My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE. Ο ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΕΝ ΤΩ ΜΕΣΩ ΗΜΩΝ! ΚΑΙ ΗΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ.
THE ORTHODOX CHRISTIAN TRADITION OF MEMORIAL SERVICES/SATURDAY OF SOULS
The Church's Prayer for the Dead
Our Holy Orthodox Christian Church, like a loving and caring mother, daily, at every divine service offers up prayers for all her children who have departed for the land of eternity. Thus, at the midnight service troparia (hymns) and prayers for the departed are read, and they are commemorated at the concluding ektenia. This is so also at Apodeipnos (Compline) service. At Orthros (Matins) and Vespers (Esperinos) the departed are remembered by name at the Augmented Ektenia, "Have mercy on us, O God..." They are commemorated three times during the Divine Liturgy: at the Proskomedi, at the ektenia following the Gospel, and after the consecration of the Precious and Holy Gifts when "Meet (Axion...) it is truth..." is sung: "For the Holy Prophet, Forerunner and Baptist John; for the holy, glorious, and honorable Apostles; for Saint (of the day), whose memory we celebrate; and for all Thy Saints, by whose supplication do Thou, O God, visit us. Be mindful also of all those who have fallen asleep before us in the hope of resurrection unto life eternal (Priest mentions whom he will of the departed). Grant them rest, O our God, where the Light of Thy Countenance shines upon them." Furthermore, one day of the week is set aside for prayers for the dead-Saturday, on which it is customary to have a service for the dead, unless it coincides with a feast, if such is to be served on that day.
The Third Day
We commemorate the dead on the third day firstly, because those who have departed had been baptized in the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, the One God in Three Persons, and had kept the Orthodox Christian faith they received at holy Baptism; secondly, because they preserved the three virtues which form the foundation of our salvation, namely: faith, hope and love; thirdly, because man's being possesses three internal powers--reason, emotion and desire--by which we all have transgressed.
The Ninth Day
On the Ninth Day, our Holy Orthodox Christian Church offers prayers and the Bloodless Sacrifice for the departed, and his soul be accounted worthy to be numbered among the choirs of the saints through the prayers and intercessions of the Nine Ranks of Holy Angels.
The Fortieth Day
From the earliest antiquity our Holy Orthodox Christian Church has correctly and devoutly made it a rule to commemorate the departed in the source of forty days, and on the fortieth day in particular. As Christ was victorious over the devil, having spent forty days in fasting and prayer, so the Holy Church likewise, offering for the departed prayers, acts of charity and the Bloodless Sacrifice throughout the forty days, asks the Lord's grace for him to conquer the enemy (Satan), the dark prince of the air, and that he receive the Heavenly Kingdom as his inheritance. Saint Macarius of Alexandria, discussing the state of man's soul after death of the body, says: "After the second adoration, the Master of All commands that the soul be led to hell and that it be shown the places of torment there, the various parts of hell, and the diverse tortures of the wicked, in which the souls of sinners ceaselessly wail and gnash their teeth. The soul is borne about these various places of torment for thirty days, trembling lest it itself be imprisoned therein. On the fortieth day it is once again borne aloft to adore the Lord God, and it is at this time that the judge (Christ) determines the place of confinement proper to it in accordance with it deeds. This is a great day for the deceased, for it determines his portion until the Dread Judgment of God (The Second Coming), and therefore, our Holy Orthodox Christian Church correctly commands that fervent prayers be made for the dead on this day."
The first Universal, Ancestral Saturday is on Meatfare Saturday. It falls during Meatfare Week and before the last day on which one may eat meat before the Holy and Great Fast begins. The following day, Sunday, commemorates the Dread Judgment of Christ, and the Church prays for all that have departed in faith and hope of resurrection, beseeching the Righteous Judge (Christ) to show forth His mercy upon them on the very day of impartial retribution at the Universal Judgment. The establishment of this Saturday dates from the first years of Christianity. Among the prayers during the divine services on this Saturday, we hear one for all "that from Adam until today have reposed in piety and correct faith," of every calling and every age: "for all that have drowned, that battle hath mown down, that earthquake hath swallowed up, that have been slain by murderers, that fire hath consumed, that have been food for the wild beasts, birds and serpents, that have been struck by lightning, and have perished in freezing cold, that have fallen by the sword, that the horse hath trampled, the rock struck on the earth covered up, that have been slain by deadly potion or poison, or have chocked on bones...", i.e., all that have met untimely deaths and have been left without a proper funeral.
Thus does the Church care for all our fathers, brethren and relatives.
"Early Christians expressed their concern for the repose of the souls of their beloved by works of charity and love and by personal and communal prayers. The Apostolic Constitution recommended that part of the possessions of a dead person be distributed to the poor in his/her 'memory'. Saints John Chrysostom, Jerome, Tertullian and others, also recommend alms giving (Philanthropic giving) in memory of the dead although they believe that his and other good works for the repose of the soul of the dead also benefit the doers. Another kind of memorial was the gathering on the graves of the dead or in the church, and the serving of a meal known as 'makaria' (meals in memory of) that are still held by many in the church hall following burial.
Kollyva (Boiled Wheat)
Kollyva are closely connected with memorial services for the benefit of one's departed. Their origin goes back to the time of Emperor Julian the Apostate when in 362 AD he withdrew from the market in Constantinople food-stuffs prescribed for the first day of the Great Lent, Clean Monday (Kathara Deftera), and ordered that they be substituted with 'polluted sacrificial food' (sprinkled with blood from animal pagan sacrifices) in an attempt to enforce upon the Christians paganism of which he was an ardent supporter. But Saint Theodore suggested to Patriarch Evdoxios that he ordain boiled wheat (already called Kollyva) as a substitute to Lenten food-stuffs taken from the market by Emperor Julian. Since then kollyva, having become connected with celebrating the memory of saints, were brought to church and were blessed by the priest during memorial prayers known as Memorial Services. (Dictionary of Greek Orthodoxy by Fr. Nicon Patrinacos).
Please note: It is very important that all of you, the Orthodox Christians and parishioners of St. Andrew, give the Orthodox baptismal names of your deceased loved one's to your priest so that I will include them in the memorial services on the Saturdays of Soul. It is more than important, it is your Christian duty to do so. Let us not become selective in what we like and don't like about our Church or our Holy Tradition. You are either an Orthodox Christian, faithful and obedient to our Faith, or you are not an Orthodox Christian period.
All of our parishioners, men and women alike, must learn to prepare the prosphora bread for the Divine Liturgy, the bread for the Blessing of the Loaves Service (Artoklasia), the Saint Basil's bread (Vasilopeta), how to prepare Kollyva (boiled wheat) for your friends and relatives. These are Orthodox Christian traditions and not simply a cultural custom. These traditions must be passed to your children and grand children and not be lost.
The Kollyva are symbolic of the resurrection of the dead on the day of the Second Coming of Christ. Saint Paul said, "What you sow does not come to life unless it dies" (1 Corinthians 15:34), and Saint John, "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). Thus, as the wheat is buried in the soil and disintegrates without really dying but is later regenerated into a new plant that bears much more fruit than itself, so the Christian's body will be raised again from the very corruptible matter from which it is now made; however, it will be raised not in is precious fleshly substance but in an incorruptible essence which "will clad the mortal body with an immortal garment", in the words of Saint Paul (1 Corinthians 15:53). The Kollyva (boiled wheat), then, symbolize the Apostolically rooted hope in the resurrection of the dead as the only eventuality that gives meaning and attains the longed perfection on the part of the individual who takes his life to be a divinely ordained meaningful living forever."
MY BLESSING TO ALL OF YOU
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.
"Glory Be To GOD For All Things!" -Saint John Chrysostom
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God