The Serbian Orthodox Church is an autocephalous, or ecclesiastically independent, member of the Orthodox communion, located primarily in Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia.
Since many Serbs have emigrated to foreign countries, now there are now many Serbian Orthodox communities on all continents.Soon after their arrrival to Balkans the Serbian tribes were successively baptised by Christian missionaries and became Orthodox Christians. The consecration of St. Sava as autocephalous Archbishop of Serbia in 1219, even more strengthened various Serbian principalities in their ecclesia- stical allegiance to Constantinople and Christian East. Later, as the medieval kingdom of Serbia grew in size and prestige and Stefan Dusan, king of Serbia from 1331, assumed the imperial title of tsar in 1346 to 1355, the Archbishopric of Pec was correspondingly raised to the rank of Patriarchate. The period before the arrival of the Turks was the time of the greatest flourishing of the Serbian Church. After the final Turkish conquest of the most influental Serbian principality in 1459, the greater portion of Serbian lands became a Turkish pasalik (province). After the death of Patriarch Arsenios II in 1463 a successor was not elected. The Patriarchate was thus de facto abolished, and the Serbian Church passed under the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. The Serbian Patriarchate was restored in 1557 by the Turkish sultan Suleiman the Magnificent. Macarios, brother of the famous Mehmed Pasha Sokolovic was elected Patriarch in Pec The supreme authority of the Serbian Church, the Holy Synod, is composed of all its bishops, who meet once a year in May. There is also a standing Synod of four members who administer the day-to-day affairs of the church, which is estimated to number some nine million faithful. DIASPORA lives in freedom and from such a position would be called upon to help both the church and the people in the present time of their struggle, which in many instances is similar to that of the first Kosovo centuries ago. Having this in mind, the efforts of the Serbian People within the country, and those in diaspora should be directed to defend and preserve its tried and lasting spiritual and moral values in a fast changing world of ours. The loss of the specific character of Church and nation would be the loss of their existence in the future.
History of Serbian Orthodox Church
The Serbs were converted to Christianity not long after their arrival in the Balkans, before the Great Schism split the Christian Church into rival Latin-speaking (Roman Catholic) and Greek-speaking (Eastern Orthodox) Churches. During the early Middle Ages, the religious allegiance of the Serbs was divided between the two churches. In the ninth and tenth centuries, Orthodoxy made great inroads into Eastern Europe. This work was made possible by the work of the Byzantine saints Cyril and Methodius.Some of the disciples, namely Saint Clement of Ohrid, and Saint Naum In a short time the disciples of Cyril and Methodius managed to prepare and instruct the future Slav clergy into the Glagolitic alphabet and the biblical texts and in AD 893, The work of the Thessaloniki brothers Cyril and Methodius and their disciples had a major impact to Serbs as well. However, they accepted Orthodoxy collectively by families and by tribes (in the process between the 7th and the 9th century). In commemoration of their baptisms, each Serbian family or tribe began to celebrate an exclusively Serbian custom called Slava in a special way to honor the Saint on whose day they received the sacrament of Holy Baptism. It is the most solemn day of the year for all Serbs of the Orthodox faith and has played a role of vital importance in the history of the Serbian people. Slava is actually the celebration of the spiritual birthday of the Serbian people which the Church blessed and proclaimed it a Church institution.The various Serbian principalities were united ecclesiastically in the early 13th century by Saint Sava, the son of the Serbian ruler and founder of the Serbian medieval state Stefan Nemanja and brother of Stefan Prvovencani, the first Serbian king. Sava persuaded the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople to establish the Church in Serbia as an autocephalous body, with Sava himself as its archbishop, consecrated in 1219. This sealed Orthodox Christian supremacy in the Serbian realm, which was up then divided between Catholicism and Orthodoxy. The status of the Serbian Orthodox Church grew along with the growth in size and prestige of the medieval kingdom of Serbia. After King Stefan Dušan assumed the imperial title of tsar, the Archbishopric of Peć was correspondingly raised to the rank of Patriarchate in 1346. In the century that followed, the Serbian Church achieved its greatest power and prestige. In 1459, the Ottoman Empire conquered Serbia and made much of the former kingdom a pashaluk. Although many Serbs converted to Islam, most continued their adherence to the Serbian Orthodox Church). The Church itself continued in existence throughout the Ottoman period, though not without some disruption. After the death of Patriarch Arsenios II in 1463, a successor was not elected. The Patriarchate was thus de facto abolished, and the Serbian Church passed under the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. The Serbian Patriarchate was restored in 1557 by the sultan Suleiman the Magnificent, much thanks to the famous Mehmed-paša Sokolović, when Macarios, his brother or cousin, was elected Patriarch in Peć. Great Serb Migrations, led by the Serbian Orthodox Patriarch Arsenije III Carnojevic, 17th centuryThe restoration of the Patriarchate was of great importance for the Serbs because it helped the spiritual unification of all Serbs in the Turkish Empire. After consequent Serbian uprisings against the Turkish occupiers in which the Church had a leading role, the Turks abolished the Patriarchate once again in 1766. The Church remained once more under the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople. This period of so called "Phanariots" was a period of great spiritual decline because the Greek bishops had very little understanding of their Serbian flock. During this period, many Christians across the Balkans converted to Islam to avoid severe taxes imposed by the Turks in retaliation for uprisings and continued resistance. Many Serbs migrated with their hierarchs to Habsburg Monarchy where they had been granted autonomy. The seat of the archbishops was moved from Peć to Karlovci. The new Serbian Metropolitanate of Karlovci became a patriarchate in 1848. The church's close association with Serbian resistance to Ottoman rule led to Serbian Orthodoxy becoming inextricably linked with Serbian national identity and the new Serbian monarchy that emerged from 1817 onwards. The Serbian Orthodox Church in Serbia finally regained its independence and became autocephalous in 1879, the year after the recognition by the Great Powers of Serbia as an independent state. This church was known as the Metropolitanate of Belgrade, thus in the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th century, two separate Serbian Churches existed - the Patriarchate of Karlovci in the Habsburg Monarchy and the Metropolitanate of Belgrade in the Kingdom of Serbia. The Cetinje Metropolitanate held successorship to the Serb Patriarchate in Pec, its Vladikas were "Exarchs of the Pec Throne" The Serbian Orthodox Church (Serbian: Srpska Pravoslavna Crkva; СПЦ / SPC) or the Church of Serbia is one of the autocephalous Orthodox Christian churches. It is the second oldest Slavic Orthodox Church in the world, as well as the westernmost Eastern Church in Europe. It exercises jurisdiction over Orthodox Christians in Serbia and surrounding Slavic and other lands, as well as exarchates and patriarchal representation churches around the world. The Patriarch of Serbia serves as first among equals in his church; the current patriarch is His Holiness Pavle. The Serb Patriarch's full title is "Archbishop of Peć, Metropolitan of Belgrade and Karlovci, and Patriarch of the Serbs."
Orthodoxy in the World ConstantinopleThe Patriarchate of Constantinople again, at least nominally, became independent after World War I and the rise of modern, secular Turkey, although greatly reduced in size. At present the Patriarch's jurisdiction includes Turkey, the island of Crete and other islands in the Aegean, the Greeks and certain other national groups in the Dispersion (the Diaspora) in Europe, America, Australia, etc. as well as the monastic republic of Mt. Athos and the autonomous Church of Finland. The present position of the Patriarchate in Turkey is precarious, persecution still exists there, and only a few thousand Greek Orthodox still remain in Turkey. (a) Mt. AthosLocated on a small peninsula jutting out into the Aegean Sea from the Greek mainland near Thessalonica, Mt. Athos is a monastic republic consisting of twenty ruling monasteries, the oldest (Great Lavra) dating to the beginning of the 11th Century, as well as numerous other settlements sketes, kellia, hermitages, etc. Of the twenty ruling monasteries, seventeen are Greek, one Russian, one Serbian, and one Bulgarian. (One, Iveron, was originally founded as a Georgian monastery, but now is Greek.) Perhaps 1,500 Monks are presently on the Mountain, a dramatic decline from the turn of the Century when, in 1903, for example, there were over 7,000 Monks there. This is due, in great part, to the halt of vocations from the Communist countries, as well as to a general decline in monastic vocations worldwide. However, there appears to be a revival of monastic life there, particularly at the monasteries of Simonopetra, Dionysiou, Grigoriou, Stavronikita, and Philotheou, and two Monks have shone as spiritual lights there in this Century - the Elder Silouan ( 1938) of St. Panteleimon's Russian Monastery and the Elder Joseph ( 1959) of the New Skete. (b) Finland The Orthodox Church of Finland, an autonomous Church (self-governing, except that the primate is confirmed by the Patriarch of the Mother Church, in this case Constantinople) was originally the fruit of the Monks of Valaam Monastery on Lake Ladoga, who spread Orthodoxy among the Finnish Karelian tribes in the 14th Century. Until 1917, the Finnish Church was part of the Russian Orthodox Church, but with the independence of Finland in 1917 and the unsettled situation in Russia after the Revolution, since 1923 it has been under the spiritual care of Constantinople. There are, today, approximately 66,000 Orthodox faithful in the Finnish Orthodox Church. Alexandria
One of the original ancient Patriarchates, since the Monophysite Schism after the Council of Chalcedon (451), the numbers of the faithful of the Patriarchate of Alexandria have remained small approximately 300,000 faithful in Africa, most of whom are non-Greek Christians in Central Africa (primarily Kenya and Uganda). The rapid expansion of Orthodoxy in Central Africa in this Century has been most remarkable since it sprang up without benefit of Orthodox missionaries, and the Orthodox Church of this region promises to become an important force in the life of the Alexandrian Patriarchate. Antioch
Like Alexandria, the ancient Patriarchate of Antioch was severely decimated by the Monophysite Schism and Turkish depredations, and now numbers some 500,000 faithful in Syria, Lebanon and Iraq, as well as an emigrant population in America. Its Patriarch, who lives in Damascus, is an Arab, as are most of the clergy, and the bulk of its faithful are Arabic and Arabic-speaking, its liturgical services being celebrated in that language. Jerusalem
This ancient Church, whose jurisdiction includes Palestine and Jordan, never was large in numbers, but always held a special place in Orthodoxy due to her custody of the Holy Places of Palestine. The Patriarch of Jerusalem is a Greek, but the majority of the clergy and faithful are Arabic, numbering about 60,000 souls. Russia
Since the Russian Revolution, the Church of Russia has been severely persecuted by the atheist state and the numbers of her faithful, clergy and institutions have been drastically reduced. In 1914, there were officially 54,457 churches, 57,105 Priests, 1,498 monasteries and convents, 4 theological academies, 57 theological seminaries, and 40,150 religious schools, with perhaps 100,000,000 faithful. By 1947, the figures read: 22-25,000 churches, 33,000 Priests, 80 monasteries and convents, 2 theological academies, 8 theological seminaries, and no other religious schools. (This was after a certain liberalization following World War II!) At the present time there are perhaps 30,000,000 active Orthodox Christians. By 1966, after renewed persecution, only 3 seminaries were still functioning and by the 1970's, only 12 monasteries and convents were open, as well as about 7,000 churches. Nonetheless, Orthodoxy is still alive in Russia, and, despite reduced membership figures, this Church remains the largest in the Orthodox world. Georgia
Founded in the 4th Century by St. Nina, Equal-to-the-Apostles ( 355 commemorated January 14), this Church had become autocephalous (self headed) in the 8th Century, but was incorporated into the Russian Orthodox Church, with the subjugation of the Caucasus, in 1811, receiving her independence again in 1917. The ranks of her faithful and clergy have been severely diminished since the Communist takeover, and now there are about forty functioning churches (2,455 in 1917), served by less than 100 Priests, out of a population of over 2,000,000. The head of this Church is styled the Catholicos Patriarch of All Georgia. Serbia
With the gradual crumbling of the Ottoman Empire in the 19th Century, the Serbian Church received her independence again in 1879. This Church has fared better than some in the Communist bloc, but many of the problems common to the Churches there (diminished ranks of clergy, closing of churches, etc.) are found here also. There are large numbers of Orthodox Serbians in the Dispersion, many of whom are to be found in America, Australia and Canada. The primate of the Serbian Church is the Patriarch, who lives in Belgrade. Romania
As in the other Balkan countries, with the independence movement of the 19th Century, the Church of Romania received her independence. The nation became a Principality in 1856, and its Church was organized in 1864. Romania became an independent Kingdom in 1881, and the autocephaly of her Church was finally recognized in 1885 by Patriarch Joachim IV of Constantinople. In 1925, the Church of Romania became a Patriarchate, whose Patriarch lives in Bucharest. In numbers of Orthodox faithful, this Church is the second largest in world Orthodoxy, and the persecution by the atheists has not been as severe as in other Communist countries. Bulgaria
With the conquest of the Balkans by the Turks, the ancient Bulgarian Patriarchal See of Trnovo was suppressed and the Bulgarian Church was placed under the jurisdiction of the Patriarch of Constantinople. On April 3, 1860, however, Bishop Hilarion openly declared independence from Constantinople by omitting the Patriarch's name at the Divine Liturgy, and on March 11, 1870, the Turkish Government recognized a Bulgarian Exarchate in Constantinople. In 1872, the Patriarch of Constantinople excommunicated the Bulgarian Church, but the de-facto autocephaly of this Church was finally recognized in 1945. As in Romania, the persecution of the Church has not been as severe as, for example, in Russia, but monasticism is in decline and there are few young Monks. Generally, Church life is more active, however, than in Yugoslavia with its more liberal policies. CyprusThis ancient Church has been independent since the Council of Ephesus (431) and, although suffering under the Turkish yoke, is still strong with over 700 Priests and over 400,000 faithful. For a time, the Turkish system, whereby the primate of the Church was also the political leader of the Greek population, was continued after the liberation of the country in 1878, which explains the role played by the late Archbishop Makarios, who ruled Cyprus as President, as well as being the primate of her Church. GreeceThe first national Church to emerge from the independence struggles of the 19th Century was the Church of Greece. On the Feast of the Annunciation, March 25, 1821, Germanos, the Archbishop of Patras, raised the banner of revolt against the Turks (which cost the Patriarch of Constantinople, Gregory, his life). This war of independence was successful and, as the Hierarchs of the Greek Church did not wish to remain subject to a captive Patriarch in Constantinople, in 1833 a synod of Greek Bishops declared their Church autocephalous, although this was not officially recognized by Constantinople until 1850. In 1864, the Diocese of the Ionian Islands was added to the Church of Greece, and in 1881 the Dioceses of Thessaly and a part of Epirus were likewise joined to her. This Church is the third largest in the Orthodox world and is ruled by a Holy Synod, presided over by the Archbishop of Athens. Albania
Christianized by both Greek and Latin missionaries, Albania, part of ancient Illyricum, had both Latin and Greek rite Christians, with close ties both to Rome and Constantinople, until the Turkish conquest of 1478-9, when half the population became Moslem and a small minority remained Christian Latin in the North and Orthodox in the South. On November 28, 1912, Albania declared its independence from Turkey, and on October 26, 1922, a Church Council at Berat declared the Church of Albania independent of Constantinople, which was finally recognized by that Hierarch on April 12,1937. After World War II, with the seizure of power by the Communists, the Church has suffered terribly, her clergy forbidden to conduct services, as the regime has officially declared religion to be dead in Albania. Since the death of the last Primate, Damian, the primal See of Tirane remains vacant. Poland
The Church of Poland has been autocephalous since 1924, although this independence has not been recognized by Constantinople. Consisting primarily of Orthodox Christians from Western Byelorussia, which was added to Poland's territory after World War II, this Church is headed by a Metropolitan who lives in Warsaw. CzechoslovakiaThe Church of Czechoslovakia has been autocephalous since 1951, although, A as in the case of Poland, this has not been recognized by the Patriarch of Constantinople. The Czechoslovak Church is composed, primarily, of former Uniates, who were forcibly joined to the Orthodox Church by the Communists in 1950 (many returned to Roman Catholicism in 1968). The Church is headed by a Metropolitan who lives in Prague. SinaiThe ancient Church of Sinai, which is actually an autonomous Church consisting of a single monastery, St. Catherine's, at the foot of Mt. Sinai the Mountain of Moses. The Abbot of this Monastery is always an Archbishop, elected by the Monks of the Monastery , although he is consecrated by the Patriarch of Alexandria and lives in Cairo. The Monastery, at the present, consists of only a few Monks, most of whom are very old. Japan
The Church of Japan was founded by St. Nicholas (Kassatkin), later Archbishop of Japan ( 1912 commemorated on February 16), a Russian missionary, who knew St. Innocent of Alaska. At the present there are about 40 parishes and about 36,000 faithful. The autonomy of this Church was proclaimed by the Patriarch of Moscow in 1970, and it is headed by a Metropolitan, who lives in Tokyo, and one other Bishop, who, although chosen by the Church of Japan, must be confirmed by the Church of Russia.
Eastern Orthodox Lent
Fasting completes the "sacred trilogy" of essential Christian practices: almsgiving, prayer, and fasting as taught to us directly by the Lord in MATT. 6:1-18. Christ fasted for forty days in the wilderness (MT. 4:1-11). • Thus, fasting is a practice that goes back to the very origins of the Church. Practice of all major religions, actually. In both the Old and New Testaments, fasting is related to theophanies or visions:
- Moses on Mt. Sinai (EX. 34:28)
- Elijah on Mt. Horeb (I KINGS 19:8-12)
- St. Peter (ACTS 10:9-17) • To fast is to be ascetical - spiritual vigilance based upon discipline and restraint. Ultimately liberating. Freedom from binding attachments of a "worldly nature," beginning with the most basic: food and drink. • At the same time, we do not want to reduce Great Lent to the prescribed food restrictions. Fasting without prayer and almsgiving can be empty - even demonic. Fasting is one tool in the over-all lenten effort of "fasting from sin." (St. John Chrysostom)
Eastern Orthodox Lent The Orthodox Church observes four major Lenten periods each year. Of these, the most important and significant is Great Lent preceding Easter and lasting for seven weeks. A Lenten period comes before any of the major feasts of the Church as an opportunity to come into the fullness of the feast and to appreciate the significance of the feast. Orthodox Great Lent this year begins on Clean Monday, March 10th, and will end with the Glorious and Holy celebration of the Resurrection of the Lord on Sunday, April 27th. THE PREPARATION FOR GREAT LENT: Great Lent is preceded by a special period of preparation known as the Triodion. During this four-week period, we are constantly informed of the approach of Lent. We are instructed to expect its coming and accept its teachings and message. Through special moving prayers, hymns, services and Biblical readings and through a gradual elimination of rich and luxurious foods, we are prepared to welcome Great Lent. During the Triodion, Meat Fare Sunday is the last day that we are allowed to eat meat, and Cheese Fare Sunday is the last day we are allowed to have milk, cheese, and other dairy products. Monday after Cheese Fare Sunday is the first day of Great Lent. It is known as “Pure Monday” or “Clean Monday” because it marks the official beginning of the Lenten period and is a day of strict fasting from foods and of exerting spiritual “exercise” through good works, reading the writings of the Church Teachers and scripture and by attending the Sacrament of Confession. PURPOSE OF GREAT LENT: Great Lent was set aside by the Holy Fathers of our Church as a special period of prayer, meditation, self-examination and self-denial – as a sublime instance during which we might be able to exercise our Christian principles and ideals. Through the means offered us by Great Lent, we become better Christians, better people, and better children of god, worthy of receiving the Blessings and the grace of the Holy Resurrection. SPIRITUAL FASTING: During Great Lent, Orthodox Christians primarily fast mentally and spiritually by reviewing their personal life with all its sins, faults, evil habits and shortcomings. They make every effort to abolish these things from their lives by instituting genuine changes for the better. They deny themselves pleasures and make many profound and sincere sacrifices. They bear their hardships in patience and faith and are watchful in their words, deeds, thoughts and actions. They live in strict discipline, as Jesus did during His fast of forty days before His Crucifixion. And finally, they ask forgiveness from those whom they have hurt or wronged. During Lent, Orthodox Christians give consideration to acts of charity and mercy, by visiting the sick, consoling the unfortunate and giving assistance to the poor and needy.
The Lord’s Prayer
Our Father, Who art in heaven,
hallowed be Thy Name;
Thy Kingdom come;
Thy will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread
and forgive us our debts
as we forgive our debtors,
and lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.
The Nicene Creed I 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 Only-Begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all ages. Light of Light, true God of true God, begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father, by Whom all things were made.
Who for us and for our salvation came down from heaven, and was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary and became man.
And was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate, and suffered and was buried;
And rose again on the third day, according to the Scriptures;
And ascended into heaven, and sitteth 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.
And in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of Life, Who proceedeth from the Father, Who together with the Father and the Son is worshipped and glorified, Who spake by the prophets.
And in One, Holy, Universal, 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.
Prayer to the Holy Spirit O Heavenly King, the comfortor, the spirit of Truth, Who art present everywhere and fillest all things; Treasury of Blessings and Giver of Life; come and abide in us and cleanse us from every stain, and save our souls, O Gracious One.
PRAYER FOR THE SERBIAN PEOPLE
O, Lord, save Thy people and save me. If Thou savest not Thy people and mine, if Thou savest only me, I shall be like a stranger in Heaven. Hear, O Lord, the supplication of Thy righteous ones, Sava and Nemanja, and save Thy sinful people, sinful though they may be. As Thou didst save Jerusalem from the godless and the blasphemers, save also Belgrade from the faithless, that salvation may be made known to all as proceeding from Thee, not from men. Thy people are weakened by waiting, test not their endurance to the end, o Lord. O Lord, weakened are thy people by waiting. All the Earth is covered with the bodies of thy faithful, we cannot till the soil without the pick sounding against the bones of our kinsmen and echoing painfully in our souls. There is not a field which is not a cemetery, not a tree which is not a tombstone. All of the Serbian land is a graveyard. Have mercy, o Lord and save Thy people, with or without me.
Bishop Nikolai Velimirovic