First Thoughts - Trip to Serbia, September 2002
Recently this writer had the opportunity to travel to Serbia as part of a tour group organized by Popadija Svetlana Zaremba of the St.George Serbian Orthodox Church in Midland. Twenty-eight people were in the group including Prota Stevan and Protonica Rocknage, Protnamesnik Stephen Zaremba and Father Milorad and Popadija Jan Orlic.
His Grace Bishop Dr. MITROPHAN met the group at the airport prior to departure to give His Archpastoral Blessing for a successful trip. For purposes of this article, initial observations and lessons are included.
Monasteries and churches visited were the following: In Belgrade-Saborna Crkva, St. Petka, St. Ruzica, St. Mark’s, St. Sava - Vracar(old and new), and Russian Orthodox Church behind St. Mark’s; Outside Belgrade: Parish church and Church of St. George in Topola, Monastery Krusedol in Fruska Gora, Monasteries/Churches Manasija, Ravanica, Lazarica, Sopocani, Djudjevi Stupovi, Gradac, Studenica and Zicha.
Visits were made to the Patriarchal Mansion in Sremski Karlovci, the Theological Faculty in Belgrade and the Patriarchate in Belgrade. His Holiness Patriarch PAVLE received the group on September 17.
(Right) St. Petka Church - Belgrade
The trip began at the Pittsburgh Airport on September 9 and concluded at the same location on September 19. Divine Liturgies were attended in Saborna Crkva and Monastery Sopocani. Vespers and Matins were attended in Saborna Crkva.
It was interesting to observe the way believers treat the churches and monasteries as holy places of God. Quietness prevailed in and around the churches and monasteries before, during and following the services.
Believers entered the churches in a demeanor of reverence. Candles were lit in great abundance. Icons were venerated very carefully and attentively. Relics of saints were located in the churches and monasteries, given places of honor, venerated and treated with great care.
(Right) St. George Church - Topola
These holy places date back centuries. The buildings were preserved and are or have been restored in many instances. More than one church building or chapel often existed in a given area.
Cemeteries appeared well cared for, clearly identified by crosses as Orthodox Christian and often had extensive marble in use. Clearly the dead were well-remembered.
The churches and monasteries did not have pews. There were a limited number of stand-type chairs along the walls. Places to burn candles were readily observable and in great use. Stone was normally the material of use in construction.
Frescos and icons, generally very old, were upon the walls. More than one priest may be assigned to a particular church. Young monks and nuns were visible in the monasteries.
An interesting phenomena was seeing groups of school children departing from buses to visit monasteries. Oh that something of that nature would occur here in America!
The group was well received at each location. Thank God for the abundant blessings of this trip.