SATURDAY - SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 23rd: Meatfare Sunday. Commemoration of Dread Judgement of Christ.
Beloved brothers and sisters!
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. 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 supplications 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.
This Saturday is the first Saturday devoted to souls of all those who have reposed in the hope of resurrection (followed by two more Saturdays who also are called Saturdays of souls). It falls during Meatfare Week and before the last day on which one may eat meat before the Holy and Great Fast begins. This Sunday we commemorate 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.
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 almsgiving 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.
Kollyva (boiled wheat with nuts, raisins, and sugar) are closely connected with memorial services for the benefit of one's departed. The Kollyva is 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).
So, this coming three Sundays (February 23rd, March 1st, and March 8th), we will commemorate all our deceased loved ones with special commemoration services after the end of Liturgy. It would be blessed for you to bring handmade kollyva at the Church. And if someone wants to have a special service of the deceased loved ones at the grave, please call me though, to arrange it.
With many blessings.
Fr. Gregory Stamkopoulos
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