There is a special and ancient order in the Orthodox Church called the Eternal Commemoration on Psalter. What is this order about, who can apply, and why do we commemorate people while reading Psalter? Read further to discover these answers.
Eternal Commemoration on Psalter is a form of an exclusive monastic prayer which was developed in the Church at the end of the 4th, beginning of the 5th century. The prayer can be carried out only in monasteries, not in parishes.
Eternal Commemoration on Psalter, also known as the Sleepless Psalter, is called sleepless because of the continuity of the reading of the psalms day and night. The Psalms with the names of people commemorated are read 24\7 by the monastics of the Convent.
The order comes from the Holy Tradition which tells us that Angels and Saints abide in continuous praise of God in Heaven. The order of the Sleepless Psalter was first carried out by a monk named Alexander in the monastery he founded on the banks of the Euphrates River at the end of the 4th century.
The entire Psalter (150 psalms) is divided into twenty sections called kathismas. Each kathisma (‘sitting’ in Greek) is divided into three staseis (‘standing’ in Greek). After reading the first and second staseis during the Eternal Commemoration order, a prayer is offered up for the living. After reading the third staseis, the sisters pray for the deceased Orthodox Christians.
Saint Elisabeth Convent prays Eternal Commemoration on Psalter. This is such a great way to make sure that your loved ones, both deceased and living, will always be commemorated.
Sisters take turns reading certain psalms at a certain time of the day or night and pray for those, who are to be commemorated eternally. Reading takes place inside the church in a special place.
The Psalter is one of the most ancient liturgical Holy books of the Old Testament. It was written over several centuries by the holy prophet and king David, as well as some other people.
The Psalter was the basis of the worship in the Old Testament Church and occupies a huge place in the divine services and rituals of the New Testament Orthodox Church as well. Its importance, both for the life of the Church in general and for the individual life of every Christian in particular, cannot be overestimated.
Here are some quotes from the Church Fathers about the great importance of reading Psalms:
“Learn to sing psalms, and thou shalt see the delightfulness of the employment. For they who sing psalms are filled with the Holy Spirit.” (St John Chrysostom)
“…each one sings the Psalms as though they had been written for his special benefit, and takes them and recites them, not as though someone else were speaking or another person’s feelings being described, but as himself speaking of himself, offering the words to God as his own heart’s utterance, just as though he himself had made them up. Whether he has kept the Law or whether he has broken it, it is his own doings that the Psalms describe; everyone is bound to find his very self in them and, be he faithful soul or be he sinner, each reads in them descriptions of himself.” (St Athanasius)
“A psalm implies serenity of soul; it is the author of peace, which calms bewildering and seething thoughts. For, it softens the wrath of the soul, and what is unbridled it chastens. A psalm forms friendships, unites those separated, conciliates those at enmity.” (St Basil the Great)