My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE.
THE SATURDAYS OF THE SOULS
The Orthodox Church has appointed common memorials at least twice a year: On the Saturday before Meatfare Sunday and on the Saturday before the great Feast of Holy Pentecost. Also, it has become the tradition to have memorial prayers on the Saturday before Cheesefare Sunday and the Saturday of the First Week of the Great Fast when the Church remembers mainly the miracle of the KOLYVA (boiled wheat) with the holy Great Martyr Theodore of Tyron. Various local Orthodox Churches have common memorials on other days as well. The Russian Orthodox Church, for example, has two common memorials for Orthodox soldiers who died for the Faith and the fatherland: one is on the 29th of August (the Beheading of Saint John the Baptist), and the other is on the Saturday before the 26th of October (Great Martyr Demetrios).
The memorials, undoubtedly are beneficial for both the living and the dead. Petitions made on behalf of the dead during the Divine Liturgy and the sacred memorials are addressed to Christ because we hope and believe in His love for man and His compassionate mercies. Indeed, the Disciple of love who leaned on His breast at the Mystical Supper encourages us to do this with the following words which embolden us: "And this is the boldness which has toward Him, THAT IF WE BE ASKING ANYTHING FOR OURSELVES ACCORDING TO HIS WILL, HE HEARETH US. AND IF WE KNOW THAT HE HEAR US, WHATSOEVER WE MAY BE ASKING FOR OURSELVES, WE KNOW THAT WE HAGE THE REQUESTS WHICH WE HAVE ASKED FROM HIM" (John 5:14-15). It is pleasing to God that we pray for the dead. He is the Source of Love and Mercy "WHO WILLETH ALL MEN TO BE SAVED AND TO COME TO A FULL KNOWLEDGE OF THE TRUTH" (1 Timothy 2:4). This, according to Saint John of Damascus, is what especially pleases and gladdens the compassionate Lord, for each one readily to turn to help his neighbor. Our Merciful God wants very much that all of us be assisted by everyone "BOTH WHEN LIVING AND AFTER WE DIE." For the Lord, Who is more than good, "THIRSTS AND DESIRES, SEEKS AND ENCOURAGES" OUR SALVATION, AND HE "REJOICES AND IS GLAD" WHEN MAN IS NOT DEPRIVED OF "HIS DIVINE GIFTS." Moreover, Saint John of Damascus adds, "THE APOSTLES, WHO SPEAK FOR GOD, AS WELL AS THE SPIRIT-BEARING FATHERS, HAVE DECREED WITH INSPIRATION AND IN A MANNER PLEASING TO GOD BOTH THE ANNUAL LITURGIES, PRAYERS AND PSALMODY, AND THE MEMORIALS OF THE DECEASED; THE CONTINUES TO THE PRESENT TIME WITH THE GRACE OF OUR LIVING GOD. The commemoration made during the unbloody Sacrifice, THE MEMORIALS ON THE THIRD, NINTH, AND FORTIETH DAY, AND THE ANNUAL MEMORIALS ARE MAINTAINED BY THE CHURCH AND CONTINUE WITHOUT ANY OBJECTION, AS ALSO THE GOD-CHOSEN AND PIOUS PEOPLE MAINTAIN FIRMLY AND WITHOUT COMPLAINT. ALL THIS OF COURSE MEANS THAT THE PRACTISE IS RIGHTEOUS IN THE SIGHT OF THE LORD.
Saint John Chrysostom assures us that "IT IS A GREAT HONOR TO HAGE YOUR NAME COMMEMORATED AT THAT TIME DURING THE DIVINE LITURGY. When the emperor is seated upon his throne, and someone requests something of him, he may grant it. Thus, someone may gain something and be beneficial by it. But when the emperor rises to leave, one will speak only in vain. IT IS SO AT THE AWESOME HOUR OF THE DIVINE LITURGY. AS LONG AS THE IMMACULATE MYSTERIES, THAT IS, CHRIST THE KING, IS UPON THE HOLY ALTAR TABLE, IT IS FOR ALL A GREAT HONOR TO BE COMMEMORATED. AT THAT TIME THE AWESOME MYSTERY IS BEING PROCLAIMED AND CONFESSED PUBLICLY THAT GOD WAS SACRIFICED, OFFERING HIMSELF, FOR THE WHOLE WORLD. TOGETHER, THEN, WITH THAT GREAT MIRACLE, THE Church Militant reminds God OF THE SINNERS AND PETITIONS HIM TO GIVE THEM REST WHERE THE LIGHT OF HIS COUNTENOUS SHINES."
COMMEMORATION OF THE DEAD
Saint Epiphanios states: "With regard to commemorating the names of the dead, what could be more useful, more proper, and wonderful? For such practices cause those present TO BELIEVE THAT THE DEPARTED LIVE AND ARE NOT IN A STATE OF NONEXISTENCE, BUT RATHER THAT THEY EXIST AND LIVE WITH THE MASTER. It also causes that the holy kerygma be proclaimed, that there is hope FOR THOSE BRETHREN FOR WHOM WE PRAY, WHO ARE, AS IT WERE, IN A DISTANT LAND. Indeed the prayer made IN THEIR BEHALF brings profit–though in truth IT DOES NOT DO AWAY WITH THE WHOLE ENTIRETY OF THEIR OFFENCES–BECAUSE IN THIS WORLD, WE OFTEN DO WRONG INVOLUNTARILY AND VOLUNTARILY, AND THIS ACT PRAYING ABOUT THE SINS OF THE REPOSED CLEARLY POINTS OUT THAT WHICH IS MORE PERFECT. FOR, WE MAKE MEMORY OF BOTH JUST AND SINNERS.
Saint John of Kronstadt asks, "How do we maintain this connection with the spiritual world, with the Heavenly Church? By calling upon them in prayer, by keeping the festivals instituted in their honor; and by the Church services. For the Church IS ONE, under ONE Head–Christ. How do we maintain this connection with the departed? By MEANS OF PRAYERS FOR THEM, ESPECIALLY WHEN UNITED WITH THE OFFERINGS OF THE BLOODLESS SACRIFICE. How do we maintain UNION WITH THE LIVING CHRISTIANS? Again, by MEANS OF PRAYER FOR THEM ALL IN GOD’S TEMPLE, AND ALSO AT HOME."
Saint Symeon of Thessalonike says, "There is nothing more profitable for him who has fallen asleep than THE DAILY LITURGIES, THE BLOODLESS SACRIFICE. Nor is there anything that causes so much joy, illumination, and union with God; FOR THEN, THE VERY BLOOD OF THE LORD IS SHED ON BEHALF OF US, THE WORTHLESS ONES, AND THE DIVINE BODY IS SACRIFICED… What, indeed, IS MORE BENEFICIAL THAN FOR CHRIST TO BE SACRIFICED IN OUR BEHALF? The PARTICLE taken out of the prosphora at THE AWESOME SACRIFICE, AND THE COMMEMORATION MADE THEN OF THE ONE WHO HAS DEPARTED, UNITE HIM TO GOD AND INBISIBLY GRANTS HIM TO PARTAKE AND TO PARTICIPATE IN HIM. For this reason not only the brethren, THOSE WHO HAVE IN REPENTANCE DEPARTED IN CHRIST, ARE GREATLY BENEFITTED , COMFORTED, AND SAVED, BUT ALSO THE SACRED AND DIVINE SOULS OF THE SAINTS GREATLY REJOICE IN THIS… AND THROUGH THIS MOST SACRED SACRIFICE THEY MORE PURELY AND LUCIDLY ARE UNITED IN CHRIST AND COMMUNE AND MORE TRULY PARTAKE OF HIS GIFTS.
The Church Militant (the earthly Church) and the Church Triumphant (Heavenly Church) CONSTITUTE THE ONE, INDIVISIBLE AND UNITE CHURCH OF CHRIST. In the Proskomide, we see that upon the Sacred Paten, where the Lamb is placed, that to the right is the portion of the Theotokos, whereas to the left of the Lamb are the portions of the Angelic Orders and all the Saints. At the bottom are the portions of the living and the dead. One may see the ENTIRE Church, both the Heavenly and the Earthly, SYMBOLICALLY PRESENT, (Source: The Great Synaxaristes of the Orthodox Church)
(To be continued)
(Glory Be To GOD
Saint John Chrysostomos
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With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia (Ministry),
The sinner and unoworthy servant of God
+ Father George