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Vespers and Slava

10 November 2009


St Nicholas Church just before the beginning of Vespers

On Saturday evening we celebrated Vespers at the Church of St Nicholas of Japan in Brixton, Johannesburg, followed by our family Slava.

Unfortunately our parish priest, Fr Athanasius Akunda, was not able to be present, as he bhad to attend a meeting in Nigeria, and his connecting flight could not get him back in time. But Fr Pantelejmon Jovanovic, of St Thomas’s Serbian Orthodox Church in Sunninghill kindly agreed to come to serve Vespers and the Slava, assisted by Deacons Nektarius and George.


At Vespers, during the singing of Psalm 103/104, the priest says the Vesperal prayers in front of the holy doors

The choir then sing Psalm 140

Lord I call upon Thee, hear me
Hear me O Lord…
Let my prayer arise in thy sight as incense
and let the lifting up of my hands be an evening sacrifice.

While this is being sung one of the deacons censes the church.

Then there is the entrance procession with the lighting of the lamps, with the clergy and altar servers goign round the church in procession, carrying lighted candles, and the ikons are censed, and the deacon censes the altar


The entrance at Vespers: Deacon Stephen Hayes, Deacon George Coconos, Priest Pantelejmon Jovanovic, Deacon Nektarius Ritson

while the choir sings the ancient hymn:

O gladsome light of the holy glory of the immortal Father
heavenly holy blessed Jesus Christ
Now that we have come to the setting of the sun
and behld the light of evening
we praise thee Father, Son and Holy Spirit
For meet it is at all times to praise thee
Son of God and giver of life
Therefore all the world doth glorify thee.


St Nicholas Church Choir

At the end of Vespers the priest (Father Pantelejmon) gives the blessing


Father Pantelejmon gives the blessing at the end of Vespers

The clergy come into the nave of the church, where a table is set up with things for the Slava and the family members gather round.



The clergy come to a table in the nave, where things are set out for the Slava

On the table is the ikon of the saint of the day. in this case St Michael and the Bodiless powers of Heaven. This is the day on which we were received into the Orthodox Church 22 years ago, and so we observe this as our Slava.


The table prepared for the Slava

On the right of the table is the Slava Kolach, a special loaf of bread to commemorate the living members of the family. On the left is Koliva, the main ingredient of which is boiled wheat, to remember the dead members of the family. There is a small jug with wine.


The priest blesses the Slava Kolach

The priest blesses the Slava Kolach, and then cuts it at the bottom, crosswive, and  pours wine into the cracks. Then the family, together with the priest and deacons, turn the bread, “walking” it on their fingers, while the choir sings the wedding hymn:

O holy martyrs who fought the good fight and have received your crowns
Entreat ye the Lord, that he will have mercy on our souls.
Glory to thee, O Christ God, the apostles boast, the martyrs’ joy
whose preaching was the consubstantial Trinity.

Rejoice O Isaiah, a virgin is with child
and shall bear a son Emmanuel
He is both God and man, and Orient is his name
Magnifying him, we call the Virgin blessed.

When this hymn is finished, the priest breaks the Kolach with the host, matching the halves so the top sides of the Kolach are on the outside. He then kisses the bread and offers it to the celebrants saying:

Priest: Christ is in our midst!
People: He is and always shall be.


The blessing of the Slava Kolach

At the end we sang “Many Years” for the family, and all those who had the names of angels — our son Raphael (Jethro), who took the photos, and members of the congregation Gabriel and Gabriella.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. 10 November 2009 8:24 am

    Looks a lovely service Steve. Coming from an evangelical anglican and a pentecostal background I have never experienced a service such as this but sometimes I get a glimpse of what I miss. I begin to see how much this benefits, holds together and even defines the unity of the local church, not just the larger body.

    Thanks for sharing that.

  2. 10 November 2009 2:07 pm

    Thanks so much for sharing this. The photos are wonderful. True, that a picture speaks a thousand words. God grant you many years.

  3. 10 November 2009 7:55 pm

    As a Christian I am delighted to find this site and will instantly add it to my favorites. The photos are absolutely beautiful….I have been looking for a church and honor my spiritual calling and I think you have given me inspiration….thank you so much.

  4. f. Andrei Kashinski (Russian orthodox priest) permalink
    11 November 2009 9:00 am

    Thank you so much for watching familiar faces – ponomar, at the cliros, among parishiers. Same icons… Like 16 years ago, when I was cordialy and hearty adopted there.
    Dear f. Stephen, please, tell my best regards and warmest gratitude to everybody, who remember me.
    And the mercies of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ shall be with al of you.
    Asking your holy prayers.

    • 11 November 2009 10:13 am

      Father bless!

      I am so glad that that you could join with us, even by seeing the photos! I was telling Deacon Nektarius about you the other day, saying that though our parish is small, more members have become clergy and monastics than from many bigger ones in our diocese, though some serve far away, in Russia, and America, and Greece, they can still feel that our small and humble community of St Nikolai is in some way home. Please continue to pray for us as we do for you.


  1. Farewell to Father Pantelejmon | Khanya
  2. Slava and Ruby Wedding | Hayes & Greene family history

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