Vespers and Slava
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.
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
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.
At the end of Vespers the priest (Father Pantelejmon) gives the blessing
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.
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.
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, 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.
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.