[Archived News] Tuesday January 29, 2008

Good Shepherd, St. Sava, Let Us Praise Him!
St. Nicholas Serbian Eastern Orthodox Church

Steelton,Pa - Is there any event in the Serbian Orthodox Church that can transport adults to their childhood more quickly and more profoundly than the observance of St. Sava’s Day? You may have forgotten long ago the words of the Serbian deklamacija you had to memorize – whether it was 4 short lines when you were 4 years old or 4 long verses when you were 8 years old – but you have never forgotten the uplifting restrains of the Hymn to St. Sava that echoed in your head and your heart long after the program was over.

What a special blessing for Serbs everywhere when St. Sava’s Day is on a Sunday as it was this year. At St. Nicholas Serbian Eastern Orthodox Church in Oberlin-Steelton, Pennsylvania, there was a special excitement that started even before the Divine Liturgy as children and their families came early with plans to stay late. The flowers in front of the holy icon of St. Sava were offered to all of the St. Nicholas Church School children by the Mothers’ Club with loving wishes for a Srecna Krsna Slava and God’s blessings. The Mothers’ Club has been tireless and generous in their support of the Church School and the entire Church community is deeply grateful.

Our dear spiritual father, the Very Reverend Stavrofor Srboljub Jockovic, celebrated the Liturgy with the SSS Marinkovich Choir singing the responses. You could tell who the “old-timers” were because they were anticipating the Choir’s singing the opening verse of Uskliknimo S Ljubavlju while Fr. Srboljub received communion, and they sang along – some of them remembering all the verses while others hummed along with just as much satisfaction. Singing the Hymn to St. Sava is another one of the clear occasions when we know we share our Serbian heritage as Orthodox Christian stewards, bound to Christ by our ties to His blessed shepherd, St. Sava.

As is the practice at St. Nicholas Church, Sunday School students are the Slava Kumovi, an honor shared this year by Christian Gunther and Jordan Nikolic on behalf of all of the children and youth. They turned the kolach with Fr. Srboljub, Nicholas Govelovich (tonsured reader and Sunday School Superintendent) and Jevgenija Radanovic (Assistance Sunday School Superintendent and teacher). Regrettably the Kuma, Alana Tepsich, was unable to join in because of illness. When Fr. Srboljub exclaimed “Christ is among us,” many people responded, “He is and always shall be!” It was another sign of the faith and unity of the St. Nicholas Church families.

In his brief homily, Fr. Srboljub reminded us the Gospel reading for the day is the one used for the Holy Hierarchs. It is the reading from John 10:9-16 about Christ as the Good Shepherd. He underscored the example St. Sava offered as a shepherd of the Serbian people. St. Sava gave his life to Christ and worked tirelessly to bring the people of Serbia to Orthodox Christianity. By his inspired wisdom, leadership, patience and humility, the Serbian Orthodox Church was established and St. Sava was our first archbishop. In his bulletin message, Fr. Srboljub called us too to be shepherds for each other, tending to each other, making certain none of us loses the way, and together, following the Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ.

Following the Liturgy and picture-taking of the Sunday school students and their teachers with Fr. Srboljub, we moved to the Church Social Hall for lunch and the St. Sava program. Thank you to Sylvia Sevenack and her kitchen team for another delicious lunch, including everybody’s favorite, “mac ‘n cheese” as a side-dish that clearly got the attention of the children who had been eyeing the dessert tables. Even the babas and djedos were asking for “seconds!” By the time we got to dessert, the Sunday School students had changed into their costumes and the program was about to begin.

In his introductory remarks, Nicholas Govelovich sadly but proudly announced the program was being dedicated to the memory of Zarko Mrkona who spent all of his 81 years as an active participant in every facet of church life, including his service as the official greeter at Sunday services. Zarko fell asleep in the Lord on Thursday and will be missed by all of us who pray for his eternal memory

The St. Sava Youth Choir and all of the Sunday School students assembled on the stage and sang Usklilkimno S Ljubavlju and “America the Beautiful” under the most capable direction of Nina Radanovic. Each verse of the Hymn to St. Sava was first sung in English by the very talented Anney Mierski and then the entire student body sang in Serbian…or what passes for Serbian for 3 year-olds. Many family members sitting in the audience unabashedly sang along. This was just the beginning, however, and the next special treat was a play recounting St. Sava’s birth as Prince Rastko, his journey to Mt. Athos, the family’s appeal for his return, and his decision to take the monastic vows. The play was adapted by Sunday School teacher Lenny Tepsich for use by the St. Nicholas Church School from a manuscript available on-line through the St. Sava Monastery.

All the Sunday School students participated in some way in the play with featured roles taken by Nathan Mierski (Stefan Nemanja), Guiliana Carricato (Ana Nemanja), Philip Werner (Prince Rastko), and Marina Radanovic (Commander of the Army). Kyranna Radanovic, Aleksandra Nikolic, Jelena Lojpur, and Andrea Matovich served as narrators. They were all Oscar-worthy performances – even the kindergarten student who fell asleep and couldn’t return to the stage for the final scene. Our Church community is blessed to have such a truly dedicated Sunday School faculty that includes, in addition to Nick Govelovich, Jevgenija Radanovic and Lenny Tepsich, Maria Bowers, Andrea Gunther, Luke Jacobs, Paula Werner, Nikki Lewis, and Emily Fithian.

Next up on the stage was the St. Sava Junior Choir, led again by Nina Radanovic who has helped these young singers learn to sing three-part harmony in English and Serbian! Their singing is inspiring, especially when they sang the most beautiful Troparion to St. Sava in Tone 8:

O guide of Orthodoxy and blessed teacher of virtues,
Purifier and enlightener of thy homeland,
Beauty of monastics,
Most wise Father, Holy Sava,
By thy teaching thou didst enlighten thy people,
O flute of the spirit, pray to Christ for our souls.

When the Junior Choir left the stage, the audience was encouraged to take a quick break and come back for yet another special treat – and surely it was. The St. Nicholas Junior Tamburizans, as presently constituted, performed for the first time in public. The group includes three generations of players in the case of the Radanovic family, two generations of the Werner and Mierski families, and other talented representatives of our youth and the more mature members of our church family. They come together each Thursday evening for lessons and practice with the patient and talented Mark Kresho. They played several of the old favorites including Tamo Daleko and had the audience singing along in relaxed pleasure.

Those of us who have participated in the St. Sava observance for more decades than we care to acknowledge are always ready to remember our time at the Slava Liturgy and on the stage. We remember our parents, grandparents and great-grandparents helping us to memorize our “parts” and then cheering for us with boundless energy and laughter. Surely some of the folks attending today’s celebration remembered some years back when Alex Govelovich was Slava Kum. Today he carried his infant son, Lincoln Alexander, around from table to table visiting with family and friends. We are heartened to expect to see that little boy in the altar and on the stage in a few years. It is a way we continue to keep faith with our past and with our future and especially with our dear St. Sava.

Uskilkinimo s’ljubavlju, Svetitelju Savi!
Dr. Beverly Yanich