalence of the larger cross is due to an instruction of Leo IV in the middle of the ninth century.

How To...

The sign of the Cross - by moving the right hand from the forehead to the chest, to the left shoulder, then to the right shoulder.

 

 

 

So this one, for the Serbians, is opposite – as Leona and I saw in Moscow also. It’s probably as important to both of these groups as driving on the left side of the road is to the English – and the right to us. That will most likely never be settled – too many roads and lights, etc., not to mention driving habits. As Tevye would say, “TRADITION !”

 

Singing continued for an hour and a half. Yes – the voices were good – but the song was so “all the same” that I would die if I had to sit through it every week!

 

This all led to the Eucharist, (Sacrament), which was evidently the one and only purpose of the entire meeting. So far as I could tell, there were no other topics.

 

There was a prayer before – and another after – the Eucharist was given and taken. They were not in English – but the prayers are evidently word-for-word, and they were printed in English on cards in the literature holders on the seat backs. There were no song books – no Bibles – only the cards.

 

Here are some of the words in the prayers:

 

Before the Eucharist:

 

“Forgive my transgressions both voluntary and involuntary.”

 

“I will not speak of Thy mystery to Thine enemies.”

 

“I will not, like Judas, give Thee a kiss.”

 

“Remember me, Lord, in Thy kingdom.”

 

After the Eucharist:

 

“Make firm our steps, through the prayers and intercessions of the glorious Theotokos and ever-virgin Mary, and of all Thy saints.”

 

(I think all these different kinds of “Catholics” do not believe Jesus had siblings, but that Mary remained always a virgin. Do we have any genealogy leading back to a brother of Jesus? Anybody know?)

 

The word “Theotokos” is not in my English dictionary.

 

I’m looking it up on the net. (You can find anything there – anything.)

 

749 results with the word “Theotokos” in the “title” of articles!

 

From one of them:

 

“In fact Theodore of Mopsuestia was the first to object to it, so far as we know, writing as follows: "Mary bare Jesus, not the Word, for the Word was and remained omnipresent, although from the beginning he dwelt in Jesus in a peculiar manner. Thus Mary is properly the Mother of Christ (Christotocos) but not the mother of God (Theotocos). Only figuratively, per anaphoram, can she be called Theotocos also, because God was in Christ in a remarkable manner. Properly she bare a man, in whom the union with the Word was begun, but was still so little completed, that he was not yet called the Son of God." And in another place he says: "It is madness to say that God is born of the Virgin. ... Not God, but the temple in which God dwelt, is born of Mary.”

 

(So roughly, “Theotokos” or “Theotocos” means “Mother of God.”) (This article spelled it with the ‘c’ – this Church the ‘k’)

 

The plasticized card also carried the words, “The Eucharist is served only to baptized of the Orthodox faith- including babies.”

 

So as the congregation began to move to the front in rows, I remained seated.

 

Then one of the few non-seniors among them invited me to stand and join the line in front of her. I pointed out my non-membership and the words I had just read.

 

She said, “Oh no – the Eucharist is over – I also missed it – it went too fast – this is only the Antidor. It is for anyone – it is ok.”

 

They were taking pieces of bread from a large bowl at the front – eating it, and exiting out the side door.

 

This woman was eager to talk and explain things – and talked right out loud in the line as we approached the bowl. Mostly, everyone is silent – but it is evidently perfectly ok to talk right out loud whenever you want. This mixture of what appears very formal – and the informal is most interesting. It would be like someone having a moderately loud conversation during our sacrament – while entirely everyone else in the room was silent. And no one seemed to pay it any mind at all.

 

Once outside, the lady kept talking. There was hardly room to get a word in edgewise. (And this is me we’re talking about.)

 

She said the Antidor (I spelled it – she said she thought it was correct the way I spelled it.) She said it was “Instead of the Gift.” Evidently it was instituted for this very circumstance – so that everyone could participate and not feel left out.

 

If I understand this correctly, it would be as if we had an extra tray of the bread – which was not included in the blessing – for those who felt unworthy of the sacrament – or who were not members. After all, it’s just bread.

 

She invited me to attend another Church in San Diego, where the Priest is comfortable speaking English. She continued talking on our way to the parking lot, where she paid the hotrod no mind at all. (Was she blind?)

 

The Ten Commandments were listed on the card also – about the same as we use them.

 

But after that were nine other commandments, called the Commandments of the Church:

 

1.     Pray in private and attend all required liturgies. (Our attend Priesthood and Sacrament and have private and family prayer)

 

2.     Keep the four annual feasts.

 

3.     Have Reverence for the Church.

 

4.     Attend to your Confessions.

 

5.     You are not to read atheistic or heretical books. Not to attend any meetings of these. (Our Do not read anti-Mormon literature.)

 

6.     Pray for your government.

 

7.     Observe fasts as instructed. (Our fast Sunday)

 

8.     Not to make private use of Church property. (Some say don’t use tables and chairs for back-yard wedding receptions. Others more liberal about this.)

 

9.     Not to hold marriages or other merriments during the days of fasting.

 

(I guess this puts weddings in the same category as a party. Not like a sacrament. Not sacred?)     

 

 

That’s it. Doesn’t really cover very much – a bit like our fourteen mission rules 40 years ago.

 

I can’t just go on and not say it. This was easily the most boring meeting of the 43 so far. It was like an opera in a foreign language with no story and no women. Women did come to the front to kiss the Mary and pray – just about anytime during all the opera. If you think a “normal” Catholic Mass is boring – you don’t know the half of it.

 

Now – that said – the people here didn’t appear to view it like this at all. And that’s one of the salient things I’m learning about (or gaining increased understanding.)

 

I went to a ballet at BYU many years ago – with a girl friend who was “into” that. It also was not in English – not that it mattered, as there were few words in it, and the “dancing” appeared a little “canted” to me. But during the thing – a lady sitting just to the side and in front of me – was bawling her heart out. I knew right then – that she was seeing something I was entirely blind to. My date was not crying – just sitting there and watching. I needed that lady for the message. It was when the lead male dancer was leaping.

 

 

43 of 52 – The Serbian Orthodox Church

 

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