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Question 46.
Father, Your blessing!


Our local Churches here often conduct memorial services (μνημόσυνα) during the Divine Liturgy on Sundays. To be more specific, these memorial services are conducted after the singing of «τό ὄνομα Κυρίου εὐλογημένον ἀπό τοῦ νῦν...» (Blessed is the Name of the Lord from this time forth and for evermore) and before the Dismissal. I have heard of the memorial services being conducted after the Gospel reading in the local Antiochian Churches. Also, I have noticed that memorial services do not seem to be conducted on Sundays in Cathedrals like those of the Annunciation in Athens and of St George in the Phanar.
I am a little confused with the different practices.Therefore I ask, when should memorial services be conducted (κατά τήν τάξιν) on a Sunday? As the Divine Liturgy is about life, Christ's conquering of death, should a memorial service be conducted after the «Δι' εὐχῶν» (By the prayers of our holy fathers…) and begin immediately next with the «Εὐλογητός ὁ Θεός ἡμῶν πάντοτε...» (Blessed is our God…)? What is the local custom of the Churches in Limassol?
 

With respect

Evangelos


 

Answer to Question 46.

Dear Evangelos,


You’re quite right to be confused. There are various practices from one national church to another and so we need to see how these came about. In older times memorials were conducted on Saturdays. In general all Saturdays are days which the Church has dedicated to the Martyrs and to the departed. This you can verify for yourself if you look at the Saturday matins services as found in the Paraklitiki (Oktoihos). But even on these Saturdays memorials were not conducted as they are today. A true memorial is offering the Divine Liturgy on behalf of the departed. People would bring the bread and wine and anything else needed for the Divine Liturgy to be served. The departed would be commemorated during the Proskomede service and again in the “Common Prayers” said after the reading of the Gospels and before the Great Entrance which as you mentioned your local Antiochian Churches do today. The memorials were not the annual memorials but for those recently departed. After the first year all the departed were remembered during the two Saturdays of the year which the Church has set aside as Saturdays for the Departed. The first is on Meatfare Saturday. It is the last Saturday on which we may eat meat before the Great Fast begins. On the following day, Sunday, the Church commemorates the Dread judgment of Christ, thus the Church prays for all that have departed in faith and in the hope of the resurrection, beseeching God, the righteous judge to show forth His mercy upon them before the universal judgment. The other day is the Saturday before Pentecost. The day of Pentecost is the day the Holy Spirit descended upon the earth to teach, sanctify and lead all people to eternal salvation. Therefore, the holy Church calls upon us to make a commemoration on the Saturday before the feast, that the saving grace of the Holy Spirit wash away the sins from the souls of all our forefathers, fathers and brethren, that have reposed throughout the ages and, asking that they all be united in the Kingdom of Christ.
How and when memorials moved from Saturday to Sunday is not clear but the main reason must be because Saturday is a working day and not convenient for families to come together and pray for their dead. The move to Sunday is clearly an “Economia” and as with all “Economies” they are not the ideal situation but a compromise. Probably the thought to place the memorial at the end of the Liturgy, in other words after the Communion, was to separate it from the Resurrection character of the Sunday Liturgy. But placing it at the end meant developing a separate service. Thus the service developed by taking the “Eulogitaria” from the Saturday Matins service and the funeral service and joining them to the Trisagion service said at the graveside. Thus the Memorials we now serve are in fact only Trisagia for the dead. Let’s now see from a theological point of view if it is correct to have memorials after Communion. The Divine Liturgy is the most perfect prayer that we can offer and which is offered to us. To offer other things at the end only diminishes what is perfect thus it is theologically wrong to offer memorials at the end of the Liturgy as it is also wrong to offer the prayers for the commemoration of a Saint’s day after the Liturgy which many Churches do. As for memorials on Sunday, it is totally out of character with the celebration of the Resurrection which we celebrate every Sunday. They compromise the Resurrection character of the Divine Liturgy and its eschatological dimension. For this very reason, during the Easter period, memorials are forbidden until after Thomas Sunday. The teaching of the Resurrection is that Christ has overcome death and has given life to all those who have departed in the hope of the future Resurrection. One cannot celebrate the joy and meaning of the Resurrection and then pray for the departed making the teaching of the Resurrection of no effect. In spite of this understanding most of the Orthodox Churches continue to offer memorial services at the end of the Sunday Liturgy. One reason as I have already mentioned is the “κατ' οἰκονομίαν” which as I have told you in another question is a concession or special consideration used for the good of someone’s salvation. Here the excuse is that on Sundays all members of the family can attend the service and even those who do not attend Church will make the effort to be present for the memorial of a loved one. Another reason, which I hesitate to say, but is the truth, is that memorials are a source of income for the Church. She relies on them as she does the commemorations for the feast days.
You ask: what is the local custom in Limassol? We have abolished the commemoration of names and the Blessing of Bread and Kolyva at the end of the Divine Liturgy. The Blessing of Bread is always done during Vespers and commemoration of the names of those who observe the feast are said during the Vespers petitions “Let us all say with our whole soul, and with our whole mind, let us say” and again during the Divine Liturgy during the Common prayers after the Gospel which again begin with “Let us all say with our whole soul, and with our whole mind, let us say.” At first, the people reacted negatively, thinking that the Priest was trying to abolish their reverent customs, but in time they came to accept the new rule and even embraced it as their established custom. Sadly we still continue with the Memorials at the end of the Liturgy except on the Great Feasts of the Lord and the Mother of God on which we forbid memorials for the departed. Abolishing the Sunday Memorials is a more difficult task and I cannot see it happening in the foreseeable future. I think the “economia” adapted by the Antiochian Church is the best possible compromise. By bringing the memorial to after the Gospel reading, which is still the part of the Liturgy we call the Liturgy of the Catechumen, it doesn’t come into conflict with the Liturgy of the faithful and we end the Liturgy with the joy of the Resurrection. Of course by moving the memorials to after the Gospel would mean that we would not sing the “Eulogitaria” or the other hymns of the Trisagion for the departed, but we would restrict ourselves only to the prayers. Recently our Bishop has asked us to encourage people to have their memorials on Saturdays, but this would not be practical for the village Churches that only serve on Sundays.
There are still two more things we should consider.
The first is that if we did move the memorials to Saturday there would be no difference as far as the teaching of the Resurrection is concerned. According to the teaching of our Church, the Divine Liturgy, on whatever day it is served is the Resurrection and Paschal mystery: the remembrance of the Saviour Christ rising from the dead. Thus if the memorials were to be held on Saturdays or any other day of the week the theological problem of having the memorials at the end of the Liturgy would still exist.
The second is that just because the Liturgy is our participation in the Resurrection and Ascension it doesn’t mean that we are forbidden to pray for the departed. Death does not cause a spiritual separation between the dead and the living, for Jesus is still the Lord of both groups. Together, these two groups, the Church in heaven often called the Church Triumphant and the Church on earth called the Church militant, comprise the one, whole, undivided Church, which Saint Paul calls The body of Christ (Eph.1:22, 23).
The Church is not only the visible congregation worshipping here on earth, but also the invisible congregation of the saints and the angels worshipping in heaven. The Church visible on earth lives in complete communion and unity with the whole body of the Church of which Christ is the Head. Our departed family members and friends are also members of this one body and just because they have crossed over to the other side doesn’t mean that they cease to exist or are no longer members of the Church of Christ.
Our Christian parents, grandparents, children, brothers, sisters, and friends live on with Christ after they die, and remembering the great unity that we still have with them as fellow-members of Christ's Body, the Church finds nothing in the Scriptures that would prohibit Christians from expressing love for and maintaining a sense of fellowship with those who have died. What better way do we have to express our love than to pray for them? And this we do at every Liturgy and even during the Pascal Liturgy. We pray for the departed from the very beginning and preparation of the Liturgy during the Proskomede where we ask God to remember those we have named and all our Orthodox fathers and brethren, fallen asleep in the hope of resurrection, of life eternal and fellowship with him. During the Liturgy we pray for the departed during the common prayers whether or not we have a memorial: “Again we pray for the blessed and ever-memorable founders of this holy Church [monastery] and for all our departed fathers, brethren, and Orthodox Christians everywhere who have fallen asleep.” But as we have already seen this does not come into conflict with the Resurrection character of the Liturgy because it is before the Liturgy of the Faithful. But we still continue to pray for the departed even after the consecration of the Holy Gifts. The priest prays: “Moreover, we offer unto Thee this reasonable service for them that have gone to their rest in faith: for our Forefathers, Fathers, Patriarchs, Prophets, Apostles, Preachers, Evangelists, Martyrs, Confessors, Ascetics; and for every righteous spirit in faith made perfect.” And “remember all them that are fallen asleep in the hope of resurrection unto life eternal: [and he remembers such as he will of the departed, pronouncing their names] and give them rest where the light of Thy countenance watcheth over them.”
We see therefore that the Church doesn’t forbid praying for the departed on any day of the year not even on Pascha. The only problem seems to be in the fact that after we have communed of the precious and life-giving Gifts, when we should be filled with the joy of the Resurrection, to then suddenly return our thoughts to the dead and begin again as though the Resurrection has not taken place.

With love in Christ
Fr. Christopher