- Liturgical Ministries -
In the Eastern Orthodox Church, altar servers assist the higher clergy during services. They might carry the cross, candles or liturgical fans in processions and entrances; maintain the censer, ensuring it has enough live charcoal, loading it with incense and handing it to the priest or deacon when required; preparing the hot water (zeon) in time for it to be added to the chalice at the Divine Liturgy; prepare the antidoron for the people to receive after Holy Communion; and any other necessary tasks so that the celebrant need not be distracted during the service. An altar server is vested in the sticharion only.
In the early Church, before someone could be a server he had to be tonsured. Nowadays, in many places it is not necessary to be tonsured before one is allowed to serve (since the tonsure must be done by a bishop or higher-ranking priest). The rites of "Setting Aside a Taper-bearer" and "Tonsuring a Reader" have now been combined into one service. It is the custom in some traditions, such as the Greek Orthodox or Melkite Catholic, to allow tonsured altar servers to also vest in the orarion, worn crossed over the back like that of a subdeacon but with the ends hanging parallel in front. Among the Russians, however, the orarion is not usually worn by servers, but only by duly ordained subdeacons and deacons, with the exception that laymen who are blessed to perform some of the functions of subdeacons may sometimes be blessed to wear the orar.
Before vesting, the server must fold his sticharion and bring it to the priest for him to bless. The priest blesses and lays his hand on the folded sticharion. The server kisses the priest's hand and the Cross on the vestment, and then withdraws to vest. Any server who has not been tonsured must remove the sticharion when he receives Holy Communion, because communicants receive the Mysteries according to their order within the Church (so tonsured clergy vest while laymen remove their vestments). Before divesting at the end of the service, the server must receive the priest's blessing.
The minimum age varies by local circumstance, but boys must be mature enough to carry out their duties without disrupting the sanctity of the altar. Although it is common in North America for boys to act as altar servers, in some places this practice is virtually unknown and these duties are always carried out by adult men. In other places where altar servers are normally boys, adult men will not vest if called upon to serve. In yet other places, boys are not permitted to serve in the Altar on reaching their teens on the grounds that the young man is no longer innocent enough to serve in the altar.
Altar servers, regardless of age, are subject to all the normal restrictions for those not of higher clerical position. Anyone who is bleeding, or has an open sore, is not permitted to enter the altar. They may not touch the altar table or anything on it under any circumstances, nor the prothesis without a blessing. They may not touch the sacred vessels, the chalice and diskos (paten) at any time. They may not stand directly in front of the altar table or pass between the front of it and the iconostasis, but must cross between the altar and the High Place if they need to move to the opposite side.
Women may not serve in the altar except in women's monasteries. In that case they do not receive the clerical tonsure (though they must be tonsured nuns), and do not vest in the sticharion, but wear their normal religious habit for attending services, and serve at a certain distance from the actual altar table. Normally, only older nuns may serve in the altar; but the Hegumenia (Abbess) is permitted to enter even if she is younger.
Chanters and Choir
The vast majority of the Divine Liturgy and other worship services are sung a cappella. Members of the laity are invited to be chanters and members of the choir.
The chanter (or singer) and the choir are the mouth of the Church, i.e., of the society of believers who are praying in church; while singing prayers and hymns, he pronounces them not only for himself, but in the name of all who are present in church, and as all who are praying pronounce their prayers through the mouths of the singers, these last also are the mouth of the Church. Chant unto our God (Ps. 46:7), the Holy Church invites them, but chant ye with understanding (Ps. 46:9).
The chanters and the choir stand before the One before Whom the angelic ranks stand and walk with fear, covering their faces! You sing praises to the One of Whom all the heavenly powers ceaselessly proclaim: Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord of Sabaoth! Understand how high the work of the chanter and choir is. Understand and admire the mercy of God, Who allows even earthly sinners to bring praise to Him! This heavenly work is the work of an angel and not of a man having unclean lips, as the holy Prophet Isaiah expressed, having heard heavenly singing: Woe is me, for I am pricked to the heart; for being a man, and having unclean lips, I dwell in the midst of a people having unclean lips (Is. 6:5). And you, infirm, weak, and sinful, have been entrusted with such a great work. This talent which has been entrusted to you by the Lord, is a talent which you must bring forth and increase by employing it with understanding. With all humility and fear towards God say mentally to your soul: Behold, my soul, the Master entrusts thee with a talent: receive His gift with fear; and thou hast heard the condemnation of him who hid his talent, O my soul: hide not the word of God, but proclaim, sing of His glory, increase the gifts of grace entrusted to thee, and thou shalt enter into the joy of thy Lord (Stichera on Lord, I have cried and on Lauds, Great and Holy Tuesday).
The Lord is not slack concerning His promises (II Peter 3:9), (i.e., will not delay to fulfill them) to come again and exact an account from His slaves, whom He entrusted with His goods, His gifts and talents; take care, that you not hear the dreadful condemnation: Take from her My talent, which she didnt wish to bring forth with great labor, and cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness (cf. Matt. 25:28, 30). The great labor of a chanter and choir consists in this, that all the strengths which have been given to him from the Lord's talents he unremittingly applies to the glorification of God. Sing to the glory of the name of God, sing not only with lips and voice, but sing with heart, sing with mind, soul, will, desire, zeal—with all your being. This is what it means to chant with understanding. The singing of the chanter and choir passes over to the hearts of those who are praying; if the singing proceeds from the heart, it meets the heart of the listener and so influences him that it is able to rouse him to prayer, to incite reverence even in those minutes when the heart itself is distracted and hard. Often it happens that those who enter the church without any eagerness toward prayer, from compulsion or from propriety, begin to pray fervently and tearfully, and leave the church in quite another frame of mind, in a spirit of tender feeling and repentance. Such a revival is produced in them by the magnificent service and fine singing. The chantors and choir strive with all their strength to concentrate attentively on the words which they pronounce; pronounce them in such a manner that they come from the depth of their souls, which is singing together with their lips. Then the sounds of the vivifying current of their hymn will pour into the souls of those who hear them, and these souls, being raised from the earthly to the heavenly, having laid aside all earthly care, will receive the King of Glory Who is borne in triumph by the Angelic Hosts. Will you believe my words if I tell you from the narratives of the Holy Fathers that not only the human soul can be softened and moved by good spiritual singing, but even animals, those speechless creatures, somehow instinctively bow before it?
Have you ever chanced to read the life of the Athonite monk St. John Kukuzelis? There are mentioned the following two events from the life of this great singer. Once he was pasturing the monasterys herds of sheep and goats. (Having entered one of the Athonite desert monasteries, John hid his position in the imperial court, calling himself a simple shepherd, and thus was sent to pasture the monasterys herds in the desert.) While sitting near his flocks at pasture, John began to sing the divine songs he had formerly sung in the imperial choir. His melodious voice flowed in the open desert, and John surrendered his whole soul to the singing, resting in the thought that he was alone in the desert and no one was hearing him. Meanwhile, his sheep and goats left off grazing and surrounded their singing shepherd: as if holding their breath, they stood motionless before him, directing their eyes to him as though fascinated by his angelic singing. Behold deeply spiritual singing, coming forth from the depths of the soul and conscious mind! It is able not only to inspire the rational soul and lift it towards its Creator, but to touch even speechless and irrational animals.
Once, according to custom, John sang the Akathist to the Mother of God together with other singers on the right cliros. After the vigil he sat down in a stall (a monks seat) in front of the icon before which they sang the Akathist, and being weary he slumbered lightly. Suddenly a gentle, sweet voice woke him with the words: Rejoice, O John! John jumped up; before him stood the Mother of God in the radiance of heavenly light. Sing and do not cease singing, she continued, and for this I will not forsake you! At these words the Mother of God placed in Johns hand a gold coin and became invisible. Do you see of what great honors those zealous singers are thought worthy while still here on earth, who not only with their lips, but also with heart and mind sing of the Lord and His Most Pure Mother! What a wonderful and great gift—the gift of a voice and the ability to sing! They were given to us for this, that with them we might both glorify the Lord ourselves, and incite others to do the same.
In the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Reader (in Greek, ἀναγνώστης anagnostis; in Church Slavonic, Чтец Chtets) is the second highest of the minor orders of clergy. This order is higher than the Doorkeeper (now largely obsolete) and lower than the subdeacon. The reader's essential role is to read the Old Testament lessons ("parables") and the Epistle lessons during the Divine Liturgy, Vespers and other services, as well as to chant the Psalms and the verses of the Prokimen, Alleluia and certain antiphons and other hymns during the divine services. Due to this fact, it often falls to the reader within a parish to construct the variable parts of the divine services according to the often very complicated rules. This can lead to a very intimate knowledge of the structure of and rules pertaning to the services. There is a special service for the ordination of a reader, although in contemporary practice a layman may receive the priest's blessing to read on a particular occasion.
Immediately before ordination as a reader, the candidate is tonsured as a sign of his submission and obedience upon entry into the clerical state. It is a separate act from ordination. The tonsure is performed only once, immediately prior to the actual ordination of a reader, which the ordination rite refers to as "the first degree of priesthood". However, it is not the means whereby a person becomes a reader. Readers, like subdeacons, are ordained by Cheirothesia - literally, "to place hands" - whereas Cheirotonia - "to stretch out the hands" - is practised at the ordination of the higher clergy: bishops, priests and deacons. It is through ordination - not the tonsure - that one is made a reader or subdeacon; this is highlighted by the fact that the tonsure is performed only once and is not repeated before the ordination of a subdeacon. The confusion has arisen by the common reference to a man being "tonsured a reader" which, while widespread, is not technically correct. The office of a reader subsumes that of a taper-bearer, and the service of ordaining a reader mentions both functions.
Readers are permitted to (and should in accordance with his particular church's practices) wear a cassock as a sign of his suppression of his own tastes, will, and desires, and his canonical obedience to God, his bishop, and the liturgical and canonical norms of the Church, although many do so only when attending services (again in accordance with particular church practices). Readers will generally not wear a clergy shirt, and may not perform any of the duties reserved for a deacon, priest or bishop.
After being tonsured, the reader is vested in a short phelon , which he wears while reading the Epistle for the first time. This short phelon is then removed (and never worn thereafter) and replaced with a stikhar, which the reader wears thereafter whenever he performs his liturgical duties. This practice is not universal, however, and many bishops and priests will allow a reader to perform his function dressed only in a cassock or (if a monk) a riassa . Often, a bishop will decree what vesting practice he wishes to be followed within his own diocese. Byzantine icons often show readers and church singers wearing a stikhar-like garment (more loose and flowing than the modern stikhar) and a pointed hat with the brim pulled out to the sides. This distinctive garb is now obsolete.
Bell ringing Holy Resurrection Orthodox Church is done by members of the laity. The Church invited individuals and families to participate in this important work.
Bells are a distinctive part of Orthodox Christian divine services. Bells are used for a number of purposes throughout the liturgical cycle, such as a summons for the faithful to divine services and as an announcement to those not present in church of specific moments in the services.
In the early centuries of Christianity, the Church was often persecuted and did not have the opportunity to openly call the faithful to services. The faithful were notified of times of services by personal contact or by the presiding clergy at the end of the services. After the persecutions ceased, various means of announcing services arose, but the pealing of bells appeared to become the preferred method. While bells are known from antiquity, the first use of bells in a Christian context was in western Europe. Tradition, although probably inaccurate, ascribes the invention of bells in the late fourth century to St. Paulinus, the bishop of Nola in Campania, Italy. However, there is no record in Europe of the use of bells religiously until the early seventh century. Bells came into use in the eastern Greek Church in 865 when the Doge of Venice gave twelve large bells to Emperor Michael. These bells were hung in a tower near Hagia Sophia Cathedral.
Bells were introduced in Russia almost simultaneously with the Baptism of the Rus in 988, coming to the eastern Slavs through western Europe. These bells were generally small and used in small sets of only two or three bells. By the fourteenth century, however, bell foundries had come into existence that produced very large bells. Large bells in Russia weighed up to 144,000 pounds. The largest bell then cast is the Tsar Bell which stands at the base of the bell tower of Ivan III Vasilevich (Ivan the Great) in the Moscow Kremlin. This bell weighs 288,000 pounds, but was never used, because it cracked in a fire when the scaffolding used to hang the bell burned.
Operation of bells in eastern Europe differed from that in the West. In the East the dapper strikes against a stationary bell. In the West the whole bell is swung while the clapper is stationary.
During Orthodox church services, bells are used at specific times. Bell ringing is used to announce and summon the faithful to divine services, to express the joy of the divine services of the Church, and for those not present at the services to announce the times of important moments in the services. Often the tolling of a bell is used to announce the death of important church and civil personalities.
In settings not pertaining to church services, bells are used to signal special occasions and announce assembly of faithful and citizens. In monastic settings bells may be used each day to awaken the monks and signal the daily routine of monasteries. Also, ringing of bells had been used often to alert inhabitants of towns and cities of approaching armies and attackers. A storied example of such a use is the large bell at St Sophia Cathedral in Novgorod, Russia, that was used to warn of the approach of Ivan the Terrible's army to the city. Angry at its use, the tyrant had the bell punished by having one of the ears, used to hang the bell, cut off so that it could no longer be hung and rung.
The Ushers of Holy Resurrection Orthodox Church greet people as they arrive at church. They also welcome visitors, provide assistance, care for the proskinitaria (candle areas), and administer the collection of offerings. These faithful ushers perform a valuable service for our church.