I have never been to a Serbian church before, so on Sunday I attended a Sebian Orthodox church for liturgy and there were a few things that that happened during the liturgy that I've not seen at any other Orthodox church before and I was hoping that someone who is familiar with Serbian traditions could elaborate on these things.
At the Little Entrance, there were 5 altar servers that came out, one carrying the cross, two holding fans, two holding candles, and they came out and stood in front of the ambo and all faced the priest. [Side Note]
At the OCA church I had been attending, the two servers holding the fans would stay on the ambo and face the icons of Christ and the Theotokos located on the iconostasis, the two servers with the candles would be in front of the ambo facing the priest and the server with the cross would be facing the priest, but he would be located behind the icon in the center of the church. [/Side Note]
Is this variation just a difference between Russian and Serbian "style" traditions?
Before the Trisagion, one of the altar servers came out of the south deacon's door, faced northwest and loudly read a couple verses of something, which I've not seen done before. It was definitely not the Epistle - any clue what that may have been?
After the Trisagion, a young lady came forward to receive a blessing to read the Epistle, and then she went to the back of the church and literally, read the Epistle - no chanting, just straightforward reading.ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€š
Is this the norm?
During the Gospel reading, only 2 altar servers came out (even though 5 were there), carrying candles and the stood in front of the ambo facing eachother during the reading. [Side Note]
At the OCA church, two of the servers would be on either side of the priest, holding the fans over the Gospel, the other two would be holding candles in front of the ambo and facing the priest, and the last server would hold the cross in the same place he was during the Little Entrance. [/Side Note]
Following the Gospel, the priest began to proceed with the liturgy and there was no sermon at this time.
During the Great Entrance, the servers came out in the same fashion as they had during the Little Entrance and stood in the same places. [Side Note]
At the OCA Church, the servers would be in the exact same location as they had been during the Gospel reading, except for the server that held the cross would instead be holding the censer in front of the ambo, facing the priest and in between the two servers holding the candles. [/Side Note]
During the Creed, they used "One, Holy, Ecumenic and Apostolic Church", instead of Catholic.
During the Anaphora when the priest said, "and make this Bread the precious Body of thy Christ" one of the serves loudly rang a bell. When the priest said, "and that which is in this Cup, the precious Blood of Thy Christ", the same server rang the bell again for a few seconds as he had before. Then when the priest said, "Making the Change by Thy Holy Spirit. Amen. Amen. Amen." the server again rang the bell, this time for a couple seconds longer than the previous times. I've not seen this done at any
other Orthodox Church before - is this a Serbian tradition?[Side Note]
At the OCA church, when the priest said, "Take! Eat! This is My Body, which is broken for you, for the remission of sins." the bell outside the church would be rung once. When the priest said, "Drink of it, all of you! This is My Blood of the New Testament, which is shed for you and for many, for the remission of sins." the outer bell was rung once again and then no more bells would be rung until, "Especially for our most holy, most pure, most blessed and glorious Lady Theotokos and Ever Virgin Mary." I am assuming that the single intoning of the bells at this particular OCA church was/is a carry over from earlier when the people of this church were Byzantine Catholic, because I've not seen this done at any other Orthodox churches before either...?ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€š [/Side Note]Back to the Serbian Church...
After the "Holy Things for the Holy" instead of the Commion of the People taking place, the collection plate was starting to be passed around (and I was not not looking up at the time because I was scrambling for my wallet) and I heard the priest at the pulpit starting his sermon...?!?ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€š
After his sermon, the priest went back into the altar, came out with the Chalice and said, "In the Fear of God and with faith and love, draw near" then a single altar server came out of altar holding a card which had the "I believe and I confess..." prayers on it and one woman forward, took the card from the altar server, stood facing the priest and said the pre-communion prayers by herself while the rest of the church stood silent. Then, she alone partook of the Communion and afterwards the priest blessed the people with the chailce as usual. [Side Note] I've been to churches of all jurisdictional stripes, including ROCOR and the GOCÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€š - and I've never once before only seen the pre-communion prayers recited alone, nor have I seen only one person receive of the Holy Gifts. Is this a common practice in the Serbian Church? [/Side Note]
Any insight on the above would be greatly appreciated.ÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Å¡Ãƒâ€š