Why Do We Pray for the Dead on Demetrius Saturday?

Why Do We Pray for the Dead on Demetrius Saturday?

November 03, 2021

Great Martyr Demetrius of Thessaloniki

Demetrius parental Saturday is a day of special commemoration of the dead in the Russian Orthodox Church. This is a memorial Saturday before the remembrance day of the Great Martyr Demetrius of Thessaloniki (October 26 / November 8).

Saint Demetrius was born into the family of a Roman proconsul in the Greek city of Thessalonica. Before reaching adulthood, Demetrius lost his father who was a Christian in secret. After the passing of his father, the emperor Galerius appointed the young man as proconsul of the Thessaloniki region. The ruler instructed Demetrius to protect the land from the barbarians and to persecute the local Christians. Instead of following the emperor's instructions, he began to openly teach the inhabitants of the city the true faith.

When the emperor became aware of this, his anger was boundless. He came to Thessalonica, eager to deal away with the disobedient servant and his followers. Demetrius prepared himself for a martyr's death. Having distributed his wealth among the poor, he spent his days in fasting and prayer. By order of the governor, the saint was thrown into prison and severely tortured. St Demetrius accepted martyrdom in 306.

painted icon of st demetrius of thessaloniki

A painted icon of the Great Martyr Demetrius of Thessaloniki made in our Convent

Believers secretly buried the body of the great martyr. A hundred years later, his holy remains were found incorrupt. St Demetrius acquired his name "the Myrrh-bearer" after fragrant myrrh miraculously began to exude from his reliquary in the 7th century.

The History of Establishing Demetrius Saturday

The special remembrance of the dead on Demetrius Saturday was established by the Grand Duke Dimitry Donskoy . Having won the famous victory over Mamai on the Kulikovo field on 8 September, 1380, Dimitri Ioannovich, upon returning from the battlefield, visited the Trinity-Sergius monastery.

Earlier, the venerable Sergius of Radonezh , abbot of the monastery, blessed him for the battle with the infidels and gave him two monks from among his brethren, Alexander Peresvet and Andrei Oslyabya. Both monks fell in battle and were buried near the walls of the Church of the Nativity of the Most Holy Theotokos in the Old Simonov Monastery.

More than 250 thousand soldiers who fought for their Fatherland on the Kulikovo field never returned home. A memorial service was held In the Trinity Monastery for Orthodox soldiers who died in the Battle of Kulikovo. Since then, the Saturday before November 8 (the feast day of St Demetrius of Thessaloniki) became in Russia the commemoration day of not only the soldiers who laid down their lives for their faith and Fatherland, but also of all the departed Orthodox Christians.

The faithful spend St Demetrius parental Saturday visiting the graves of their deceased relatives, attending memorial services and litias, served in churches and cemeteries, and arranging memorial meals.

The Importance of Commemorating the Dead

Some people think that prayers for the dead are in vain and that nothing can be changed after a person dies. In the well-known agrapha, the Savior says, "In whatsoever I find you, in that will I judge you." Having said that, our prayer for the dead is still the biggest help that we can offer those who are no longer with us. Having separated from the body, the soul loses its free will and can no longer repent of its sins or do good deeds. The immortal souls of the dead need not a coffin, nor a grave monument, much less a memorial table. What they do have a great need for is constant prayer.

demetrius saturday

St John Chrysostom says, “There is a way to lighten the punishment of a deceased sinner. If we offer frequent prayers and give alms for him, then, in spite of this person's unworthiness, the Lord will hear us."

Having such evidence of a miraculous change in the fate of the departed through the prayers of the living, we must do everything possible so that our relatives and friends are not left without prayer.

Commemorating the dead includes not only our private prayer at home, but also the church commemoration, giving alms and doing good deeds in memory of the deceased.

Our Convent accepts online prayer requests for eternal commemoration.

This means that the submitted names will be remembered at the Psalter, read incessantly day and night for as long as our Convent exists.

Use this LINK to send us the names of your loved ones that you wish to include in our prayer list for eternal commemoration. We will pray for them with love and faith.

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