Celebrating Our Krsna Slava (Patron Saint) With Our St. Sophia Ukrainian Orthodox Seminary Family
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” John 13:34
With the gracious blessing of His Eminence, Metropolitan ANTHONY, Popadija Jan and I had the joy of sharing the celebration, on December 19th, of our Krsna Slava (Family Patron Saint) St. Nicholas of Myra, the Wonderworker. Our joy was enhanced by the presence of His Eminence Metropolitan ANTHONY, His Eminence Archbishop DANIEL, brother clergy and their families, and the Seminarians of our beloved St. Sophia Ukrainian Orthodox Seminary.
The celebration of the Family Patron Saint (Serbian: Krsna Slava) is predominant among, but not exclusive to, Serbian Orthodox (some Macedonians, and Romani in Serbia, also celebrate Krsna Slava). The exact origins of the celebration are unknown; it pre-dates Serbia’s most prominent saint, St. Sava I (his family, the Nemanich royal dynasty, celebrated St. Stephen, Archdeacon and Protomartyr), and is ascribed to the earliest Christian missionaries sent by the Byzantine Emperor Heraclius (AD 610 – AD 641), amongst the Southern Slavs. These missionaries found that, as well as the pantheon of national gods, each household had its “god” – its “Slava”: the patron of the household, celebrated and worshipped by the members of the household. As families accepted Orthodoxy and were baptized, the “Slava” was “baptized” as well – in place of the household god, the saint of the day that the family was baptized (Christened) became the patron of the household. Because of the integral tie to the baptism of the family, the “Slava” now became “Krsna Slava” – the “Christened Slava” – and is passed down to each successive generation along the male line.
The elements of the celebration are: The Kolach (Bread), Zhito/ Koljivo (Wheat), and Candle. The Kolach symbolizes our Lord, the God-man Jesus Christ – the Bread of Life (Jn. 6:35) and true Bread from Heaven (Jn. 6:58). As Our Lord is eternal, the bread is always circular (a circle has no beginning and no end). It is always made with yeast as our Lord is “Artos” (leavened bread) – a term used The Lord to describe Himself, as well as by the Holy Apostles and Holy Fathers to describe The Lord.
St. Nikolai (Velimirovich) of Zicha writes that, in the “Kolac” – Bread, the seven major Holy Mysteries of the Church are represented. The flour is made into dough using blessed water from Theophany (Baptism) and blessed oil (Chrismation and Unction). The Bread is symbolic of Christ, Who offers Himself for the remission of our sins (Heb. 9:28) (Holy Repentance). The celebrant priest (Priesthood) will bless the Bread with blessed wine (Eucharist). Finally, the priest and family will rotate the Bread counterclockwise three times - just as the Bridegroom and Bride, led by the priest, process counterclockwise during Holy Matrimony; the same verses being chanted.
The Zhito / Koljivo (Wheat) is offered as stated in the Prayer for its blessing: for the Glory of God, in honor of the saint, and in memory of those who have fallen asleep in the Orthodox Faith. Though their bodies rest as the grain of wheat that falls to the earth (Jn. 12:24), their souls are alive before God (Jn. 11:25) and in need of our love (Rom. 8:38) until the Day of Resurrection. The Candle is a reminder that we have “…received the light from the unwaning light…Christ Who is risen from the dead.” (Matins of Pascha); that we are to be “…the children of light…” (Jn. 12:36; cf. 1Thess. 5:5) and, in imitation of our Lord and our patron saint: “…let your light do shine before all men… (Mt. 5:16).
The celebration begins with the censing of the Kolac, Zhito, candle and all present. The priest then intones: “Blessed is our God…”, followed by the Trisagion and the Lord’s Prayer. The Troparion of the Saint is then chanted, followed by the Prayer for the Blessing of the Zhito / Koljivo. The priest then blesses the Kolac and the wine, elevating both together and saying: “We offer unto You, O Lord, this offering in glory and honor of (name of the saint); by his/her intercessions, have mercy upon us and save us.” The priest then cuts onto the back of the Kolac the sign of the Cross, reciting “In the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit”, as the incisions are made. The Cross is made on the back of the Kolac, as our Lord was crucified with His back to the Cross. Wine is then poured into the incisions by the priest, again reciting “In the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit”– reminding us of the Lord’s blood shed on the Cross for our salvation. The Zhito / Koljivo is blessed by the pouring of wine in the sign of the Cross in the Name of the Holy Trinity. The Kolac is then rotated counterclockwise by the family members and the priest, while the hymns, “O Holy Martyers…”, “Glory to Thee, O Christ our God…” and “Rejoice , O Isaiah…” are chanted.
The priest and the head of the household then break the Kolac into two portions. The priest then venerates the two portions, together, and says: “Christ is in our midst”, offering the other side of the portions to be venerated by each family member, who reply: “He is, and ever shall be.” This is our affirmation of our continuing experience of the Holy Apostles: “…how He was known to them in the breaking of the bread.” (Lk. 24:35).
The intercessory verses are then chanted: “Glory…Through the intercessions of our holy (name of the saint), O Most Merciful One, cleanse from the multitude of our transgressions. Now and ever…through the intercessions of the Theotokos…” concluding with: “Have mercy upon us, O God, according to Your great mercy, and according to Your abundant compassion, blot out the multitude of our transgressions. Today the grace of the Holy Spirit has gathered us together, and taking up Thy Cross let us say: ‘Blessed is He Who comes in the Name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest!’”
The celebration concludes with a short Litany of Fervent Supplication and Dismissal.
In answer to the most common inquiry about the Krsna Slava – no, you do not have to be Serbian to have your own Krsna Slava!
Our heartfelt thanks to Their Eminences, and to all of our St. Sophia Ukrainian Orthodox Seminary for adopting us as family, and allowing us to adopt them as family!
Fr. Milorad and Popadija Jan Orlic
Photos by Subdeacon Maksym Zhuravchyk