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Why and How We Commemorate Our Dead in Prayer

Meatfare Saturday - Remembrance of the Dead, Reminder for the Living

commemoration of the dead

On the day before Meatfare Sunday, we commemorate all our departed from the beginning of time. We pray for our dead, and it is for a reason. There is no death, Jesus Christ has conquered it. Our death is only a transition from one form of being to another. But after separating from the body, our soul has no power over its condition, the prayer of the living becomes its only comfort. The spiritual connection between the living and departed members of our Church is grounded in prayer.

The Meatfare Saturday is also called parental because we always begin our commemoration with prayers for our departed parents. There are six parental Saturdays in the church year, of which the Meatfare Saturday is one. The other five are the Trinity and Saint Dimitrius Saturdays, and the second, third, and fourth Saturdays of the Great Lent.

On these days, Orthodox Christians leave prayer notes with the names of their deceased. It is also customary to bring meals that are consecrated at the church and distributed to the willing. Anyone who takes the food will add their personal prayer to the commemoration of the departed at the church

Also on a parental Saturday, we prepare Kutiya, or Kolivo, a meal made from boiled wheat grains mixed with honey. To grow into a new crop, the grain needs to lie in the soil to decay. Likewise, the bodies of the dead are interred so that they would rise for eternal life in their time.

As we pray for our dead, we remember that all the now living will enter eternal life when their time comes. We also realise how vain and fragile our earthly lives are, how finite our worldly comforts and wealth, how small are many of our daily concerns. We can take none of them with us to eternity. Our joys and sorrows intertwine, our health is vulnerable to illness, and our life can stop abruptly at any moment. Our time on earth is short and flies past quickly. Days and years go by before we notice it.

As we read in the Scripture, «Everyone is a liar» «there is no one on earth who does what is right and never sins.» We are sinners,   and we will be brought to answer for our sins. But we all have a chance to repent and reform while we are still on earth. As we commemorate our departed, let us also not forget to live our earthly lives on earth with dignity and make good use of our time.

February 25, 2022
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