My Journey in Serving God – Brian Bankovich
My name is Brian Bankovich and I am an altar server (acolyte) and a cantor for St. Michael’s Byzantine Catholic Church, Pittston. I have been at St. Michael’s parish since 2005 when Father Michael Krulak welcomed me to both serve and cantor. My home parish is St. Nicholas Byzantine Catholic Church in Swoyersville. I have been an altar server for over 32 years and a cantor for 17 years. I started serving at St. Nick’s under Father Michael Mondik, a former pastor.
I also joined the choir under cantor Mr. Paul Dzurisin and continue to sing and cantor with him today. I have a Bachelor of Music degree in Music Education, K-12 with instrumental emphasis, from Mansfield University.
Serving for me at the altar as a young boy was very challenging, but I had many others to look up to, such as the many older altar servers we had at the time and also a parish vocation, Father Michael Popson [who was a seminarian at the time]. Also, I credit my CCD teacher Kathy Slavish for guiding me in the right direction and my late fraternal grandmother Ethel Bankovich. My grandmother was very helpful to me as a young boy when I would play church and have my own vestments, altar, censer, chalice and communion. I would even hear “confessions” and give a short homily! Of course all of this was “pretend”.
I find it very rewarding to know that I am at the altar serving God and asking for his forgiveness and guidance. It’s an awesome experience serving next to the tabernacle and behind the iconostasis (icon screen). Every duty a server does during a service, whether a Liturgy (Mass), wedding, baptism, funeral, or any service is very spiritual and Holy.
How Altar Servers “Serve”
Servers are required to wear a stikharion and orarion in some cases. These vestments can go over a cassock which can be black, red, or white. The orarion, if worn, is to be crossed over the shoulders and is on top of the stikharion which can be any of the following colors: gold, white, red, black, purple, blue or green. Usually gold or white is common, depending on the Liturgy or type of service. The other colors vary. Usually red is for funerals and certain Holy Days. Black is for Good Friday services; purple for Lent, blue during feasts for the Mother of God (Theotokos), and green for Pentecost.
The main duties of the altar server are to assist the priest and deacon. Servers can hold a candle, liturgical fans called ripidia, a holy cross, gospel book, water vessels, holy veil, and cadillo or the censer. Servers also prepare the hot water used with the Holy Eucharist and have it ready for the deacon or priest. Servers assist the deacon and priest during the Divine Liturgy with the “Little Entrance”, the reading of the gospel book, and during the “Great Entrance” procession with the gifts for consecration.
The servers are allowed to enter and exit the icon screen through the deacon doors, the two side doors on the far left and right. Only the priest or deacon can enter through the center doors (Royal Doors) of the icon screen or cross in front of the altar.
Why We Serve
Being an altar server and cantor has been, and is very special to me. I’m very proud of my heritage and being Byzantine Catholic. Our Byzantine faith varies in Liturgy, theology, spirituality and discipline, but remains Catholic in union with Rome and our vicar, the Pope. I believe highly in Catholic tradition – the set of principles outlining a world view that demands change. Our faith requires personal conversions through the guidance of the Holy Spirit – as we grow spiritually as Christians and respond to the call of God in Jesus Christ.
As an altar server, I feel close to God as He helps me grow spiritually and guides me to everlasting life! Also in the Eucharist that is the focus of the Liturgy and the Lord’s Supper is the center of our lives as Christians. As we read in Scripture, “unless you eat the Flesh of Son of God and drink His Blood, you have no life in you”.
Meaning and Purpose
I cannot imagine my life without God in it. It would be very hollow and meaningless! I, as a Christian and server am hungry for answers God has revealed to us through His Word in the Scriptures and through Jesus Christ. Our faith makes more sense than anything else in this world today, including all the changes we see, the confusion and conflict. I am very much honored to be an altar server and assist not only at St. Michael’s but at other Byzantine churches locally and also some out of the area. God is the source of everything that exists! All that exists depends on Him for its power to be. God is not three people, but three centers of being – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Invitation to Others
The main purpose of our lives on this earth is to be partakers of the grace of the Holy Spirit through prayer, scripture reading, fasting, self-discipline and love for each other. Basically, following God’s commandments! I encourage all able males, both young and old, to examine your conscience and visualize yourself at the altar serving God in this life.
Your reward will be greater in heaven, eternal – everlasting life!
Glory to Jesus Christ!