SOURCE

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Dearly departed Bishop Hrizostom Vojinovic (1911+1989) “Orthodox Missionary” Volume 237-238, Number 5-6, 1997 Published as the “Newsletter” of the Serbian Orthodox Church

Deep meaning of celebrating Slava (family patron) lies in what is the highest ideal of our people - an ideal of a holy man, and that is: a man free from the injustice, vanity, a man filled with love towards God and people, a man fearless of death, in a word: soulful Man! When these Saints become considered as ideal throughout the Earth, then humanity will be happy. Hence, our people are the bearer of an advanced ideals and salvation – Evangelic ideals. Rember you teachers who preached the word of God; watch the end of their life and look upon Their faith. (Hebrews 13:7)

Serbian Slava [family patron - Saint], or baptismal name
In the words of St. Paul, Christian family is a small church (Phil. 1:2). As every Christian church is dedicated to one Saint, who is celebrated as its protector, so the Serbian families place themselves under the auspices of a Saint, to whom they invoke as to a representative of their prayer before the Lord, and who as a protector of the family is respected and regularly celebrated from generation to generation, from father to son, each year on Slava. Baptismal name - Slava is a wonderful expression of our Christian Orthodoxy that is deeply rooted in the Serbian folk soul. Slava is a particular feature of the Serbian people, because it is celebrated only among the Serbs (as a whole). The aim of these lines is to provide people with a proper understanding and more worthily celebration their Slava.

What is Slava?
Our ancestors received Christianity in the ninth century and, instead of the former idolatrous faith, they accepted the belief in one God. After being enlightened by Christian teachings and rejecting the idolatrous sacrifices, they prayed to the Lord for health, happiness and prosperity of their home and of themselves. Although they prayed to God every day, our ancestors chose one day of the year on which they gave thanks to God for all the goodness which He has provided them. On that day they celebrated the memory of the Christian Saint, whom they especially respected as their protector, whose Christian life was an example which they sought to follow. Our ancestors invoke that Saint, who would be their representative and interpreter of their prayers in front of Lord. For their defenders and prayors before God, our ancestors took the Most Holy Mother of God, or Christian Saints on whose day they were baptized as Christians (and they celebrated the memory of their family Saint on the day of Saint’s birth, physical death or on the date when Saint’s relics were transferred). Man enlightened with the Christian doctrine has come to an understanding that of God, who rules the world, he should not be afraid nor pray with fear as long as he lives according to God’s commandments. Not out of fear but out of love a man speaks to God and celebrates the memory of the Saints in order that, following their blissful and God-pleasing life, he can become worthy of all the gifts that through God's grace he receives.

The custom of sacrifices, acquired in antic times, did not immediately and easily disappear from the lives of newly baptized Christians. Missionary activity of the Greek and the Latin Church has achieved only partial success among the newly settled peoples of the Balkans. They have failed to fully Christianize polytheistic Slavic masses. Path for true and reasonable adoption of Christianity was slowly prepared. Although they adopted Christianity, many still continued to offer sacrifice to the defenders of their home and their families - Christian Saints - such as before, at the time of idolatry. (Cattle, which was intended as a victim for the Saints, was brought to the church where it was slaughtered, and its flesh served for the feast. Many people continued practicing this custom for a long time). It was only St. Sava’s movement, deeply Christian and national at the same time that played a decisive role in the final Christianizing of Serbs. St. Sava and his disciples and missionaries amongst the Serbian people, energetically approached an Evangelic enlightenment of Serbs. That was the last and decisive stage of Christianizing the Serbian people. Missionary activity of St. Sava’s Church, active in all areas of a national life, manifested primarily in the fight against remnants of polytheism amongst people. This included the celebration of Slava. The former offering of the sacrifice became forbidden, as well as organizing of such feasts at the church. The purpose of the new provisions was to eliminate all the polytheistic customs. It was determined that the memories of Saints can be celebrated in the Church only according to the Christian principles, such as brining various fruits

of the earth can be brought for blessing and not for offering sacrifices and feasting. Thus, St. Sava's church has a decisive importance in the creation of Slava, in a manner according to which it is celebrated today. The origin and development of today's Serbian Slava must be viewed in a general as part of Saint Sava’s activities. Saint Sava Serbian Church has managed to create today;s Slava [Patron Saint celebration] as an exclusively Serbian-Orthodox, national and religious family celebration. The creators of Slava, as it is celebrated today, therefore, are St. Sava and his immediate disciples. Hence the fact that only Serbs, who are constantly under the influence of the St. Sava’s religious teachings since the thirteenth century, celebrate Slava. Slava is, therefore, a result of missionary activities of St. Sava’s Church, a form of its struggle against idolatry, for the full Evangelization of people in medieval Serbia. Educated by their first archbishop and his followers, the Serbian people have celebrated Slava for centuries according to St. Sava’s teaching, and should continue to do so.

It is mentioned, that the Slava celebration practiced in its previous (idolatrous and paganic) way (as opposed to the current Christians Orthodox way of celebrating) was a custom not only present amongst the Serbian people, but also amongst other Orthodox nations. But others substituted the celebration of Slava [family patron Saint] with the celebration of their birthdays, or days of those Saints whose names they bear. Birthday and namesday celebration is derived from Slava (Slava is also celebrated by Bulgarians, Romanians and Albanians, but not in a manner according to which Serbs do). Slava was constantly celebrated only by Serbs regardless where they lived, and not just by the Orthodox Serbs. Slava was always celebrated by Serbs who were of Roman Catholic denomination. (in places like Boka, Konavle, Herzegovina, Dalmatia and Slovenia) and by those Roman Catholics whose ancestors were Serbs. Hence the popular saying that it arose: "Where is Slava, there is a Serb(ian)."