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What is Slava, and how to prepare for it

One of the most distinguishing traits of Serbian Orthodox Christians is their slava. Slava is word which means celebration. In our pagan past, Serbs had patron gods of their homes. However, when they accepted Orthodoxy, they replaced those gods with Saints of God so that they may protect them. Initially people would choose their own slava but after they chose it, their slava was transferred from father to the son. 

Slava is an extension to the liturgical celebration. The bread which we offer in honor of our Saint reminds us of the Body of Christ that is offered in the liturgy; and the wine that is poured on our bread, should remind us of the blood of Christ. We take that bread back home and we give it to others and, in a way, we act as priests in our own home. Some Serbs respect the tradition of never sitting while they are serving their guests. In the same way, a priest does not sit when he offers the bread and wine to be blessed and consecrated as the body and blood of Christ in the Church.

Since our Slava is first and foremost a liturgical celebration, the best way to prepare for slava is to talk to your priest and have confession and receive communion. The divine liturgy invokes all the saints of all ages to gather around those who partake of the body and blood of Christ. If we, celebrating St. Luke the Apostle (for instance), do not take communion on the day he is celebrated how are we united to him? If we are just spectators of the liturgical celebration, we are not celebrating anything.

There is a custom amongst our Serbian people to invite our priest to cut the slava bread at our home. This is perfectly fine ONLY IF we have attended the liturgy already and took communion for our slava. Having a priest at your house to cut slava bread without you participating in the liturgical celebration of the feast day is not the best practice. In some instances, if someone lives far away from their parish Church this can be understandable but the best practice is to be present at the liturgy first.

When it comes to what prepare for the slava blessing, it is our Serbian tradition to prepare both koljivo and bread! There are some parts of Croatia where people would bring only koljivo. However, bringing only bread is not the practice present. We offer koljivo for those who departed this life in our family and bread in memory of the Saint celebrated.

All in all, here is the most comprehensive preparation for slava guide:

1.     A few days before slava, nurture the Spirit of the coming feast at your house by talking about the Saint you celebrate and talk about his life.

2.     Make sure to contact your priest and schedule confession and talk about communing on the day when your slava is celebrated (if you are one of those who partakes of communion regularly and comes to confession this does not necessarily apply)

3.     Plan on attending the liturgy, on time, in honor of the saint you celebrate. Being late at the liturgy (regularly!) shows disrespect to the feast day and the sacrament itself.

4.     Bring both your slava bread, and koljivo to the church to be blessed. 

5.     Partake of the Holy Communion with your family. 

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