Holy and Great Lent: Memorials: Saturdays of the Souls

Repose of St Cyril, Equal of the Apostles and Teacher of the Slavs

My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,


Saturday is the day which the Orthodox Church has set aside for the commemoration of Orthodox Christians departed this life in the hope of resurrection and eternal life. Since the Divine Liturgy cannot be served on weekdays during Holy and Great Lent, the second, third and fourth Saturdays of the Fast are appointed as Soul Saturdays when the departed are remembered at Liturgy.

In addition to the Divine Liturgy, kollyva (boiled wheat mixed with raisins, nuts, parsley, sesame, etc.) is blessed in church on these Saturdays. The kollyva reminds us of the Lord's words: "Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit" (St. John 12:24). The kollyva symbolizes the future resurrection of all the dead. As Saint Symeon of Thessaloniki (+ Sept. 15) says, man is also a seed which is planted in the ground after death, and will be raised up again by God's power. Saint Paul also speaks of this (1 Cor. 15: 35-46).

It is also customary to give alms in memory of the dead. The Angel who spoke to Cornelius testifies to the efficacy of almsgiving (philanthropy): "Your prayers and your alms have ascended as a memorial before God" (Acts 10:4).

Memorial services for the dead may be traced back to ancient times. Chapter 8 of the Apostolic Constitutions recommends memorial services with Psalms for the dead. It also contains a beautiful prayer for the departed, asking that their voluntary and involuntary sins be pardoned, that they be given rest with the Patriarchs, Prophets, and Apostles in a place where sorrow, suffering, and sighing have fled away (Isaiah 35:10). Saint John Chrysostom mentions the service for the dead in one of his homilies on Philippians, and says that it was established by the Holy Apostles. Saint Cyprian of Carthage (Letter 37) also speaks of our duty to remember the martyrs.

The Holy Fathers of the Church also testify to the benefit of offering prayers, memorial services, Liturgies, and alms for the dead (St. John Chrysostom, St. Cyril of Jerusalem, St. John of Damascus, etc.). Although both the righteous and those who have not repented and corrected themselves may receive benefit and consolation from the Church's prayer, it has not been revealed to what extent the unrighteous receive this solace. It is not possible, however, to transfer a soul from a state of evil and condemnation to a state of holiness and blessedness through the Church's prayer. Saint Basil the Great points out that the time for repentance and forgiveness of sin is during the present life, while the future life is a time for righteous judgment and retribution (Moralia 1). Saint John Chrysostom, Saint Gregory the Theologian, and other Patristic writers concur with Saint Basil's statement.

By praying for others, we bring benefit to them, and also to ourselves, because "God is not so unjust as to forget your work and the love which you showed for His sake in serving the saints..." (Hebrews 6:10). [Source: The Orthodox Church in America]


The Saturday of the Dead (The Saturday before the Sunday of the Last Judgment)

Vespers on Friday Evening


"O ye faithful, remembering today by name all the dead from all the ages who have lived in piety and faith, let us sing praises to the Lord and Savior, asking Him fervently to give them in the hour of judgment a good defense before our God Who judges all the earth. May they receive a place at His right hand in joy; may they dwell in glory with the righteous and the Saints, and be counted worthy of His Heavenly Kingdom.


By Thine own Blood, O Savior, Thou hast ransomed mortal men, and by Thy death Thou hast delivered us form bitter death, granting us eternal life by Thy Resurrection. Give rest then, o Lord, to all those who have fallen asleep in godliness, whether in wilderness or city, or the sea or land, in every place, both princes, priests and bishops, monks and married people, of every age and line, and count them worthy of Thy Heavenly Kingdom.


Through Thy rising from the dead, O Christ, death rules no longer over those that die in faith. Therefore we pray fervently: Give rest in Thy courts and in the bosom of Abraham to those Thy servants from Adam to this present day who have worshipped Thee in purity, our fathers and brethren, friends and kin, all who in different ways have offered faithful service to Thee in this life and now have gone to dwell with Thee, O God; and count them worthy of Thy Heavenly Kingdom.



The Grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God and Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.

With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God

+Father George