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In a blessed falling asleep – grant, O Lord, eternal rest…

Author: Fr. Aleksandar Todorovski

The life of the believer does not end with bodily death. It is after the earthly life, which is filled with numerous torments and temptations, that the true, spiritual and blessed life begins for all the faithful and pious children of God. That is why St. Apostle Paul advises the Thessalonians: instead of crying, let them pray, perform religious services, and give alms. Crying and mourning do not benefit the deceased, but constant prayer does, especially for the first 40 days after physical death. Because of that, it is the duty of all the bereaved to remember and pray for the deceased. The Church established special days for that, such as: THE THIRD, THE NINTH (seventh), THE FORTIETH DAY, then at SIX MONTHS, A YEAR, TWO, THREE… Prayer for the deceased is always welcome. The more prayers, the better for the soul of the deceased. Prayers are never unnecessary.

In addition to the days we have mentioned, i.e. the third, the ninth, the fortieth, the Holy Church prays at every service, both for the living and for the deceased, through which it sets an example for the living to pray more often for their loved ones, relatives. especially to pray on Saturday (Sabbath), a day designated by the Church for the commemoration of all the saints and the dead. Sabbath is a Jewish word and means rest. The Church dedicates this day to the memory of the souls of all who have passed from the earthly to the afterlife, offering prayers for eternal peace and joy in God.

In addition to the daily prayers and the Sabbath, there are also special days in the year dedicated to the memory of the dead, when prayers are made for them. They are:

THE MEMORIALS

Saturday before Meatfare Sunday (one week before Forgiveness Sunday);

Pentecost – Saturday before Pentecost;

Mitrovdenska – Saturday before St. Demetrius of Solun, the Great Martyr.

On those days, according to the liturgical order, Liturgies and memorial services are served in the temple for the departed. Thus, the Orthodox Church invites the living to prayerfully remember those who are physically asleep, but with their souls alive in Christ.

Memorial prayers are made in front of the grave of the departed with the participation of a priest. Let’s not just light candles and water the grave with tears, without prayers. The prayer, the wheat, the wine and the bread – that is the most necessary. The soul does not need physical food, but spiritual food, which is PRAYER. The Holy Church of God has wisely determined these days so that we can give that food to all the departed. The deceased souls of our parents, relatives, friends, comrades, brothers and sisters…, since death, are not able to strive for their salvation. What they can’t do there, we here can give them the food they can’t live without. The prayer offered for them is the same as the rain is for the earth thirsty for water. Let’s use the opportunity that God and the Most Holy Church give us, to remember all our deceased brothers and sisters in Christ who are the reason for our current existence.

Immersed in heartfelt prayer, the mourners stand silently by the graves of their loved ones, eagerly awaiting the future meeting with them. The souls of the deceased receive enormous benefit and help from sincere prayers combined with giving alms to the poor in their memory, and above all, their mention in the Proscomidia.

The church is a meeting place for all believers in Christ, dead and alive! We who are still in our bodies and those who have left their bodies are all one Church, one organism in Christ. So just as we, the living, constantly take care of each other, talk, help each other, and comfort each other, so our departed ones constantly ask us to remember them, to continue to love them, to offer our prayers for them, to cherish hope in Christ the Lord for them.

Christ himself says: “I am the resurrection and the life; Those who believe in me will live, even though they die;” (John 11:25). He is the Door of passage, He is our passage, our Passover. “God is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living, for in Him all live.” In fact, the deceased are some of the most alive members of the Church, they have more life in them than we ourselves.

Regarding prayer for the dead, St. Athanasius the Great says: “If someone who is pious has died and is already scattered in the air, do not stop lighting a lamp and candles at his grave, calling on Christ God, because this is acceptable to God and compensates a lot of giving. If the deceased is sinful, you will contribute to his sins being forgiven. If he was righteous, his reward will be increased. After all, the one who contributes gifts to such people also participates in the reward, because he shows love for the salvation of his neighbour, just as the one who anoints another with myrrh, causes a pleasant smell to come out of himself” (Synaxar on Meat-Fare Saturday).

Saint John Chrysostom, on the other hand, says: “There is still, indeed there is, a possibility if we want to lighten the punishment of the deceased sinner.” If we often pray and give alms for him, even if he was unworthy in himself, God will hear us. When for the sake of the apostle Paul he saved others and for the sake of some he spared others, how will he not do the same for us?”

Thus, the holy fathers call us to always pray and do good deeds for the repose of the souls of the departed. Calmly, let us turn our prayerful gaze to the deceased children of the Holy Church, our neighbours, who, filled with hope in the mercy of God, left this world, moving to the other, the spiritual reality that we do not see, but feel so strongly. Let us prayerfully beg from Our Lord, that He will see to it that our closest fathers, brothers and sisters are settled in the place where the righteous dwell in peace.

May God forgive all baptized souls, and may their memory be eternal. “Memory eternal” is not a meaningless and empty phrase, and it does not refer to man, it is not a call to man to remember man forever. Man should be immortalized, and He Who is Eternal by nature is God. And God in His Divine Mind should remember all our departed souls. So “Memory eternal” is our call to God. May He, the All-Merciful, remember all our deceased, but also keep us in memory.

Remember, Lord, all our Orthodox fathers and brothers who died in communion with You with the hope of resurrection and eternal life, for all our departed parents, ancestors, relatives, brothers and sisters in spirit, comrades, friends, for those who have fallen defending the faith and fatherland, and for all Orthodox Christians who lie here and everywhere.

May the Merciful Lord, be merciful to the souls of all the departed, give them rest in the bosom of Abraham, and have mercy on us, for He is good and Lover of Mankind!

Memorial service at the gravesite.

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