The Soul Saturday before Holy Pentecost

***Nota Bene: Divine Liturgy this morning at 9:00 a.m.

****Father will be praying for the souls (blessing the graves) this weekend at the cemeteries: All Saints this morning beginning at 11am and tomorrow at St Lawrence at 12:30pm.

On this day, the Saturday before Holy Pentecost, we celebrate a memorial for all those who have fallen asleep since the ages in true worship and in the hope of everlasting life. The Holy Fathers established that on this Saturday that precedes Holy Pentecost, we observe the memory of all people who throughout the centuries died in the right faith, just as they ordered that this be observed on the Saturday before Meatfare Sunday. They did this moved by their love for mankind, so that all who for whatever reason did not have the usual benefit of individual memorial services might be included in this common memorial. According to tradition, the Fathers of the Church received this injunction concerning the memorial services from the Apostles, who themselves taught that the memorials performed on behalf of the reposed bring great benefit to those who have fallen asleep. (See Apostolic Injunctions, 8.42)

The Holy Fathers specified that we perform them today, because tomorrow we shall welcome the All-Holy Spirit and shall fervently be entreating the Lord for ourselves, that He send us His All-Holy Spirit to illumine us and strengthen us in the fear of God and in keeping the commandments and to guide us in obtaining eternal life. We shall also be praying for the deceased, that He give them rest in His lovely and longed-for dwellings. In praying for the dead, on the one hand, we show our love for our deceased fathers and brothers, and, on the other hand, we become more keenly aware of the vanity of this world, and thus we receive great benefit to our souls.

For nothing rouses the slothful to repentance better than the recollection of death. And nothing else brings us the recollection of death as well as the memory of our loved ones who have slept the eternal sleep. O Master Christ, grant repose in the dwelling places of the righteous to the souls of those who have preceded us in slumber, and have mercy on us and save us, for You alone love mankind. Amen. (Synaxarion of the Lenten Triodion and Pentecostarion, edited by Fr. David (Kidd) and Mother Gabriella (Ursache), HDM Press, River Junction, Michigan, 1999, pp. 228-229.)

This may have been a “Christianization” of a pagan custom. Spring was a time of release of the souls of children or maidens who had committed suicide or met a violent death. During rusalki these spirits were treated with pity and wreaths of flowers were offered to them. This feast was called rosalia in Latin and anthesteria in Greek and became associated with Pentecost because it was a spring feast. (George P. Fedotov, The Russian Religious Mind, Vol. I (Belmont, Massachusetts: Nordland Publishing Co.,1985), 18.)

All Souls Saturday

Everlasting life, promised in Holy Communion, is a central teaching of our faith. In the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed, which we recite in every Divine Liturgy and also frequently in the Divine Praises, says, “I expect the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.” It is interesting that here we say, “I expect” rather than “I believe.” This is because this life beyond death is not only a matter of faith but also a matter of hope. And both faith and hope are virtues beyond human power alone, but need also the grace of God. In a way, we do not understand this life beyond death, probably we can that just as a child in the womb does not understand what it is to live in the world.

Death is the breakdown of our secular time and space to eternity and boundlessness. We are as yet unable to comprehend or understand this. Jesus taught it would be different, “At the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage but are like the angels in heaven. (Matthew 22:30), and St. Paul cautions us, “So also is the resurrection of the dead …. It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body” (1 Corinthians 15:42.44). We do have analogous ways of thinking about death, when we pray in the Liturgy, “Grant rest, O Lord, to the souls of your departed servants in a place of light, joy and peace where there is no pain, sorrow, nor mourning.” We must be humble in our concepts of death, but still live in hope, for Jesus also said, “‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead but of the living” (Matthew 22:32). We also know that we will continue to be human, that is, have a body, as St. Paul says, a “spiritual body,” which we foresee already in our Lord’s resurrection. What is also undeniable is that we can pray for the dead, for no one of us dies already perfect, but we need to be purified of sin to be in the presence of the thrice-holy God.

The communion of saints tells us that we are one in Christ, and that we can pray for one another, and in this way not only help release our brothers and sisters in Christ but also ourselves from the bonds of sin. The souls of the faithful departed were always remembered on Saturday in our liturgical worship, because Saturday was the day that our Lord rested from all his works, after his death on the cross and before his glorious resurrection, for which we also hope.

All Souls’ Saturdays (SOROKOUSTY)

requiem candlesAll Souls’ Saturdays (SOROKOUSTY), February 18, March 11, 18, April 1, and then in Eastertime on June 3.
The Divine Liturgy is offered at 8:30 a.m.
Please give Father Iura the names of your deceased loved one. Place it in envelope.
Let us remember all our loved ones who have gone to their heavenly reward. Eternal Memory!
Note Well: The word Ukrainian word “Sorokousty” means “forty mouths” (sorok = forty; ust = mouth). Originally, this was a prayer service offered by forty mouths or by forty priests. Historically, families would honor their deceased by holding services for them in the cathedrals on the 3rd, 9th and 40th day after their death —with 40 priests celebrating the services. Today, Sorokousty is the service that honors the deceased and is offered during Lent.