WHY WE HAVE MEMORIAL SERVICES
The Church constantly prays for all of the members of the Body of
Christ. There is no division between the living and the departed, but
all are one in the Body of Christ. Just as Orthodox Christians here on
earth pray for one another, and ask for one another's prayers, so they
pray also for the faithful departed, and ask the faithful departed to
pray for them. Death cannot separate the members of the Church.
At the glorious Coming again of our Lord, those who have fallen asleep
in the Lord will rise in their glorified form (I Corinthians 15:43). The
glorified body and soul will again be joined in their indestructible
unity, as Christ, the God-man, both before and after His Resurrection
was and is an indivisible unity. Ours is the duty to pray for all the
members of the Body of Christ.
From Apostolic times we have been instructed to pray for eternal rest
for our brothers and sisters who have fallen asleep in the Lord. We
pray for their eternal memory, that the names of the reposed be
remembered by our Heavenly Father eternally.
According to the Apostolic Constitutions XLII, memorial services are
held on the 3rd, 9th, and 40th day and on the completion of a year from
the date of falling asleep: Let the third day of the departed be
celebrated with psalms, and lessons, and prayers, on account of Him who
arose within the space of three days; and let the ninth day be
celebrated in remembrance of the living, and of the departed; and the
fortieth day according to the ancient pattern: for so did the people
lament Moses, and the anniversary day in memory of him. And let alms be
given to the poor out of his goods for a memorial of him.
Every Saturday is also set aside for prayers for the reposed. The
Church has also ordained as Soul Saturdays, the Saturday before
Pentecost and the Saturday before Meatfare.
As tokens of the immortality of the soul, boiled wheat (Koliva) is
prepared and brought to church for the Memorial Service (Mnimosinon or
Panichida), at which, prayers for the repose of the souls of those
departed are offered . The wheat symbolizes the hope of new life; as
our Lord said, Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it
remains alone, but if it dies, it bears much fruit (John 12:24).