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March 5th, 2013 | Category: All Saints, Salina, News |
“1. THE unseen patron of evil is full of evil ingenuity. Right at the beginning he can drag away, by means of hopelessness & lack of faith, the foundations of virtue already laid in the soul. Again, by means of indifference & laziness, he can make an attempt on the walls of virtue’s house just when they are being built up. Or he can bring down the roof of good works after its construction, by means of pride & madness. But stand firm, do not he alarmed, for a diligent man is even more ingenious in good things, & virtue has superior forces to deploy against evil. It has at its disposal supplies & support in battle from Him Who is all-powerful, Who in His goodness strengthens all lovers of virtue. So not only can virtue remain un-shaken by the various wicked devices prepared by the enemy, but it can also lift up & restore those fallen into the depths of evil, & easily lead them to God by repentance & humility.
2. Here is an example & a clear proof. The Publican, as a publican, dwells in the depths of sin. All he has in common with those who live virtuously is 1 short utterance, but he finds relief, is lifted up & rises above every evil. He is numbered with the company of the righteous, justified by the impartial Judge Himself. If the Pharisee is condemned by his speech, it is because, as a Pharisee, he thinks himself some-body, although he is not really righteous & utters many arrogant words which provoke God’s anger with their every syllable.
3. Why does humility lead up to the heights of righteousness, whereas self-conceit leads down to the depths of sin? Because anybody who thinks he is something great, even before God, is rightly abandoned by God, as one who thinks that he does not need His help. Anybody who despises himself, on the other hand & relies on mercy from above, wins God’s sympathy, help & grace. As it says, “The Lord resisteth the proud: but he giveth grace unto the lowly” (Proverbs 3:34 LXX).
4. The Lord demonstrates this in a parable, saying. “Two men went up into the temple to pray, the one a Pharisee, & the other a publican” (Luke 18:10). Wanting to set clearly before us the gain that comes from humility & the loss from pride, he divided into 2 groups all who went to the Temple, or, rather, those who went up into the Temple, who are the ones who go there to pray. This is the nature of prayer, it brings a man up from the earth into heaven &, rising above every heavenly name, height & honor, sets him before the God Who is over all (cf. Romans 9:5). The ancient Temple was set in a high place, on a hill above the city. Once when a deadly epidemic was destroying Jerusalem, David saw the Angel of Death on this hill, stretching out his sword against the city. He went up there & built an altar to the Lord, on which he offer-ed a sacrifice to God, & the destruction ceased (2 Sam. 24:15-25). All these things are an image of the saving ascent of the spirit during holy prayer & of the forgiveness it brings – for these things all foreshadowed our salvation. They can also be an image of this holy Church of ours, which is indeed set in a high place, in another angelic country above the world, where the great, bloodless sacrifice, acceptable to God, is offered for the forgiveness of the whole world, the destruction of death & abundance of eternal life.
5. So the Lord did not say, “Two men went to the temple”, but “went up” into the Temple. Even now there are some who come to the holy Church without going up. Instead they bring down the Church, the image of heaven. They come for the sake of meeting each other & talking, or to buy & sell goods, & they resemble each other, for the latter offer goods, the former words, & all receive a fair exchange. As in those days the Lord drove them completely out of the Temple saying, “My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves” (Matthew 21:13), so He also drove them away from their conversations as they did not really go up into the Temple at all, even if they came there every day.
6. The Pharisee & the Publican went up into the Temple, both with the aim of praying. But the Pharisee brought himself down after going up, defeating his aim by the way he prayed. Both had the same aim in going up, both went up to pray, but they prayed in opposite ways. One made the ascent broken & contrite, for he had learned from the Psalmist & Prophet that “a broken & a contrite heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise” (Ps. 5 1:17). The Prophet says of himself, with the knowledge of experience, “I was brought low & the Lord helped me” (Ps.11 6:6). But why am I talking about the Prophet, when the God of the prophets, Who for our sake became like us, humbled Himself. “Wherefore”, as the Apostle says, “God hath highly exalted Him” (Philippians 2:9). The Pharisee, by contrast, goes up bloated with pretensions to justify him-self in the presence of God, although all our righteousness is like a filthy rag before Him (cf. Isaiah 64:6). He had not heard the saying, “Everyone that is proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord” (Proverbs 16:5), or, “God resisteth the proud” (Proverbs 3:34 LXX), or, “Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes & prudent in their own sight” (Isaiah. 5:21).
7. The 2 were different not only in their manner & way of praying but also in their type of prayer, for there are 2 kinds. Prayer is not only a matter of entreaty but also of thanksgiving. Of those who pray, one goes up to the Temple of God praising & thanking God for what he has received from him. Another asks for what he has not yet received, including, in the case of those of us who sin all the time, remission of sins. When we piously promise to offer something to God, that is not called prayer but a vow, as shown by the one who said, “Vow, & pay unto the Lord your God” (Ps. 76: 11), * the other who said, “Better is it that thou shouldest not vow, than that thou shouldest vow & not pay” (Ecclesiastes 5:4).
8. However, these 2 kinds of prayer can both be unprofitable for the unwary. Faith & contrition make prayer & supplication for the remission of sins effective, once evil deeds have been renounced, but despair & hardness of heart make it ineffectual. Thanksgiving for the benefits received from God is made acceptable by humility & not looking down on those who lack them. It is rendered unacceptable, how-ever, by being conceited, as if those benefits resulted from our own efforts & knowledge, & by condemn-ing those who have not received them. The Pharisee’s behavior & words prove he was afflicted with both these diseases. He went up to the Temple to give thanks, not to make supplication &, like a wretched fool, mingled conceit & condemnation of others with his thanksgiving. For he stood & prayed thus with him-self: “God, I thank Thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers” (Luke 18:11).
9. Instead of the attitude of a servant, the Pharisee’s stance displays shameless self-exaltation, the opposite of that other man who, in his humility, did not dare to lift up his eyes to heaven. It stands to reason that the Pharisee prayed to himself, for his prayer did not ascend to God, although it did not escape the notice of Him Who sits upon the Cherubim & observes the lowest depths of the abyss. When he said “I thank Thee”, he did not go on to say, “because in Thy mercy Thou didst freely deliver me, weak & unable to fight as I am, from the snares of the devil”. For he is spiritually courageous who manages to take refuge in repentance when caught in the snares of the enemy & fallen into the nets of sin. The circumstances of our lives are directed by a higher providence & often, with little or no effort on our part, by God’s help we have stayed out of reach of many great passions, delivered by His sympathy for our weakness. We should acknowledge the gift & humble ourselves before the Giver, not be conceited.
10. The Pharisee says, “I thank Thee, God”, not because I have received any help from Thee, but “be-cause I am not as other men are”. As though it was from his own resources & through his own ability that he was not an extortioner or unjust or an adulterer – if, indeed, he really was not. He did not pay attention to himself, or he would not have said he was righteous. He was looking more at everyone else than at himself &, in his madness, despised them all. Only one seemed to him to be righteous & chaste: himself. “I am not”, he says, “as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publiccan” (Luke 18:11). Anyone could point out to him how foolish he was, by saying to him, “If all except yourself are unjust & extortioners, then who are the victims of extortion & injustice? What about this Publican, & the extra words you added about him? Since he is 1 of the rest, surely he was included in your general, your universal, condemnation? Or did he have to be condemned twice over because he was in your sight, even though he was standing far away from you. You knew he was unjust because he was obviously a publi-can, but how did you know he was an adulterer? Or perhaps you are entitled to treat him unjustly & insult him since he treated others unjustly?” But it is not so. With a humble mind he bears your arrogant accu-sation &, reproaching himself, he offers supplication to God & is delivered by Him from the condemna-tion of having treated others unjustly. You, however, will be rightly condemned for having arrogantly made accusations against him & all men & deemed only yourself righteous. “I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers.”
11. These words show the Pharisee’s disdain for God & for everybody, but also for the standards of his own conscience. He openly despises everybody & ascribes his abstention from evil not to God’s strength but to his own. If he says that he thanks God, it is only because he considers all men apart from himself to be licentious, unjust & extortioners, as though God saw fit to grant virtue to him alone. However, if everyone were like that, all the Pharisee’s goods would be in their possession as loot. But this is not so, for he adds, “I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I gain” (Luke l8:12). He does not say that he gives tithes of all that he possesses, but of all that he gains, meaning the additions & increases to his for-tune. So he kept what he possessed & also took without hindrance as much as he could over & above that. How could all except himself be extortioners & unjust? This is how self-confuting & self-deceiving evil is! Madness is always mixed with lies.
12. He put forward the fact that he gave tithes of his wealth to prove his righteousness; for if someone gives tithes of his own wealth how can he be an extortioner of other people’s? He put forward fasting to show off his chastity because fasting gives rise to purity. For argument’s sake, then, let us say you are chaste, righteous, wise, sensible, brave & whatever else you wish. If this has come from yourself & not from God, why do you deceitfully pretend to pray? Why do you go up into the Temple & give thanks in vain? But if it has come from God, you did not receive it so as to boast but for the edification of others to the glory of the Giver. You should have humbly rejoiced & given thanks both to Him Who gave & to those for whose sake the gifts were given. The lamp receives light for those who see it, not for itself. For “week” the Pharisee uses the word “Sabbath”, but he means not the 7th day but the 7 days, on 2 of which he brags that he fasts. He is unaware that such fasts are mere human virtues, whereas pride is demonic. When pride is linked with fasting, however genuine, it annuls & destroys the virtues, & how much more so if the fasting is a sham.
13. These are the words of the Pharisee. By contrast, the Publican “standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast saying, God be merciful to me a sinner” (Luke 18:13). See the extent of his humility, faith & self-reproach. See the utter abasement of his thoughts & feelings, &, at the same time, contrition of heart mingled with this publican’s prayer. When he went up in-to the Temple to pray for the remission of his sins, he brought with him good advocates before God: un-ashamed faith, un-condemned self-reproach, contrition of heart that is not despised & humility that exalts. He linked attention to prayer most excellently. It says, “The publican standing afar off’. Not “stood”, as in the case of the Pharisee, but “standing”, to show that he was standing for a long time continuously pray-ing & asking for mercy. Without any other intention or thought he paid attention only to himself & God, turning over & repeating the supplication of a single thought,’ the most effective of all prayers.
14. “And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven” (Luke 18:13). As he stood he bowed down, & his bearing was not only that of a lowly servant, but also of a condemned man. It also proclaims a soul delivered from sin. Although still far from God, without the boldness to-wards Him that comes from good works, it hopes to draw near to Him because it has already renounced evil & is intent on good. “Standing afar off the publican would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven”, showing his self-condemnation & self-reproach’ by his manner & appearance. He saw himself as un-worthy either of heaven or of the earthly Temple, so he stood on the threshold of the Temple, not daring even to turn his gaze towards heaven, still less towards the God of heaven. In his intense contrition he smote upon his breast to show he was worthy of punishment. He sighed in deepest mourning, bowing his head like a condemned man, calling himself a sinner & begging with faith for forgiveness, saying, “God be merciful to me a sinner”. For he believed Him Who said, “Turn ye unto me, & I will turn unto you” (Zech. 1:3), & the Prophet who bore witness, “I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord, & Thou forgavest the iniquity of my heart” (cf. Ps. 32:5)
15. What happened then’? “This man”, says the Lord, “went down to his house justified rather than the other, for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; & he that humbleth himself shall be exalted” (Luke 18:14). As the devil is conceit itself & pride is his own particular evil, it defeats & swallows up any human virtue with which it is mixed. Whereas humility is the virtue of the good angels, & defeats any human evil that comes upon fallen mankind. Humility is the chariot by which we ascend to God, like those clouds which are to carry up to God those who would dwell for endless ages with Him, as foretold by the Apostle: “We shall be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air: & so shall we ever be with the Lord” (I Thessalonians 4:17). Humility is the same as such a cloud. It is formed by repentance, releases streams of tears; brings out the worthy from among the unworthy & leads them up to unite them with God, justified by His free gift for the gratitude of their free disposition.
16. At first the Publican evilly appropriated other people’s goods; later he renounced dishonesty & by not justifying himself, was justified. The Pharisee did not lay claim to other people’s possessions, but by justifying himself he was condemned. What will befall those who do lay claim to other people’s possessions & attempt to justify themselves?
17. Let us leave them, as the Lord does, for words will not convince such people. Sometimes it happens that we humble ourselves when we pray, & we may imagine that we shall be rewarded with the same justification as the Publican. But it is not so. We must consider the fact that the Publican was despised by the Pharisee to his face, even after he had abandoned sin, & he condemned himself with contempt, not only not contradicting the Pharisee but joining in with his accusations against him.
18. When you abandon your evildoing, do not contradict those who despise or reproach you because of it. Join them in condemning yourself for what you are like &, through contrite prayer, take refuge in the forgiveness of God alone, realizing that you are a rescued publican. Many have called themselves sinners, & so do we, but dishonor tests the heart. The great Paul is far removed from pharisaic boasting, but he wrote to those in Corinth who were speaking in tongues, “I thank my God, I speak with tongues more than ye all” (1 Corinthians 14:18). (He who elsewhere calls himself the off-scouring of all things, writes these words to re-strain those who look down on those who did not have this gift, cf. 1 Cor. 4:13). If therefore Paul, who is far re-moved from pharisaic boasting, can write such words, it is also possible for someone to say the same words as the Publican & be humble in speech like him, but not to be justified as he was. To the Publican’s words must be added his renunciation of evil, his soul’s disposition, his contrition & his patience. David shows us by his actions that anyone who considers himself guilty before God & repents must believe that the reproach & contempt of others towards him is just & to be endured. After he had sinned, when he heard Shimei speaking ill of him, he said to those who wanted to retailate, “Let him curse, because the Lord hath said unto him, Curse David” (2 Sam. 16:10). According to him, God’s forgiveness of David’s sin against him had posted the man there. Yet David was struggling at that time with a great & terrible calamity, as Absalom had just risen up in revolt against him (2 Sam. 15:7ff).
19. Leaving Jerusalem against his will & with unbearable grief, he fled as far as the foot of the Mount of Olives. There, to make the calamity worse, he met Shimei throwing stones at him, cursing him mercilessly & insulting him shamelessly (2 Sam. 16:5ff). He called him a bloodthirsty man & a criminal, as if to re-mind the King, to his disgrace, of the incident with Bathsheba & Uriah (2 Sam. 11:3-15). He did not stop after cursing him once or twice & throwing a few stones, & words that strike harder than stones. It says the King with all his men went on with Shimei going along the mountainside following the King, cursing him, throwing stones from the side & spattering him with mud. The King did not lack men to stop him. Abishai, his commander, unable to endure it, said to the King, “Why should this dead dog curse my lord & king? let me go over, I pray thee, & take off his head” (2 Sam. 16:9). But David restrained him & all his servants, saying to them, “Let him curse. It may be that the Lord will look on my affliction, & that the Lord will requite me good for his cursing this day” (2 Sam. 16:12).
20. The happenings which took place in those days are shown in the parable of the Publican & the Pharisee, fulfilled forever by righteousness. If someone really accounts himself guilty of eternal punishment, he will courageously endure not just dishonor but also harm, disease &, in fact, every kind of misfortune & ill-treatment. He who shows such patience, as though in debt & guilty, is delivered by a very light condemnation, temporary & ephemeral, saved from truly grievous, unbearable * unending punishment. Some-times he may even be delivered from dangers threatening him now, because God’s kindness begins from that point, due to his patience. Someone chastened by God said, “I will bear the chastening of the Lord, because I have sinned against Him” (cf. Micah 7:9 LXX).
21. May we, chastened not by the Lord’s wrath & anger but by His mercy, not be cast down by God’s punishment, but like the Psalmist may we be raised up at the end by the grace & love towards mankind of Our Lord Jesus Christ, to Whom be glory, might, honor & worship, together with the Father & the life-giving Spirit, now & forever and unto the ages of ages. Amen.”
K-State grad and antiquarian bookseller, Sonny Ideker, of Woodstock, GA will have several early 19th century Russian Orthodox books, including a Russian Psalter (c. 1830), on display at the Overland Park Antique Show 3/16/2012 – 3/18/2012.
The show takes place at
The Overland Park International Trade Center
6800 W. 115th Street
Overland Park KS, 66211
Retreat participants are requested to register using the form at http://www.stbasilkc.org/2012/03/rt-rev-bishop-basils-retreat/.
The Holy Orthodox Church, like a concerned mother, daily, at every divine service, offers up prayers for all her children who have departed for the land of eternity. Thus, at the midnight service troparia & prayers for the departed are read, & they are commemorated at its concluding ektenia. This is so also at compline. At orthros & vespers the departed are remembered by name at the Augmented Ektenia, “Have mercy on us, O God …” They are commemorated 3 times during the Liturgy: at the Proskomedia, at the Great Entrance & after the consecration of the Precious Gifts when “Meet it is in truth …” is sung. Furthermore, 1 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.
The 3rd Day
We commemorate the dead on the 3rd day firstly, because those who have departed had been baptized in the Name of the Father, Son & Holy Spirit, the One God in 3 Persons, & had kept the Orthodox faith they received at holy baptism; secondly, because they preserved the 3 virtues which form the foundation of our salvation, namely: faith, hope & love; thirdly, because man’s being possesses 3 internal powers—reason, emotion & desire—by which we all have transgressed. And since man’s actions manifest themselves in 3 ways—by deed, word & thought—by our commemoration on the 3rd day we entreat the Holy Trinity to forgive the departed all transgressions committed by the 3 above-mentioned powers & actions. When St. Macarius of Alexandria (+393) besought the angel who accompanied him in the desert to explain to him the meaning of the Church’s commemoration on the 3rd day, the angel replied to him: “When an offering is made in church on the 3rd day, the soul of the departed receives from its guardian angel relief from the sorrow it feels as a result of the separation from the body. This it receives because glorification & offering is made in the Church of God which gives rise in it to blessed hope, for in the course of the 2 days the soul is permitted to roam the earth, wherever it wills, in the company of the angels that are with it. Therefore, the soul, loving the body, sometimes wanders about the house in which his body had been laid out & thus spends 2 days like a bird seeking its nest. But the virtuous soul goes about those places in which it was wont to do good deeds. On the 3rd day, He Who Himself rose from the dead on the 3rd day commands the Christian soul, in imitation of His resurrection, to ascend to the Heavens to worship the God of all.”
The 9th Day
On the 9th day, the Holy Church offers prayers & the Bloodless Sacrifice for the departed, that his soul be accounted worthy to be numbered among the choirs of the saints through the prayers & intercession of the 9 ranks of angels. St. Macarius of Alexandria, in accordance with the angel’s revelation, says that after worshipping God on the 3rd day, it is commanded to show the soul the various pleasant habitations of the saints & the beauty of Paradise. The soul considers all of this for 6 days, lost in wonder & glorifying the Creator of all. Contemplating all of this, it is transformed & forgets the sorrow it felt in the body. But if it is guilty of sins & had not repented while yet in life, at the sight of the delights of the saints it begins to grieve & reproach itself, saying: “Woe is me! How much I busied myself in vanity in that world! Enamored of the gratification of lust, I spent the greater portion of my life in carelessness & did not serve God as I should, that I too might be accounted worthy of this grace & glory. Woe is me! Poor me!” After considering all the joys of the righteous in the course of 6 days, it again is borne aloft by the angels to worship God.
The 40th Day
From earliest antiquity the Holy Church has correctly & devoutly made it a rule to commemorate the departed in the course of 40 days, & on the 40th day in particular. As Christ was victorious over the devil, having spent 40 days in fasting & prayer, so the Holy Church likewise, offering for the departed prayers, acts of charity & the Bloodless Sacrifice throughout the 40 days, asks the Lord’s grace for him to conquer the enemy, the dark prince of the air, & that he receive the Heavenly Kingdom as his inheritance. St. Macarius of Alexandria, discussing the state of man’s soul after the death of the body, says: “After the 2nd adoration, the Master of all commands that the soul be led to Hades & that it be shown the places of torment there, the various parts of Hades, & the diverse tortures of the wicked, in which the souls of sinners ceaselessly wail & gnash their teeth. The soul is borne about these various places of torment for 30 days, trembling lest it itself be imprisoned therein. On the 40th day it is once again borne aloft to adore the Lord God, & it is at this time that the Judge determines the place of confinement proper to it in accordance with its deeds. This is a great day for the deceased, for it determines his portion until the Dread Judgment of God, & therefore, the Holy Church correctly commands that fervent prayer be made for the dead on this day.”
The commemoration of the departed at the 1st opportunity after death is important & essential because it alleviates the passage of the soul of the departed through the so-called toll-booths. St. Cyril of Alexandria (376-444) says: “At Our soul’s separation from the body, there will stand before us on one side warriors & powers of Heaven, & on the other side the powers of darkness, the princes of this world, the aerial publicans, the torturers, the prosecutors of our deeds … Seeing them, the soul is dismayed, it shudders, & in consternation & horror will seek protection from the angels of God; but being received by the holy angels & passing through the aerial space, lifted on high under their protection, it encounters the toll-booths, as it were, certain gates or toll houses in which taxes are exacted which will bar its way into the Kingdom, will halt & hold back its progress towards it. At each of these toll-booths an account is demanded for particular, unrepented sins.”
The Venerable Theodora, as she passed through the toll-booths, was greatly aided by the intercession of her elder St. Basil the New (+944), which served to outweigh the torments for those sins not covered by repentance. Thus does commemoration benefit departed sinners.
A commemoration has been established by the Orthodox Church on the 20th & 40th days after death, & also on the 6-month & yearly anniversaries of the death. Grain (i.e., koliva or kutiya) is brought by the relatives for the commemoration, presenting an image of the Resurrection itself. In general, the custom of observing days for the commemoration of the dead has been continuously observed in the Orthodox Church from the beginning of its establishment until our own times, being handed down from generation to generation, from century to century. The Divine Liturgy has always been celebrated in memory of the dead, the great propitiatory sacrifice is offered up for them, psalms are read, & on these days many have increased & continue to increase their offerings in the church, assisting the poor & needy brethren out of love for their departed brethren.
Aside from personal days set aside for commemorating our departed friends & relatives, the Orthodox Church, like a mother that loves her children, has set aside certain days on which all Orthodox Christians that have departed in hope of resurrection & eternal life must be commemorated in general. Such days are termed “universal,” or simply “ancestral” days. They are as follows:
The first universal, ancestral Saturday is on Meatfare Saturday. It falls during Meatfare Week & before the last day on which one may eat meat before the Great Fast begins. The following day, Sunday, commemorates the Dread Judgment of Christ, & the Church prays for all that have departed in faith & hope of resurrection, beseeching the righteous Judge to show forth His mercy upon them on the very day of impartial retribution at the universal judgment. The establishment of this Saturday dates from the first years of Christianity. Among the prayers during the divine services on this Saturday, we hear one for all “that from Adam until today have reposed in piety & correct faith,” of every calling & every age; “for all that have drowned, that battle hath mown down, that earthquake hath swallowed up, that have been slain by murderers, that fire hath consumed, that have been food for the wild beasts, birds & serpents, that have been struck by lightning & have perished in freezing cold, that have fallen by the sword, that the horse hath trampled, the rock struck or the earth covered up, that have been slain by deadly potion or poison, or have choked on bones …” , i.e. all that have met untimely deaths & have been left without a proper funeral. Thus does the Church care for all our fathers, brethren & relatives.
This falls on the eve of Pentecost, hence the appellation “Trinity Saturday.” On the day of Pentecost (or Trinity Day), the Holy Spirit descended upon the earth to teach, sanctify & lead all people to eternal salvation. Therefore, the holy Church calls upon us to make a commemoration on this Saturday, that the saving grace of the Holy Spirit wash away the sins from the souls of all our forefathers, fathers & brethren, that have reposed throughout the ages &, asking that they all be united in the Kingdom of Christ & praying for the redemption of the living & for the return of their souls from captivity, she begs the Lord to “give rest to the souls … that have fallen asleep, in … a place of refreshment; … . for the dead shall not praise Thee, O Lord, neither shall they that are in Hades make bold to offer unto Thee confession. But we that are living will bless Thee & will pray & offer unto Thee propitiatory prayers & sacrifices for their souls.”
2nd, 3rd & 4th Saturdays of the Great Fast
Since throughout the Great Fast such commemorations as are performed at every other time during the year do not occur during the celebration of the Presanctified Liturgy, it is the accepted practice in our Orthodox Church to commemorate the departed on these 3 Saturdays, that the dead be not deprived of the Church’s saving intercession. (The remaining Saturdays of the Great Fast are consecrated to special celebrations: Sat. of the 1st week to St. Theodore the Recruit; Sat. of the 5th week to the praise of the Theotokos; the 6th Sat. commemorates the resurrection of the Righteous Lazarus.)
Tuesday of St. Thomas Week
On this day, in accordance with accepted custom, a commemoration of the dead is made by the faithful, with the pious intent that, having celebrated a radiant festival to the glory of Christ’s Resurrection they share the great joy of this paschal feast with those that have departed in the hope of their own blessed resurrection, the joy of Which our Lord Himself announced to the dead when He descended into Hades to proclaim His victory over death & to lead forth the souls of the righteous of the Old Testament. Because of this great spiritual joy, the day of this commemoration bears the name “day of rejoicing.” There is indication of the commemoration of the dead on St. Thomas Mon. or Tues. in the writings of the Fathers of the Church.
Examples of the Efficacy of Prayers Offered for the Dead
at the Liturgy & of the Church’s Prayers for the Dead
St. Gregory the Dialogist (347-407), Pope of Rome, sets before us a remarkable example of the effectiveness of prayer & the bringing of offerings for the departed, which took place in his monastery.
“One brother,” he says, “for breaking the vow of poverty, was deprived of a church funeral & prayers after his death for a period of 30 days, in order to strike fear in the hearts of the others. But later, out of compassion for his soul, the Bloodless Sacrifice & prayers were offered up for him for the space of 30 days. On the last of these days, the deceased appeared in a vision to his brother, whom he had left among the living, & said: ‘Until now it has gone badly for me, but now I am at peace, for today I received communion.’”
This same holy Father, in his dialogues with the Deacon Peter, tells of the apparition of a dead man who begged a priest to help him by praying for him to God. “From this it is obvious,” he concludes, “how profitable the Sacred Sacrifice is for souls; for the souls themselves ask it of the living & indicate the means by which they are cleansed of sins.”
St. John the Merciful, Patriarch of Alexandria (Patriarch 606-616), often celebrated the Divine Liturgy for the dead & stated that it is a great aid to their souls. To corroborate this, he cites the following:
“There was a certain prisoner whose parents, considering him dead, had the Liturgy served 3 times a year for him—on Theophany, Pascha & Pentecost. After he had been released from captivity, returning unexpectedly to his parents, he recalled that on those very days a certain man of glorious appearance came to him in prison carrying a torch. The fetters fell from his hands, & he was freed; the rest of the days he was again in chains as a prisoner.”
St. Gregory the Dialogist also relates that during the lifetime of St. Benedict of Nursia (480-543) there lived two women who had the unfortunate habit of judging their neighbors, speaking evil & reproaching others. Learning of this, the Venerable Benedict said to them: “Curb your tongues, or I will have to excommunicate you from the Holy Mysteries.” But, all the same, they did not cease their evil habits & even said nothing in reply to the saint’s paternal admonition. Several days later both women died in their virginity & were buried together in the church. When the Divine Liturgy was served & the deacon exclaimed: “Catechumens, depart!”, many Christians beheld the two virgins leaving their tombs & the church, for they were unable to remain there during the Divine Liturgy. This occurred at each Divine Liturgy. When St. Benedict discovered this, he took pity on them &, taking a prosphora, he commanded them to take it to the church & to remove a particle from it for the repose of their souls. He also ordered them commemorated during the performance of the Mysteries of Christ. After that, none of the Christians saw them leaving the church. From this, all understood that, owing to the Holy Church’s prayer for the departed & the offerings, the departed virgins had received forgiveness from God.
The Byzantine Emperor Theophilus (Reigned 829-842) lived carelessly & did not concern himself with the salvation of his soul but, rather was the last & one of the harshest & cruelest of the iconoclast emperors. Death found this sovereign in the midst of his sinful life. The Empress St. Theodora (815-867)), Theophilus’ consort, was horrified at the heavy lot that would befall her husband in eternity. At her behest, prayers were increased in the churches, alms were distributed, good works were performed. And what was the result? The prayers of the Church reached the Lord. Theophilus was forgiven, to the spiritual joy of his grieving spouse & to the consolation of the Church, which has so merciful & mighty a Lord, Who gives life to the dead & leads them forth from the abyss of Hades, not only bodily, but spiritually.
“But who can number,” asks St. John of Damascus (676-585), “all of the testimonies found in the biographies of holy men, in the accounts of the lives of the holy martyrs & the divine revelations, which clearly indicate that even after death tremendous benefit is rendered to the departed by prayers, Liturgies & the distribution of alms for them. For nothing given to God perishes in return, but is rewarded by Him with the greatest interest.”
Examples of the Efficacy of Prayers for the Dead
St. John of Damascus relates: “A certain holy man had a disciple who was living heedlessly. And what happened? Death found him in the midst of his carelessness. The merciful Heavenly Father, roused by the tears & cries of the elder, revealed to him the youth burning in flames up to his neck, like the merciless rich man mentioned in the parable of Lazarus. And when the saint subjected his flesh to strict mortification, fervently beseeching God for the forgiveness of his disciple, he beheld him enveloped in flame up to his waist. Finally, when the holy man had increased his ascetic labors yet more, God revealed him in a vision to the elder, removed from the flame & completely free.”
The holy martyr Perpetua (Carthage, North Africa, 181-201) relates: “One day, at the time of general prayer in prison, I unexpectedly uttered the name of my dead brother Dinocrates. Struck by this unusual occurrence, I began to pray & sigh for him before God. On the following night I received a vision: I saw Dinocrates come forth, as though from a dark place. He was in intense heat, tormented by thirst, filthy in appearance & pallid. On his face was the wound from which he had died. Between us yawned a deep crevasse, & we were unable to approach each other. Beside the place where Dinocrates stood there was a full cistern, the lip of which stood much higher than my brother’s stature, & Dinocrates stretched, trying to reach the water. I was filled with pity, for the height of the rim prevented my brother from drinking. Immediately after this I awoke & realized that my brother was in torment. But believing that my prayer could help him in his suffering, I prayed all day & night in the prison, with cries & lamentations, that Dinocrates be treated mercifully. And on the day on which we were kept in chains, I received a new vision: the place which before I had seen had been made bright, & Dinocrates, with a clean face & beautiful apparel, was enjoying its coolness. Where he had had a wound, I saw only a trace of it. The rim of the cistern was no higher than the waist of the young man, & he was able to draw water from it without effort. On the rim of the cistern stood a golden cup full of water. Dinocrates approached it & began to drink from it, but the water in it did not decrease. Satisfied, he stepped away from it & began to rejoice. With this the vision ended. I then understood that he had been released from punishment.
One day the Venerable Macarius of Egypt (300-391) was walking about the desert &found a dried-out human skull lying on the ground. Turning it over with his staff, the saint heard a sound, as though from a distance. Then Macarius asked the skull: “What manner of man wast thou?”
“I was the chief of the pagan priests that dwelt in this place,” it replied. “When thou, O Abba Macarius, who art full of the Spirit of God, pray for us, taking pity on them that are in the torments of Hades, we then receive a certain relief.”
“And what manner of relief do ye receive?” asked Macarius. “And tell me, what torments are ye subjected to?”
“As far as heaven is above the earth,” replied the skull with a groan, “so great is the fire in the midst of which we find ourselves, wrapped in flame from head to toe. At this time we cannot see each others’ faces, but when thou prayest for us, we can see each other a little, & this affords us some consolation.”
On hearing this reply, the venerable one wept & said: “Cursed is that day when man broke the divine ordinance!” And once again he asked the skull: “Are there any other tortures worse than yours?”
“Beneath us, much farther down, there are many others,” it replied.
“And who are found in such unbearable torments?” asked Macarius.
“We who did not know God, yet experience the mercy of God a little,” answered the skull. “But they that knew the Name of God, yet rejected Him & did not keep His commandments, undergo much heavier & worse torments below.”
After this St. Macarius took the skull, buried it in the ground & departed thence.
Examples of the Efficacy of Alms Distributed in Memory of the Dead
The Blessed Luke relates that he had a brother who, having, become a monk, concerned himself little with his soul & died, not having prepared himself for death. The holy elder wished to discover what his brother had been accounted worthy of, & he began to entreat God to reveal his lot. One day, during his prayers, the elder beheld the soul of his brother in the hands of demons. Meanwhile, money & costly things had been found in the cell of the deceased, from which the elder understood that the soul of his brother was suffering, among other reasons, for breaking the vow of poverty. All the money that had been found the elder gave to the poor. After that, he again began to pray & beheld the Judgment Seat of God & the radiant angels contending with the demons for the soul of his brother. The demons cried out to God: “Thou art just! Judge Thou! This soul belongs to us, for it hath done our deeds!” But the angels said that the soul of the dead man had been freed by the alms which had been distributed for it. To this the evil spirits objected, saving: “Did the deceased distribute the alms, or did this elder distribute them?”, indicating the Blessed Luke. The elder was terrified by this vision, but nonetheless summoned up the courage to say: “It is true that I distributed the alms, but not for myself, but for this soul.” The outraged spirits, hearing the elder’s reply, straightway vanished, & the elder, consoled by this vision, ceased to doubt & grieve over the fate of his brother.
The holy Abbess Athanasia of Aegina (790-860) stipulated in her will that the sisters of her convent prepare meals for the poor in her memory throughout the 40 days following her demise. But the nuns carried out this command only until the 9th day, & afterwards ceased. Then the saint appeared to them with 2 angels & said: “Why have ye forgotten my bequest? Know ye not that alms given for the soul until the 40th day & the feeding of the poor move God to mercy as well as the prayers of the priests? If the souls of the departed were sinful, God granteth them remission of sins; & if they were righteous, the charity performed on their behalf serves for the salvation of them that perform the charitable works.” Having said this, the Venerable Athanasia drove her staff into the ground & vanished. The next day the sisters saw that her staff had sprouted. Then they gave glory to God, the Creator of all things.
From Orthodox Life, Vol. 78, No. 1, pp. 15-26. Translated from a pamphlet, published by the Russian Orthodox Convent of Our Lady of Vladimir in San Francisco, n.d.
Excerpts from The Soul After Death
PRAYER FOR THE DEAD
How important commemoration at the Liturgy is may be seen in the following occurrence: Before the uncovering of the relics of St. Theodosius of Chernigov (1896), the priest-monk (the renowned Starets Alexis of Goloseyevsky Hermitage, of the Kiev-Caves Lavra, who died in 1916) who was conducting the re-vesting of the relics, becoming weary while sitting by the relics, dozed off & saw before him the Saint, who told him: “I thank you for laboring me. I beg you also, when you will serve the Liturgy, to commemorate my parents”—and be gave their names (Priest Nikita & Maria). “How can you, O Saint, ask my prayers, when you yourself stand at the heavenly Throne & grant to people God’s mercy?” the priest-monk asked. “Yes, that is true,” replied St. Theodosius, “but the offering at the Liturgy is more powerful than my prayer.”
Therefore, panikhidas & prayer a home for the dead are beneficial for them, as are good deeds done in their memory, such as alms or contributions to the church. But especially beneficial for them is commemoration at the Divine Liturgy. There have been many appearances of the dead & other occurrences which confirm how beneficial is the commemoration of the dead. Many who died in repentance, but who were unable to manifest this while they were alive, have been freed from tortures & have obtained repose. In the Church prayers are ever offered for the repose of the dead, & on the day of the Descent of the Holy Spirit, in the kneeling prayers at vespers, there is even a special petition “for those in hell.”
St. Gregory the Great, in answering in his Dialogues the question, “Is there anything at all that can possibly benefit souls after death?” teaches: “The Holy Sacrifice of Christ, our saving Victim, brings great benefits to souls even after death, provided their sins (are such as) can be pardoned in the life to come. For this reason the souls of the dead sometimes beg to have Liturgies offered for them … The safer course, naturally, is to do for ourselves during life what we hope others will do for us after death. It is better to make one’s exit a free man than to seek liberty after one is in chains. We should, therefore, despise this world with all our hearts as though its glory were already spent, and offer our sacrifice of tears to God each day as we immolate His sacred Flesh & Blood. This Sacrifice alone has the power of saving the soul from eternal death, for it presents to us mystically the death of the Only-begotten Son” (Dialogues IV: 57, 60, pp. 266, 272-3).
St. Gregory gives several examples of the dead appearing to the living & asking for or thanking them for the celebration of the Liturgy for their repose; once, also, a captive whom his wife believed dead & for whom she had the Liturgy celebrated on certain days, returned from captivity & told her how he had been released from his chains on some days—the very days when the Liturgy had been offered for him. (Dialogues IV: 57, 59, pp. 267, 270).
Protestants generally find the Church’s prayer for the dead to be somehow incompatible with the necessity of finding salvation first of all in this life: “If you can be saved by the Church after death, then why bother to struggle or find faith in this Life? Let us eat, drink & be merry…” Of course, no one holding such a philosophy has ever attained salvation by the Church’s prayer, & it is evident that such an argument is quite artificial & even hypocritical. The Church’s prayer cannot save anyone who does not wish salvation, or who never offered any struggle for it himself during his lifetime. In a sense, one might say that the prayer of the Church or of individual Christians for a dead person is but another result of that person’s life: he would not be prayed for unless he had done something during his lifetime to inspire such prayer after his death.
St. Mark of Ephesus (1392-1444) also discusses this question of the Church’s prayer for the dead & the improvement it brings in their state, citing the example of the prayer of St. Gregory the Dialogist for the Roman Emperor Trajan—a prayer inspired by a good deed of this pagan Emperor.
WHAT WE CAN DO FOR THE DEAD
Everyone of us who desires to manifest his love for the dead & give them real help, can do this best of all through prayer for them, & in particular by commemorating them at the Liturgy, when the particles which are cut out for the living & the dead are let fall into the Blood of the Lord with the words: “Wash away, O Lord, the sins of those here commemorated by Thy Precious Blood, by the prayers of Thy saints.” We can do nothing better or greater for the dead than to pray for them, offering commemoration for them at the Liturgy, Of this they are always in need, & especially during those 40 days when the soul of the deceased is proceeding on its path to the eternal habitations. The body feels nothing then: it does not see its close ones who have assembled, does not smell the fragrance of the flowers, does not hear the funeral orations. But the soul senses the prayers offered for it & is grateful to those who make them & is spiritually close to them.
O relatives & close ones of the dead! Do for them what is needful for them & what it within your power. Use your money not for outward adornment of the coffin & grave, but in order to help those in need, in memory of your close ones who have died, for churches, where prayers for them are offered. Show mercy to the dead, take care for their souls. Before us all stands that same path, & how we shall then wish that we would he remembered in prayer! Let us therefore be ourselves merciful to the dead.
As soon as someone has reposed, immediately call or inform a priest, so he can read the “Prayers on the Departure of the Soul,” which are appointed to be read over all Orthodox Christians after death. Try, if it be possible, to have the funeral in church & to have the Psalter read over the deceased until the funeral. The funeral need not be performed elaborately, but most definitely it should be complete, without abbreviations; think at this time not of yourself & your convenience, but of the deceased, with whom you are parting forever. If there are several of the deceased in church at the same time, don’t refuse if it be proposed to serve the funeral for all together. It is better for a funeral to be served for 2 or more of the deceased at the same time, when the prayer of the close ones who have gathered will be all the more fervent, than for several funerals to be served in succession & the services, owing to lack of time & energy, abbreviated; because each word of prayer for the reposed is like a drop of water to a thirsty man. Most definitely arrange at once for the serving of the 40-day memorial, that is, daily commemoration at the Liturgy for the course of 40 days. Usually, in churches where there are daily services, the deceased whose funerals have been served there are commemorated for 40 days & longer. But if the funeral is in a church where there are no daily services, the relatives themselves should take care to order the 40-day memorial wherever there are daily services. It is likewise good to send contributions for commemoration to monasteries, as well as to Jerusalem, where there is constant prayer at the holy places. But the 40-day memorial must be begun immediately after death, when the soul is especially in need of help in prayer, & therefore one should begin commemoration in the nearest place where there are daily services.
Let us take care for those who have departed into the other world before as, in order to do for them all that we can, remembering that “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.”
THE RESURRECTION OF THE BODY
One day this whole corruptible world will come to an end, & the everlasting Kingdom of Heaven will dawn, where the souls of the redeemed, joined to their resurrected bodies, will dwell forever with Christ, immortal & incorruptible. Then the partial joy and glory which souls know even now in heaven will be replaced by the fullness of joy of the new creation for which man was made; but those who did not accept the salvation which Christ came to earth to offer mankind will be tormented forever-together with their resurrected bodies—in hell. St. John Damascene, in the final chapter of his Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, well describes this final state of the soul after death:
“We also believe in the resurrection of the dead, for there really will be one, there will be a resurrection of the dead. Now, when we say resurrection, we mean a resurrection of bodies. For resurrection is a raising up again of one who has fallen. But, since souls are immortal, how shall they rise again? Well, if death is defined as a separation of soul from body, the resurrection is the perfect rejoining of soul & body, & the raising up again of the dissolved & fallen living being. Therefore, the very body which is corrupted & dissolved will itself rise up incorruptible. For He Who formed it in the beginning from the dust of the earth is not incapable of raising it up again after it has again been dissolved & returned to the earth whence it was taken by the decision of its Creator …
“Now, if the soul had engaged alone in the contest for virtue, then it would also be crowned alone; & if It alone had indulged in pleasures, then it alone could be justly punished. However, since the soul followed neither virtue nor vice without the body, it will be just for them to receive their recompense together …
“And so, with our souls again united to our bodies, which will have become incorrupt & put off corruption, we shall rise again & stand before the terrible judgment seat of Christ. And the devil and his demons, & his man, which is to say, the Antichrist, & the impious & sinners will be given over to everlasting fire, which will not be a material fire such as we are accustomed to, but a fire such as God might know. And those who have done good will shine like the sun together with the angels unto eternal life with our Lord Jesus Christ, ever seeing Him & being seen, enjoying the unending bliss which is from Him, & praising Him together with the Father & the Holy Spirit unto the endless ages of ages. Amen.”
From Fr. Seraphim Rose, The Soul After Death (Platina, CA: St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood, 1980), pp. 197-203.
 Throughout the 40 days it is essential for each Orthodox Christian to commemorate his departed (newly-reposed) relatives. This consists of commemorating the departed during 40 daily liturgies at Proskomedia & in the Great Entrance & by offering to the Church prosphoras, wine, incense & candles, & the distribution of alms for the repose of the newly-departed.
 Toll-booths (Gr. telonion)—a term borrowed from the history of the Hebrew nation & used metaphorically to describe the barriers souls encounter in the ascent to Heaven. In Roman Palestine, the publicans stood at special tax-collection booths at which they extorted money from the populace. The Fathers of the Church, notably St. Cyril of Alexandria in his “Homily on the Departure of the Soul” (PG 77.981), applied this term to the aerial places of torment the soul meets after death. Further evidence of the toll-booths, or aerial customs, may be found implied in Homily XXII of St. Macarius of Egypt (Spiritual Homilies, p. 171), the Ladder of St. John Climacus (Step VII:50, p. 120), & in many of the divine services & the lives of the saints.
 cf. the Life of St. Basil the New, March 26.
 Koliva or kutiya is grain or rice cooked with honey or sugar & sometimes mixed with plums, raisins & other sweets. The grain & fruit brought to the commemoration of the dead signifies that the dead will truly rise again from the grave, for both grain which is sown in the earth & the fruit which is laid on the earth, decays 1st, & afterwards brings forth abundant ripe, whole fruit. The honey or sugar used in the kutiya signifies that after the resurrection of the Orthodox & the righteous, there awaits a joyous & blessed life in the Heavenly Kingdom, not a bitter or sorrowful one. The koliva or kutiya prepared from grain expresses the faith of the living in the resurrection of the dead to a better life, just as that seed, having fallen upon the ground, although undergoing corruption, yet grows to attain a better appearance.
 They also remember the departed on the days of their birth & of their patron saint.
 The origin of the commemoration of the dead on the 2nd, 3rd & 4th Saturdays of the Great Fast dates back to the compilation of the Church’s typicon, but when & by whom it was instituted is unknown.
 St. John Chrysostom very clearly mentions the commemoration of the dead performed on Tues. of St. Thomas week in his “Homily on the Cemetery & the Cross”: “For what cause,” asks the hierarch, “did our fathers, leaving their houses of prayer in the city, establish the practice of assembling outside the city on this day & in this very place? In as much,” answers Chrysostom, “as here rests a multitude of the departed; today Jesus Christ went down to the dead; thus we also gather here. Why, this very place is called a place of sleep (cemetery), that you might know that they [who] have died & lie here have not died, but rest and sleep” (“Sermon on the Cemetery & the Cross,” Works of our Holy Father John Chrysostom, Archbishop of Constantinople, in Russian Translation, Vol. II, Book I, p. 431. St. Petersburg: St. Petersburg Theological Academy, 1896).
 St. Gregory the Dialogist, The Life & Miracles of St. Benedict, ch. 28 (Collegeville, Minn.: Liturgical Press, n.d.), pp. 52-54.
 Cf. Synaxarion, Meatfare Saturday, Lenten Triodion, p. 21 (Moscow, 1897).
 Cf. the “Life of St. Macarius the Great” in the Lives of the Saints, compiled by St. Dimitry of Rostov, Jan. volume, pp. 610-611.
 Ibid., St. Dimitry of Rostov, April volume, pp. 175-176.
 These names had been unknown before this vision. Several years after the canonization, St. Theodosius’ own Book of Commemoration was found in the monastery where he had once been abbot, which confirmed these names & corroborated the vision. See the Life of Elder Alexis in Pravoslavny Blagovestnik, San Francisco, 1967, no.I (in Russian)
 Exact Exposition, Book 4, ch. 27, in The Fathers of the Church vol. 37, 1958, pp. 401, 402, 406.
Born at Faughart near Dundalk, County Louth, Ireland, her parents were Dubhthach, pagan chieftain of Leinster, & Brocca, a Christian Pictish slave baptized by St. Patrick. Brigid was named for one of the most powerful goddesses of her father’s pagan religion. Whether she was raised a Christian or converted in 468 is unknown, but she was inspired by St. Pat-rick’s preaching from an early age. Despite her father’s opposition she was determined to enter religious life. She had a generous heart & never refuse the poor who came to her father’s door. Her charity angered her father. He thought her overly generous to the poor & needy for she dispensed his milk, butter & flour to all & sundry. When she finally gave away his jewel-encrusted sword to a leper, he realized that perhaps her disposition was best suited to the life of a nun. She finally got her wish & was sent to a convent. She received the veil from St. Mael of Ardagh & professed vows dedicating her life to Christ. She is believed to have founded a convent in Clara, her first: other foundations followed. But it was to be in Kildare that her major foundation would emerge. Around 470 she founded a double monastery, for nuns & monks, on the plains of Kildare or Cill-Dara, “the church of the oak”, her cell being under a large oak tree. As abbess she wielded considerable power, but proved to be a wise & prudent superior. She was famous for her common-sense & most of all for her holiness: in her lifetime she was regarded as a saint. The Abbey of Kildare became one of the most prestigious monasteries in Ireland, famed throughout Christian Europe. She died at Kildare ca. 525 & was buried in a tomb before the high altar of her abbey church. After some time her remains were exhumed & translated to Downpatrick to rest with the two other patron saints of Ireland, St. Patrick of Ireland & St. Columba of Iona. Her skull was extracted & brought to Lisbon, Portugal, by two Irish noblemen, where it remains. There is widespread devotion to her in Ireland where she is known as the “Mary of the Gael” & her veneration was brought to Europe by Irish missionaries.
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Dear Brothers & Sisters!
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